How to Wear a Belt (and how to know when NOT to)

Wearing belts used to be so simple.  Just pull on your pants and thread your belt through the loops.  Voila!  Your belt matched your shoes (and your purse) and your only quandry was black vs. brown or silver buckle vs. gold buckle.

Today belts come in as many sizes, shapes and colors as you can imagine, and there are virtually no ‘rules’ for wearing them.  This means that the thought of wearing a belt can strike terror in the hearts of many, and put them into a fashion tailspin.

While you may have been told you weren’t dressed without a belt in years past, things are very different today.  Determining how to wear a belt – and if one is even right for you – can be a tricky proposition.  You may have sported a belt for years and felt great, but as your body changes it just doesn’t have the same effect.  It’s confusing to say the least. I want to de-mystify the whole belt-wearing conundrum, so here are my best tips for rocking a belt:

1/ Why Are You Wearing a Belt?

Do you need a belt to keep your pants up?  Have you always worn a belt?  Do you feel undressed without one?  Whatever the reason, get clear on it.  I don’t want you putting on the same old belt you’ve worn for 20 years ‘just because you’ve always done it.’  That may be a symptom that you’ve fallen into a rut and your style has expired.  If you’re wearing one just because your pants have belt loops, think again.  Chances are a shirt that is worn over your waistband (rather than tucked in) will be more slimming these days.  Or perhaps your pants have expired and a pair of modern fit pants will be much more flattering, no belt required.  

2/ Do You Want to Create Waistline Definition?

Is your waistline clearly defined?  If there is a big differential between your hips and your waist, then a belt can help to enhance one of your best assets, especially when wearing a dress, a long cardigan or a full top.  If you’re an hourglass or pear, then a belt can be your best friend.  Apples, however, should steer clear of belts.  Trying to visually create a waistline can end up making you look heavier and draw attention to exactly where you don’t want it.  

2/ Where Do You Want to Draw Focus?

Belts will bring focus to where ever you place the buckle.  Ask yourself, do I want to put focus here?  You may have a defined waist, but perhaps your tummy is larger than you’d prefer.  Skip the belt and opt for clothing that nips in at the waist and gently skims the body instead.  It will be far more flattering.

3/ Is Your Belt Up to Date?

Don’t just wear any old belt.  Your belt needs to flow with the style of your outfit, and work with you, not against you.  If you pair your old tarnished belt that’s seen better days with your sleek dress, you’re going to undermine your look.  Your belt should be an integral part of your outfit, and in a similar style as your entire look.  I see many ‘dated’ belts in clients closets that they feel they ‘should’ wear.  Get rid of anything you feel that way about.

4/ Does Your Belt Complete Your Look?

If you put a belt on an it pulls everything together, you’ve nailed it.  However, if you put it on and you feel as if you’ve created chaos, skip it.  Belts should flow with the entire shebang, not interrupt the harmony.  If your belt can’t play well with the rest of your look, find one that can or skip it altogether.

5/ Is Your Belt Your Style?

Belts can really punctuate your look, but they should also really express your true style.  Are you a little ‘rock and roll’?

6/ Is Your Belt the Right Size?

Forget what’s trendy and choose the right size for you.  Years ago I used to try to wear skinny belts when they were hot, but it never felt right.  Now I know that I need a belt with substance!  A skinny belt made me look bigger than I am, but a 3″ belt is just right for me?  Wear a belt that works with your personal scale. If you’re petite, wear something delicate, medium with medium and so on.  You’ll know when it feels right.

7/ Is Your Belt in the Right Place?

Sometimes wearing a belt somewhere other than your waistline can be your best bet!  If you’re full-figured, chances are under your bustline will be smaller than your waistline.  When wearing a dress, choose to wear your belt higher to emphasize your smallest point and visually create balance.  If you’re thicker waisted, try wearing a low-slung belt on your hip for a different look.  It can be more slimming than emphasizing your waist, and can also serve as ‘camouflage’ for a muffin top.

There you have it.  My seven best tips for wearing a belt.  And you thought it should be so easy!  Wearing a belt can be far more complex than you ever thought, so if you’re ever in doubt, ask yourself these questions (and be honest!).  You’ll know easily what’s right for you and how to leave the house looking your best!  You go, girl!


  1. MJ Sheerin

    Great tips! Thanks!

    1. Mary Michele

      You are welcome MJ! Glad you found these helpful!

Comments are closed.