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Belts are a must-have wardrobe staple that can slim you out and add pizzazz to any outfit. It’s just a matter of knowing how to choose the right style, color, and material to complement your clothes and flatter your figure and body shape.

How to Buy the Right Belt

Want to accentuate your waist? Buy a belt that has some elasticity and not much overlap – if you’re cinching tops and jackets, there are no pant loops for that extra belt “tail” to be tucked into. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can take belts into the dressing room with you or try them on before you make a purchase.

Want to accessorize only and not worry about your waistline? You’ll want a lower-hanging belt that sits comfortably on your hips rather than tightly around your middle. Chain belts and those made with pliable materials like soft leather or fabric are the way to go. Hook them tightly or loosely to match your outfit and whims.

Afraid to invest in a trend that might not suit you? Belts are not for everyone. Some people are happy to use them to hold up their pants and nothing else. If you’re unsure about belting as a style choice for your wardrobe, test belts with roomy tops, blazers, or dresses from your closet to see how you feel. Loving the look?

Wishing you had something more figure-flattering or versatile? Then you know it’s time to do a little shopping. And no need to splurge. Shops like T.J. Maxx carry a great selection of belts for reasonable prices – you might even have the budget to buy two!

What to Wear a Belt With

If you’ve never been a belt person before, you may be surprised how quickly you’ll become a devotee when you test out these combinations.

  • Wear a belt over a shirt and sweater: Whether you opt for a T-shirt and cardigan duo or a tunic and fly away sweater, belting the pair allows you to manipulate where you want the fabric to fall (and stay put).
  • Wear a belt over a button-down blouse: Look pulled together and stylish in a simple button-down blouse and sleek belt.
  • Wear a belt with a blazer: Belt a casual pullover with a rustic-looking belt or spruce up your favorite new boyfriend jacket with a wide, buckled belt.
  • Wear a belt with a dress: Whether it’s a sweater dress, sheath dress, or shapeless dress, a belt can create an ensemble transformation.

How to Wear Belts

Create a natural waist

Accentuating your natural waist will make you look smaller and slimmer. But beware of skinny belts. They are not the way to whittle your waist if you have a few pounds you’d like to hide – that logic can actually backfire. Skinny belts can look like twine rather than an accessory. Don’t be afraid to reach for the wide belt – they’re designed for all shapes and sizes.

wide black belt with red dress

Create a high waist

Wrap your belt just under the bust line. Caution: discomfort is a possibility, as is the worry that your belt will slip out of place.

Create a low waist

Wear a belt on your hips below your natural waist. Make sure you can maneuver and walk and sit comfortably if you opt for a belt here.

low waist big belt as accessory

Wear a belt as a subtle accessory

Have a roomy tunic or slightly large blouse? Belt the top and let a sweater or jacket hang naturally over it. You’ll provide yourself with some definition but you won’t feel stuffed.

Go for simple or statement

Ruffled or embellished top? Keep the belt simple. A solid-colored dress that’s light on texture? Pull out the python or studded design for instant oomph. Can’t decide between two or three belts? If they’re skinny enough, double or triple-up for the look of an eclectic corset or wide patchwork belt.

Belts go with a lot of things, but some of your roomier shirts or sweaters are meant to be that way. Belts are for the days you’re feeling lithe and want to accentuate your waist, for the days you’re feeling baggy and want to feel more pulled together. There’s no need to wear a belt with every outfit or attempt to manipulate clothing that isn’t meant to be manipulated. Don’t force the look if it’s just not working.