Give me a real good belt!
July 31, 2012 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Dear fashionable women of MeFi, what are 4-5 staple belts that I should have in my wardrobe? I've been upgrading my wardrobe and I need some belts but what are the must-have belts that should be part of any fashionable (or semi-fashionable) wardrobe?

I not-to-long ago did a personal shopper at Nordstrom. It was a great re-boot for my wardrobe and I'm continuing to add pieces. I'm really lacking in the belt area. I've had a standard, wide black belt (2") that has served me pretty well in most situations but it looks horrid now and I need a better one. Is a 2" black belt a staple or is it somehow outdated?

I hate shopping. I really do. Love looking at fashion, hate shopping. Go figure. So, I need inspiration for 4-5 good workhorse belts that will work for most situations.

I'm a business/casual but like a bit of flair. Just a bit. A funky top. Weird handbag. Mostly blacks and greys with color thrown in here and there. I'm not a floral or big prints person though I do occasionally go retro styled.

So, I guess I could do a thick and thin black, a thick and thin brown (shiny? matte?) and... then what? What belt do you have in your wardrobe that you use in more situations than you think? Any links to examples would be helpful. Price range $30-$100.

I almost bought a leopard print belt at that personal shopping appointment. The lady had me convinced that it could pull together so many outfits. But at $80, I had to say no. And also thought, I don't think I'm a leopard print lady. And since then I've wondered -- would I be wearing it more than I think? Is it something everyone has?
posted by amanda to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I wear my thin yellow belt all the time, it somehow pulls any dull outfit together and makes it 'pop'.
posted by pink_gorilla at 2:08 PM on July 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

I have a thin black patent leather belt with a simple gold buckle that I wear with everyyyyyything. I also have a braided chesnut brown (probably fake leather) one that i wear with everything else. I tend to avoid thick belts but they can be good for wearing with looser dresses that you want to make more fitted. The thick one I do have is not a 'buckle' type--it's fabric and stretchy and i think that style is cuter. I have like, 10 other belts that I....never wear.

If you are not a leopard-print lady, you will never wear a leopard print belt. Keep it simple.
posted by lovableiago at 2:14 PM on July 31, 2012

I have a skinny black belt I wear with dresses and skirts, a 2" black belt I wear with slacks, and a brown plain leather belt that I change out the buckle on periodically that I wear with jeans.
posted by rhapsodie at 2:16 PM on July 31, 2012

I wear very wide belts because they suit my body type. I have two brown belts that are very wide in the middle and taper a bit on the side; the look is very slimming on me. This is the kind of belt with the elastic and a snap in the back, rather than a buckle in the front.
posted by hmo at 2:30 PM on July 31, 2012

I have a silver-and-mother-of-pearl chain belt with an adjustable clasp that I wear with a lot of my outfits. I also have a narrow black fake-snakeskin belt and a narrow brown leather belt. The shorter your waist the narrower your belts should be - I'm verrrrry short-waisted so I stick with chain-link and narrow leather. Your leather belt can have a gold or silver clasp depending on which color you like and what most of your jewelry is made of - my black belt has a silver clasp and my brown one a gold so I have something to go with everything.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:34 PM on July 31, 2012

I used to think I wasn't a leopard print lady, but turns out I totally am. And a leopard print belt is something that you will totally wear more than you think, it's so easy to add to an outfit of basics and make it suddenly pop.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:36 PM on July 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

I am a many-belted person, and I usually only wear about 5 of them on a regular basis. Do you have certain colors that recur frequently in your accessories? If so, a skinny belt in those "signature" colors will make you look subtly put together.

This would be my suggested list (this DOES NOT include basic belts that go in loops and hold your pants up):
-Wide black waist belt (this could be patent or matte, but make sure that the buckle is understated enough that it goes with the majority of your wardrobe)
-Wide waist belt in other most-commonly-worn leather color (for me this is a medium-brown cognac color, for others it could be a lighter tan, cream, darker brown, whatever)
-Skinny black waist belt (I think some texture looks best with these, so perhaps a croc- or snake-embossed leather)
-Skinny waist belt in one of your most-commonly-worn colors
-Skinny waist belt in either a pattern or a neutral-ish color that can go with almost any other color clothing (for this I have a pale gold and a cream/gray snake print, but I will say that leopard is a great neutral!)

Basic rules: match the color of the buckle to the color of the jewelry that you wear most frequently. accessory belts (as opposed to belt loop belts) go around the waist, not the hips. LEATHER ONLY. non-leather just isn't worth it in terms of appearance or longevity.

I don't think there's any reason you need to spend $80 on a belt, though. Most of my belts have been acquired for <$40 at J.Crew, Nordstrom, Talbots sales. Keep an eye out at the end of the major seasons (July, January) and you should be able to find some good stuff.
posted by dynamiiiite at 2:38 PM on July 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

A good Concho Belt is a work of art that you can use forever. Looks great with black and with denim.

It's pricey, but think of it as an investment.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:40 PM on July 31, 2012

Leopard is way more neutral than you think it is, esp. if it's a thin belt. The belt I wear the MOST, though, is a wide black waist belt (I am very long waisted, so a thick belt works on me well) with a black and gold buckle. I have a LOT of black in my wardrobe and I mostly use this to cinch in dresses -- I look terrible in a thin belt, so this swaps out for a lot of other belts on dresses. It's vintage -- I got it on Etsy. I wear it a LOT. I also have a thick brown belt with a gold buckle -- also vintage from Etsy -- that I use in the same place if black doesn't work.

I wear those two like 90% of the time, just because I don't look good in a thin waist belt other than in very specific circumstances. Dynamiiiite is right on, I think. I personally don't like the stretchy fabric belts with the clips, mostly because I find them uncomfortable...
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:11 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was coming in here to suggest a similar list to dynamiiiite's. My own most-worn list is:

- Stretchy wide black belt (I have two that are about 3" thick, one of which has gold stripes in it)
- a few wide stretchy belts in other colours - but I would say that the one I wish I had would be a good red one.
- several skinny patent belts in various colours. Yellow gets the most wear, as it really does go with everything/make everything pop. I think that a lot of the most popular colours over the last several years go with yellow, so this might have something to do with it. Red is also a great complement to a lot of colours.
- a skinny black patent belt
- a silver braided belt.

Hooray for belts!
posted by urbanlenny at 3:14 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

For that leopard print belt - because you are intrigued by it - check your local Goodwill. If it is in good shape, it's an affordable way to try it out. Some Goodwill stores have a designer section and generally leather belts tend to stay in good condition for years.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:16 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have gotten more mileage out of my belts in the past year than I ever would have thought. I would pull together a list similar to others above, but mine tends towards the skinny and colorful:

By far I get the most use out of my wide (3"+) black belt. It makes a pencil skirt + blouse look like a whole outfit.

Second in the rotation is a skinny metallic belt in an odd platinum color that goes with both warm and cool tones.

I would also argue for the use of purple (a nice, saturated, true purple without too much red or blue) as a great neutral. My purple patent belt is in frequent rotation.

I also have skinny patent belts in neon yellow (a splurge this season) and a duller but still saturated pink, and a wide cognac saddle-like belt rounds out my collection. I do have one very basic brown leather belt that I've had since high school for general pants-keeping-up purposes that's pretty great.

Almost all of these I bought on sale for <$20, I stalk belts at J. Crew, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters then pounce. Your personal shopper was right; a belt will pull together more outfits than you think it will (over a cardigan! over a dress! under a blazer! two contrasting colors wrapped together!) but it needn't be $80 or leopard if you're not sold on it.
posted by House of Leaves of Grass at 3:55 PM on July 31, 2012

I wear my skinny red faux leather belt the most, as it goes with my shiny red purse. I would look at matching or complimenting your most worn shoes and purses to inspire you when looking for belts.
posted by anaelith at 5:41 PM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

1) A casual leather 'jeans' belt. Either black or brown, depending on preference.
2) A narrow black belt with a simple/dressy buckle, for wearing with dress pants or for layering over elegant dresses.
3) A wider more 'fashiony' belt, possibly elasticated/stretchy, to 'cinch your waist' and wear over dresses, tops, etc
4) A belt that goes loosely around your hips, to layer over tunics
5) One other belt that you see and you love and you just think it's a great accessory
posted by Kololo at 7:26 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agree with everybody else that you want at least one skinny belt in a bright color, but try snakeskin instead of patent! It's a little quieter, but still a nice rich, dramatic texture. I have this sea-green snakeskin belt (got it on sale for $15-20, I think) and it looks great with gray or light-brown pants and a white shirt.

As far as colors, get something unexpected -- not one of your current favorite colors. Then it'll look really sharp when worn with clothing in your favorite colors, since it'll be a contrast. If you want anything very neon-y try to find it cheap, because neon is so fashionable right now that it might look dated in a year or two, and belts last a long time.

If you have even vaguely Western tastes, try a tooled leather belt. I have one wider, stiffer one, for jeans, and one narrower, softer one, for wearing at the waist over dresses. They're just so much fun to look at-- it's worth spending some time trolling Etsy for a really awesome one.
posted by ostro at 8:02 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bike tire belts. Seriously.
posted by aniola at 10:49 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you tend to blacks and grays, then yes, absolutely do get yourself one wide and one skinny black belt, and one wide and one skinny colored belt (I especially second all suggestions of bright red or leopard - something that seriously pops and shakes things up a bit). I personally think everyone needs a wide, brown leather low-slung hip belt with a great big buckle of some sort (ok, hold up there: not the Trucker Bob sort of giant buckle. Just a big, visually interesting buckle). A nice braided brown leather belt can also come in handy for a variety of outfits and styles from preppy or boho to just holdin' up your jeans in classic style. I also recommend one slim nude colored leather belt. Weirdly sexy and elegant at the same time.
posted by involution at 11:56 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know you already turned down a leopard print belt but I would reconsider. I have a very skinny (like half inch) belt that I really like and wear pretty often. It serves no practical purpose as it fits on my natural waist and not on my hips through my belt loops. But it gives a nice visual interest on an otherwise drab outfit. I've had most success with a plain black dress, or a black button down cardigan and red skirt. I agree that you should walk right by the $80 (!) one. Mine cost me £5 at Asos, which is a reasonable choice to experiment with all sorts of fun belts.
posted by like_neon at 1:41 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I bought a 'nurse belt ' - the kind you see on rockabilly outfits, or that are sometimes known as 'square dancing belts'- in Amsterdam earlier this year in several colours, for not very much money at all. One of the best purchases I made. I have a defined waist and they are perfect for making dresses fit me properly. It depends on your style (I wear a lot of vintagey things) but they are SO versatile.

I bought them in pink, green, blue, white and black. I get the most wear out of the white and green ones. If I ever go back I'll be tempted to see if they have a yellow one as well. Before I bought them, I did see similar styles on eBay listed as 'square dancing belt' in lovely colours, but the shipping made it prohibitive.
posted by mippy at 3:47 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a black leather studded belt by Ann Demeulemeester that looks like this. I wear it with everything and anything from jeans to visit-the-customer pantsuits to tailored sheath dresses to evening wear. If I had to throw away all of my belts and only keep one to wear for the rest of my life, this would be it.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 6:30 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks y'all! I feel emboldened!
posted by amanda at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2012

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