Buckle Up – Bold Belts Are Back
In the hierarchy of accessories, belts are often neglected in favor of bags, jewelry and shoes. But trendy belts are making a comeback in wardrobes, as part of a revival of ’90s and 2000s styles that proved popular with Gen Z. On the catwalks, the designers showed off belts that brush against jewelry, like the thin strass and gold chains slung over the shoulder. almost every look from Saint Laurent’s fall / winter 2021 collection, chain belts with mystical crystals at Marine Serre and bling-up cowboy belts at Isabel Marant. During Chanel’s recent Métiers d’Art show, the chatelaine belts were dripping with pearls and chains.
Eighteen-year-old American singer Olivia Rodrigo paired a ’90s Chanel tweed suit with a chain belt when she walked to the White House to encourage young people to get vaccinated. Phoebe Hadley, founder of rental and vintage styling service Hadley London, reports high demand for vintage Chanel and Versace belts; she’s also seen people create DIY mini handbag belts by wrapping Chanel and other designer logo wallets on chains.
Suddenly, I look at outfits and mentally lay a belt on them. But what’s the appeal now? It may be re-locating my waist after ditching loungewear. Belts also promise to upgrade an old outfit without buying something new. And it’s a much easier style hack than the leather harness trend, with their dungeon mistress and trapeze artist vibe.
But there is an art in this. The addition of the bad style could have unsettling echoes in makeover shows of the mid-2000s, in which an overzealous TV stylist adding a belt to a jarring dress and declaring it to be a revamp of the wardrobe was passed for entertainment.
At Matches Fashion, womenswear manager Cassie Smart says, “I think we see our customers experimenting with more daring styles because they find joy in fashion after a time of uncertainty. We have amazing silk cord belts with gold heart-shaped or cabochon-embellished buckles from Sonia Petroff and gold-plated belts – one with an ancient Egyptian-inspired crystal scarab – from Begum Khan. Along with neutral basics, a trendy belt adds a real eye-catcher to an outfit and can be really flattering. I suggest layering on a dark solid jumpsuit, midi dress, or even a solid cashmere sweater.
Giving impetus to the purely decorative belt is the news Sex and the city spin off And just like that screening this week. In the original series, few outfits escaped a belt tied on top as part of the show’s maximum aesthetic.
Whether the style of the belt this time around is debatable is questionable, even if Carrie and her colleagues are helping bring the accessory back into popular culture. Images from the show include Carrie in a wide, studded black belt over a hot pink dress – a variation of an outfit from the original show – which looks a bit awkward and contrived.
Stylist Alexandra Fullerton, who has worked with celebrities such as Awkwafina and Naomie Harris, and is the general fashion director of Glamor, says she wears a belt “every day”. I still remember seeing Fullerton at London Fashion Week wearing Balenciaga jeans and a navy sweater worn with a gold link belt that gave his uniform a touch of glamor. “Makeup artists cite lipstick as a punctuation mark on the face and it’s similar with belts,” she says.
Having worn both the ’90s chain belts (on velvet rockets from Morgan, then the sixth response to Gucci) and wide, low Sienna Miller-style leather belts circa 2004, I wanted to go for a modern take on style rather than reproducing the belts of the past. Although I can dig up my silver chain.
Fullerton suggests a thin belt, which can cinch an oversized blazer, or a rhinestone belt which would add a finishing touch to a silky evening dress. “This winter, to go out, I’ll be wearing a vintage-looking gold chain link belt over black guipure with pointy kitten heels,” she says.
Although Fullerton prefers a narrow style, she adds that “the extra-wide waistbands that have a mix of traditional obi combined with corsetry – from Alaïa, McQueen and Loewe – are also noticeable right now. With a more structured and tailored feel, they work perfectly to balance out a strong, shoulder-length figure.
For a little drink around Christmas (or “cheese and wine” inspired by Downing Street), my dream accessory would be something like the vintage Chanel gold mesh belt with floral buckle worn on the catwalk in 1996 by Carla Bruni (2,100 £, 1stdibs.com), which I would wear over a black cashmere dress. I also love Isabel Marant’s Joia crystal-embellished silver belt (£ 385, net-a-porter.com) or the gold Eight belt with oval links by Paco Rabanne (£ 530, pacorabanne.com), to associate with high waist jeans. It’s child’s play.
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