Belts for Torsos

belt long waist short waist

We’ve talked about belting several times, but I completely understand why some of you still struggle with belting. The blogger-belt love affair is a long-standing one, and it can be colossally frustrating to see this fun accessory worn successfully by so many women, and STILL feel mystified as to how you might belt your own ensembles.

Well, recently I read something – in People Style Watch, of all places – that gave me a welcome jolt of new perspective on the world of belting. Something I should’ve realized long ago, but never quite did:

It’s all about the torso.

Maybe you read this and thought, “Uh DUH,” but I’m telling you, I had never conceptualized belting in those terms. I knew belts could create balance, shift focus, break the body up in a million ways … but the belt-torso link is new to me. Here are the main things I learned from the article:

A skinny belt can make a short torso look longer

skinny belt

Halogen Skinny Belt – $28

If you’re short-waisted and feel like every belt you try makes you look as if your chin and knees are rubbing up against each other, try a skinnier style. The slimmer the belt, the more it will elongate your torso.

A hip-slung belt will also make a short torso look longer

hip belt

Vince Camuto Fringe Suede Belt – $55

Alternately, if you want to elongate your torso from the top down, placing a focal point at your hips does the trick. A loose chain or leather hip-slung belt draws the eye downward, elongating a short torso.

A wide belt can make a long torso look shorter

wide belt

Another Line Asymmetric Belt – $44

If the majority of your body length is in your torso, you may find yourself looking for ways to create proportional balance. A wide belt is the quickest, easiest way to make a long torso appear shorter.

A skinny belt that wraps can give that edgy/chunky feel without the torso-shortening properties of a wide belt

wrap belt

Elise M. Double Wrap Belt -$45

Love the look of wide belts … on OTHER PEOPLE? If you can’t find an enormous obi that pleases your eye when belting your bod, you can simulate the overall aesthetic of a wide belt by trying one that wraps. I know, it’s not the same thing, but it might serve as an acceptable stand-in.

A wide belt with openwork in the front is less torso-shortening than one that is solid all the way around.

open front belt

Tory Burch Stretch Belt – $175

A design that has a little bit of breathing room in the bellybutton area – which is where the observing eye typically falls – won’t break up the torso as much as a thick, wide, unbroken band. If you adore wide belts, but can’t stand how they shorten you up, seek styles with openwork fronts.

As always, you decide your OWN figure-flattery priorities. If you have no interest in monkeying with your perceived torso length, don’t! But it’s my opinion that knowing how certain items of clothing, pairs of shoes, and accessories might affect your proportions and figure is always valuable. What you do with that knowledge is, of course, your choice.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Originally posted 2011-02-03 06:27:48.

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54 Responses to “Belts for Torsos”

  1. Katharine

    Well, it makes sense – but I still really don’t have success with belts. I’ve got a very short torso, very wide shoulders, narrow waist, and wide hips that flare right out. So frankly, a belt that hits my waistline usually makes me look like an ant, or one of those paperbag snowmen — wide at top and bottom, with a pinch in the middle. Hip belts are tricky because unless I’m wearing them over a fitted garment, they do the same thing as a drop waist on a curvy figure – make me as thick as my widest point. Plus I dislike having folds of material at my waist and find it both uncomfortable and unflattering – so belting in a bulky garment is not something I’m likely to do.

    And I don’t like wussy belts, just like I don’t like wussy jewellery – but wider belts also shorten my torso.

    I have a few belts I like and wear occasionally with certain outfits, but the belt is never going to be a go-to piece for me.

  2. Cynthia

    I’m one of those people who likes wide belts — on other people. I have a love hate relationship with most belts, but I definitely have better luck with skinnier ones. I don’t think my torso is particularly short, but my natural waist is somewhat high, and so if I wide belt I look weird. I like lowering my “waist” and belting at the hip line.

  3. EvaNadine

    i am short-torsoed, but i find that slim belts DONT work for me. perhaps it is also because i am plus-sized. i would be interested in reading some belt tips for torso-vs-size/weight since i think the suggestions for each grouping are sometimes in conflict with one another.

    • Sal

      It’s true. As with all style advice, you may have a combination of proportions and/or features that means a tip that SHOULD work to balance one thing will just serve to highlight another thing.

  4. Miss T

    A 3″ wide stretch is perfect for me and I’ve been wearing them for decades. Whether they were “in style” or not. However, lately, I’ve found that they are tough to find, or at least it’s difficult to find them in an array of colors. Also, many of them are labeled as “one size fits all” and – ahem – they are not. In other words, I sense that the industry is marketing them as a sort of trend item and not investing in making a serious selection of wide belts available to women in all sizes. On a related issue, I would love to see the DOUBLE-WRAP belts come back. They were around in the late 70s-early 80s and I thought they were adorable. You could wrap them around double and wear them low on the hips for a very edgy look. Fully adjustable, though, so you could create many different looks or “density” of beltedness. I saw one at Kohls about 4 years ago, but it quickly sold out and was never available again. PLEASE — someone bring back the double-wrap belt!!!

    • Katharine

      One of the few belts I AM wearing quite a bit lately is two long-tongued inch-wide belts of soft leather, identical (which I bought at Jacob Canada last fall), buckled together and wrapped around. (I really wish I’d bought three of them!) But buckling a couple of identical or similar belts together is something you could try; it’s even edgier (in my opinion anyway!) and you can adjust the length to anywhere you like by moving the buckle point of either or both.

      • Miss T

        Great idea about linking 2 belts together. I guess I *have* thought of doing that, but couldn’t do much with the assorted non-matching belts I have lying around. I’ll need to plan in advance to do that!

  5. Dianne

    Thanks for the tips.

    I am short waisted and have a large bust. The wrong belt makes me look like walking breasts!

    • spacegeek

      That’s my problem too. On the rare occasions that I belt, I do the low slung hip thing. Since my legs are longer than my torso, this works. Belted dresses are the thing I’d love to be able to do, but the belt kind of eliminates the lengthening effect of the long line of the dress! Sigh. Still not a belt-o-phile.

    • Anonymous

      OMG that’s my problem too:-) thought I was the only one…..and I would love to wear belts but they just dont work for me…..big breast/short torso….no belts 🙁

  6. futurelint

    Crazy! I never realized it either… I guess unconsciously I knew thick belts were bad for my short torso, but I never thought about why. I do prefer to belt around my hips because it makes me look like I have torso, but I’ll have to try the skinny belt trick! I’m always drawn to big belts so I don’t think I have any thin ones! I’ll have to pick out a thin one to experiment!

  7. Jennifer S

    What a timely topic for me!!

    I’ve been sewing up a storm lately, and just recut a dress because the one that looked so good in the magazine did nothing for me. You had to wear it with a belt. I’ve been working really hard at fitness and losing enough weight to get me back to my goal weight, and most days, I feel really good. But if I were to belt an outfit, I would no longer feel it. While I’m fairly evenly proportioned, I find when I put a belt on, no matter how loosely I fasten it,it seems to sit right on my hip and make it “bulge out”, even though really it’s not that bulgy. So I keep trying, and one day I think I will get it to work, but it might take a while still.

    I will take some of these tips into my knowledge base, maybe they’ll help me see the forest for the trees.

    • Sal

      I definitely recommend cloth and tie belts … leather is so rigid, it makes bulges on nearly everyone. A scarf or soft leather belt that ties instead of buckles might be just the thing!

      • Mar

        Ooh, I like that tip, Sal. I like the look of wide belt, and I have a few, but I often struggle with bulging unless the belt is very flexible. I didn’t think that trying to use a scarf instead of a rigid wide leather belt could totally get rid of the bulging annoyance while keeping the wide line that I like. Need to try it out. Thanks!!!

  8. Donna

    Great post on belting…wearing them, that is… Hmmm, didn’t see the short waisted/pudgy category…

  9. Amber

    This could very well help me out. I’ve never liked the way I look in belts…but that they well could be because I’ve always tried on those fancy wide belts that everyone else looks *great* in.

    I’m wondering, though: Is there a “technical” definition of a short torso? I mean, like a measurement I can take that will confirm that I’m a short torso? I have no idea what that really means. True story, I don’t even know what my torso is.

    • Sal

      Hmm, I think the best way is to look at your torso length in relation to the rest of your body. Your torso extends from the base of your neck through your crotch point, and you mainly want to compare its length to that of your legs. If you look at yourself in the mirror and see mostly legs or mostly torso, that’s the easiest way to figure it out.

      If you’re interested in measuring, this is specific to fitting yourself for a backpack, but might still be helpful!

      • stephani

        One easy way to evaluate whether your torso is shorter than “average” is to note how most RTW fitted clothing actually fits you. If tops and fitted dresses bag out or bulge between your hips and shoulders and if pulling up the shoulders of the garment by a few inches makes it appear to fit correctly, then your probably short torsoed.
        Most clothing brands that carry petite sizes offer sizing and measurement tools on their websites that can help you determine if your torso is considered petite or short, like Loft, Ann Taylor, Talbots, etc.

  10. MarieP

    I. Can’t. Make. It. Work. I’m petite and a busty apple. Slim, but still; my general shape is : apple. Bad for the heart, I know, but also impossible with belts. I’ve tried every size, every point on my torso, and here is my conclusion: belting does not create a waist on me. It just makes me look wide. The only thing that even kind of works is a low-slung belt but that just makes me look shorter. And I’m coming to terms with that. My body is my body. There are things I love about it and things I hate about it (first on the latter list being the fact that it refuses to get pregnant). But it’s mine and it’s the only one I’ve got and that’s ok. As long as I stear clear of belts.

    • Sal

      Oh MarieP, I hear ya. Some bodies just can’t do belts. It sounds like you’ve tried and tried, and they might not be for you.

      Everyone’s got something. I can’t do true strapless dresses, drop waists, and look a mess in wideleg pants (though I wore them for years).

    • meekins

      I think we’re in the same boat. I don’t know if I’m an apple exactly, but I’m slim-ish (a 6), short-waisted, large-busted, and I do have a waist, but it’s not particularly narrow. I’ve never found a belt that looks amazing, but I have found that a narrow, neutral-colored belt looks the best.

  11. Beth

    I own a ton of belts, but wear about three. I guess these rules make sense, maybe I’ll try them. I never have success belting at the waist. I have a short torso, and a not very small waist. So I feel like putting a belt there just points that out. I just look in the mirror and think, huh, I still look kinda squarish even with this supposedly waist-cinching belt. I also feel like belts are always a pain, except when they are in actual belt loops. Belts around skirts, around sweaters, around dresses – they just aren’t practical for me. They move around, I have to constantly adjust them, they cut into me when I sit. oh, life is tough! 😉

  12. Kate

    My waist is high-up on my longer torso, but it’s also the slimmest part of my shape, so belts are a GREAT way to show off that definition. I am a big fan of the larger belts on me, though I have a few which are more ornate in their leather work up front (a larger profile) and thinner around the back (elastic or leather). They work well. A lot of blouses right now which are boxier (not darted and cut in a straight line down) will fit me up top and on my hips, but my waist gets lost in the fabric, so belts are an excellent way to bring things in a bit and not make me appear much larger than I am.
    Sal, I had to laugh at the comment about the belly button being the focal point, because mine is a lot lower down than my waist (see? HIGH)! Great information about belt sizes and types, thanks for this!

  13. catlover

    This is such an awesome post! I have always wondered about belts at the waist. I have two, one is very thick and elasticy and the other is very thin black leather. I don’t wear either one of them because I have never known how. But after reading this, I am going to give several of these ideas a try! I like the idea of belting a simple sweater with my black belt and I think I will try that tomorrow. Thanks!

  14. Diana

    I am well aware of what conventional wisdom tells me I should do with my short waist; HOWEVER, I actually really enjoy accentuating my short-waistedness, because it makes me look like I have mile-long legs! I always wear my belts (except where they are used to hold up pants, obviously) at my natural waist. Belting lower does not work for me anyway- it may lengthen my waist, but I am also quite pear-shaped, so putting the belt at a wide part of my hips is not a good idea, nor will the belt stay there anyway. I love the look of wide belts, but I stick to around 2″ or less, mostly because there is no room on my short waist for anything wider. A nice wide belt looks awesome on me (at least I think so) but is rather uncomfortable as it ends up crushing my ribs!

  15. stephani

    I love the look of belted waists, and I’ve tried wide belts. If a belt is slimmer than 3 inches, but wider than 1 inch, I consider it a wide belt I can potentially use. I’ve got one wide corset-style belt that I wear occasionally. It looks good. But it can be so uncomfortable and just a hassle. See, I’m short torsoed (or short waisted, if you prefer) and although I’m generally an hourglass shape, there’s some bulge at the waistline. So a really skinny belt just gets lost under my bulgey area, and a really wide belt cuts off my circulation if it’s belted tight enough to stay in the ideal location. I can wear a 1-inch belt just fine most of the time, though.
    But mostly I don’t wear belts because of the constant adjusting and increasing discomfort throughout the day. For some outfits they really do add that extra flair that finishes them off, though.

  16. Ann V

    I’ve decided that a wide, hip slung belt is my favorite. I’m a tall hour glass, with a full bust and full hips and a smaller waist. I guess my torso is a little bit short compared to my long legs, but I think the bigger factor is that my boobs are attached at a lower point on my torso, if that makes sense. I don’t wear garments that are too loose in the waist, so I’m looking for the belt more to break up the large area of my hips when I wear dresses. I think this works well for me because my hips are widest at the bottom, about where my crotch point is, so when I wear a hip slung belt it’s well above the widest point of my hips. I also find drop waists to be most flattering, as long as their fitted.

    I’m finding that as low waisted pants become less popular, it’s getting harder to find belts that are long enough to sit on my hips. Especially wider, more decorative ones that aren’t just designed to hold up your pants.

  17. hope505

    Sal…you are the YODA of belts, I swear. *heehee!

    I, like many women, have been on-and-off at war with my “figure” for most of my life, and shunned belts due to my curvaceousness. NO MORE! *haha! After reading your blog posts, and others like it, and watching enough episodes of “How Do I Look?”, “What Not To Wear”, etc. I finally, finally got it…the belt is not my enemy.
    The Belt can be my buddy.
    * : )
    Like you say, it’s which one, and how…thanks for being part of my wake-up! It opens up more options in my closet, and I’m all about that!! !!

  18. Tracey

    What a great post. I have a short torso (well really curvy hips and chest, which results in a short torso). I only got onto the belt band wagon last year. And I have never thought about the size of belts I wear. One of my favourites is a wide purple belt, which I will probably still continue to wear because it matches several outfits perfectly. But as I grow my belt collection I’ll keep in mind these tips. Especially the idea of wrapping a skinny belt.

  19. rb

    I just had to comment that I had the 1980 version of that first gold stretchy belt and I wore it every day in 10th grade until the “gold” started flaking off. I didn’t realize they had come back around! I was so hot in my gold belt, “designer” jeans and jute sandals. I think I had given up on trying to achieve the perfect feathered hair by then.

    • Andie

      RB, I had the same experience as you. I saw the belt and said, “I had one of those!” also similar feathered hair attempts, too. Your comment brought back memories of my youth. LOL!

  20. Deena

    Does anyone else have the problem of belts slipping upward when worn with a skirt and a tucked-in blouse? If there are no belt loops, is there any way to keep a belt in place? I have slightly pear-shaped hips and a very narrow waist and ribcage, and belts just love to migrate up and rest on top of the skirt. Any solutions? Does the belt have to be wide to stay in place?

    • Sal

      Deena, I use fashion tape for just about everything and it MIGHT help … use a couple of strips to stick the belt to the fabric of the skirt. But the tackiness wears off by day’s end, and it’s certainly not foolproof. I end up readjusting my belts throughout the day, too!

  21. Rebecca

    OK, I’m even more mystified now. I have a long torso, but it’s never occurred to me that I would have a need to shorten it. Why?

    • Sal

      You don’t need to. It’s your choice, lady.

      To some, a disproportionately long torso is less pleasing than on that is more balanced within the overall frame. That’s why strategies exist to visually shorten a long torso. But there’s nothing wrong or bad about just leaving it alone!

  22. SWFTerra

    I like to wear my belts high. Being a short gal, it helps make my legs look longer. Also, that first belt is SO CUTE. And the woven belt with the tassels. Stop adding to my covet list, Sal!

  23. Mia

    I’m 5’2 and 150lbs. Wide belts look wonderful on me! They actually make my torso look longer and thinner.

  24. Starfire

    I’m long torsoed and short legged, so I do sometimes use wide-ish belts if I’m not wearing a fitted or stretchy top (e.g. with long tunics or longline shirts). But I’ve also recently lost enough weight that I’m starting to wonder about sometimes wearing a belt *with* a longline stretchy top as well just to make it interesting. Not quite sure, but I think it’s something I’d like to get into 🙂

  25. daisy

    I think the large-of-boob and/or apples have a particularly tough time with belts.

    In fact, Sal, if you ever see a woman (on a blog or in real life) with large breasts who is rocking a belt, I’d love to see it. Or even an apple who isn’t exactly petite.

    • Katharine

      Do you know Zana Bayne of Garbage Dress?

      Zana is not slim and rather busty, and she wears a LOT of belts and harnessy belt-things (she makes them, after all) and usually looks fab.

  26. lyrebirdgully

    Well, I’m a long-waisted, fairly slim, small-busted hourglass, and I wear waist belts with just about everything. Hip belts are trickier for me, since I don’t want to emphasise my hips. Anyway, because my waist is 2 sizes smaller than my hips, a regular hip belt just will not lie flat – the cut needs an exceptional amount of curve in it to fit. I’ve found that a belt made of plaited or “knitted’ or “chain link” leather or fabric works better, because the looser structure will give and stretch vertically to fit my hip shape – as will belts that are partially or fully elastic. Elastic belts now dominate my wardrobe because they fit better and grip the clothing fabric better; I always look out for them in every clothing shop I go into.
    Interestingly, thin waist belts actually make my waist look wider, so I only wear them with an open cardigan worn over the to, which will partly obscure the belt and create a vertical central column. Centre detail on my wide waist belts is a non-negotiable feature since I’ve discovered it gives the illusion of taking inches off my waist. Centre detail can be a buckle that is taller and wider than the belt itself, a bow, or a wider section of the belt that is located at the centre. Any of these will serve to draw attention to one’s middle and away from the sides of the body. For this reason I never wear a belt that creates a unbroken even line across my waist.

  27. basement cat

    I have a very short waist and am an H shape, plus one of my legs is longer than the other making my waist and hips less than perfectly straight, so I have to be careful if I am going to define or highlight the waist… I usually stick to skinny belts and have found that I cannot wear cloth belts or scarves as belts at all. I did buy a cheapo wide belt just to play around with it and I found that I can wear it if i belt a shirt and then wear a blazer or a cardigan over that it works pretty well! So maybe that’s another option for the other short waisted ladies out there.

  28. Colleen

    i have to say that I never thought of it in those terms but that I still went with the skinny belts. I try the fat ones and hate them. I hate tucking in my shirt because it shortens my short torso too.

  29. Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    Like Terra, I am short and need to wear belts higher to lengthen my legs. Despite having a short torso I look terrible in low slung belts but I can wear wide belts. I think your overall height plays a part in what you can wear, as it seems, for me, to be the opposite of the perceived wisdom.

    Having said that, I have only worn wide belts with dresses – not sure if they would work with trousers or skirts. So maybe the way you wear them changes things too.

  30. Aileen

    I am a short waisted big busted figure of eight and your tips above are excellent. I have founds belts that work along the principles you mention. Additionally I have found that:
    If the belt is very skinny then my boobs look massive in comparison but I have found that if there is more elaborate fastening such as double loops , rings etc. then I can wear it.
    I also find that thicker belts that narrow to several smaller belts in front work well.
    And of course there is the tried and tested matching the belt to the top colour in a medium width belt.
    Thanks again for your post.

  31. e.

    It’s no secret that I have a looooong torso that I often prefer to visually shorten, hence my love of wide belts. But I’ve recently discovered that I can do skinnier belts if I use them a little lower or use them over the waistband of a skirt. Like so: or . I cannot offer a mathematical formula for why this works for me, but it does make me happy and it lets me add fun little pops of skinny color.

  32. Jessica

    Yes yes yes!!!! I’ve been following the belt trend confused and slightly enviously, unable to make it work. Just bought a beautiful wide belt yesterday (that I will return today) because I tried it on with just about every possible outfit I could possibly think of, and always made me look ridiculous. Why? Because I have a ridiculously short torso, and it made it look even shorter! Short torsos can actually wear big belts lower, very low, like around the hips, but for this fitted elastic number…NO. So glad I found your post, such a big help! Reassured me that I’m not mental, and that even though that was a miss, I can still go forth and experiment with some other belts, along with some ideas of where to start. Thank you!!!

  33. curvygal

    I love wide belts. I think my torso is normal, neither long nor short. I’m not entirely certain, but I’m an hour glass, 5’3″ and slightly overweight. I wear wide belts sometimes under the breasts and it looks great. I’ve read that that’s the skinniest part of the body.