For some, it may still seem trepidatious to get back into clothing with precise tailoring or zippers, let alone slip into anything deemed “hard pants.” After all, once you experience a wardrobe of soft waistbands and flowy, grazing-the-body tops and dresses, it’s easy to avoid any mildly restricting clothing going forward. However, as new trends and playful styling ideas emerge even the bra-averse may be drawn to “regencycore” bustiers or sweatsuit devotees find new liberation in barely-there silhouettes. And, in the case of accessorizing, those who haven’t finished an outfit with a trendy belt in the past 18 months might find themselves inspired to get reacquainted with cinching.
At their core, belts are practical: your pants can fit better when you wear one. But you’re missing out if that’s as far as it goes. With inspired styling approaches seen across social media, belts are back in a big way for summer, and well into fall, too. Within the 10 examples ahead, sleek leather and ‘00s nostalgic grommets complete denim ensembles while bold buckles and braided textures give new shapes to closet staples you likely already own. And, with chain belts already making a strong return during swimsuit season, their popularity continues thanks to styles both new and old (in other words, keep your eyes peeled for vintage Chanel waist adornments).
Below, take a look at the trends and styling tricks to welcome belts back into your life.
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The Chunky Chain
An extra thick chainlink belt deserves a bolder denim silhouette to match. Pair baggy or paperbag waist jeans with a fitted, flirty top and strong belt silhouette. You could skip the statement jewelry — the waistline detail speaks for itself — but a heavy-link necklace will appeal to those of the more-is-more mindset.
The Grommet Belt
Make no mistake: Y2K style made a strong return this summer. And you can add grommet belts to the list of been-there-worn-that trends. For a more modern and playful approach, skip the denim mini skirts and pair one with utilitarian khakis, an asymmetric top, and, for little contrast, a daintier bag design.
The ‘80s Shape
For another throwback, look to the ‘80s for strong, geometric buckle details that pull an ensemble together. While the era may also be known for vibrant colors, opt for a bright white belt that can complement neutrals or busier prints, simple silhouettes, or ones with more volume.
The String of Pearls
The preppy strand of pearls around your neck takes on a new life when worn around the hips. Try pairing the classic chain belt — new or sourced from your favorite vintage shopping destination — with slouchy trousers, unfussy basics, and a chunkier shoe silhouette to contrast pearl’s prim reputation.
The Minimal and Neutral
The slim, neutral belt is a wardrobe staple you may already have in your closet. It’s not the star of any ensemble, but more the supporting character, making any relaxed dress silhouette fit a bit more precisely if you prefer.
The High-Waist Security
Contrary to the recent popularity of low-rise silhouettes, plenty of fans remain of denim that sits just a couple of inches below the ribcage. For them, the outfit-coordinating belt is your best friend as it maintains a snug and secure fit on your high-rise jeans and helps create an elongating belt-to-hemline effect, no matter your actual height.
The Undone Classic
The coolest outfit details are often those that are slightly off and imperfect. This coordinating (not matching) suit look embodies this approach. It pieces together multiple complementary neutral colors, loosely tied together with a classic black belt at the waistline. The extra bit of belt tail hanging is not mandatory but encouraged.
The Medallion Chain
Another jewelry-as-belt option is the medallion-detailed chain belt. This special piece can be worn with any trouser or slung over the waistband of low-rise jeans, but it shines especially well over a minimalist black dress.
Weave texture into a look with the addition of a braided belt. This small detail gives a whole new silhouette to a boxy, utilitarian vest, and further extends the possibilities of your existing wardrobe.
The Oversized Circles
The ‘00s nostalgia feels especially palpable in this distressed denim-on-denim, belt-worn-over-the-loops ensemble. Again, this oversized-circle, flower-adorn belt type is another to look for when vintage shopping, but you can find similar designs that’ll take a classic all-denim look to a new level.