Have you ever met an accessory that peaked in high school, felt so purposeless that it had an existential crisis, took out a loan for grad school, and now the only time you think about it is when it resurfaces in a questionable Facebook meme? That was the life and death of of the wide belt. We lived through the trauma in the early 2000s, and witnessed our collective style devolve into a cross between The Simple Life and Ashley Tisdale in High School Musical. Never did a butterfly sleeve blouse go without a chunky pleather snatch. And let us not forget the low-slung pirate belt, hanging on to your hips for dear life. But really, it’s the waist-high style that haunts us. And for some reason, they’re making a comeback.
I understand that fashion is cyclical, but if we do not study history it is doomed to repeat itself. Let’s briefly revisit the 2000s’ obsession with the wide belt and cringe in unison.
“Cinch your waist,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. “No thank you,” I say. As the return of skinny sunglasses showed us, no defunct trend is safe from resurrection, but the return of wide belts has been slow if stealthy. Loewe presented a sculptural obi style during its fall 2017 collection, but the architectural design meant they were inaccessible for plebes like us. That belt was reserved for the high-fashion elite and upstate art collectors. A few seasons later, Dior’s fall 2019 collection showcased one-third of their models styled in oversized wrap belts. Seconds later, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman and more of Hollywood’s finest were strapped into Dior, and now the trend is finally reaching the masses.
Maybe it’s the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, but these thick belts are everywhere. From high-end designers to high street brands, retailers are compelling us to participate in the this second coming. The issue with the accessory is that it begs the question, Are you wearing the belt or is the belt wearing you? After all, it’s too big for belt loops and can easily constrict your torso into a black hole. The end result looking more Lego man than hourglass.
If you’re still intrigued, the key to wearing it is to think about proportions. My rule is to not venture into corset territory, and hover somewhere below three inches in girth. The midi skirt look above is a great example of playing with scale, where the belt operates as a break between two voluminous items. Just whatever you do, do not wear one over an extra-long, extra-tight, ribbed tank top. Ever. Leave that nonsense in 2005.