Origin of the Trend: Wide Belts

It’s time to throw away your skinny braided belt. Instead, indulge in the fashion world’s love for those big belts that take up one-fourth of your torso, because the former is allegedly “out.” (I’ll be keeping my hipster belts, despite what everyone says, because I have a hard time believing a gladiator-style piece of leather is going to make anyone under six feet tall look anything but shorter). I can never really figure out who makes these decisions, but I know I absolutely have to follow them if I don’t want to look like a dud.

The belt has always been a classy accessory, and it’s one that is pretty difficult to mess up: if you can tie a string around your waist, you can do a belt.

Ignoring the measly strands of yarn/strips of hide/dandelions fashioned into a loop that were efficient for holding swords and hatchets and other large metal weapons (because that was just a tragic time in fashion), some of the early belts were wide and made to add curves to the body. According to OnceUponABelt.com, in the late 1800s, “waist cinching belts were primarily worn by officers, some of whom also wore small corsets to make their waists smaller. They were subject to ridicule from cartoonists of the time, not only for this, but [also for] their reputation of endless drinking.” The big belts popular this spring are intended to serve the same purpose. Whether they succeed is up for debate.

Women didn’t really start wearing belts until the early Middle Ages, according to Women-Belts.com. Even then, they were not a popular accessory. According to OnceUponABelt.com, ”Belts for women were free to become more of a style statement but did not really kick off until 1900 to 1910, when worn with blouse and long skirt combos typically as a boned silk sash with a v-shape at the front to emphasise the small waist.” Even ladies in 1910 wanted to look like (the yet-to-exist) Barbie. The pieces were largely decorative, as women didn’t have any reason to hook meat cleavers to their waists.

Belt’s didn’t acquire a sense of functionality until the 1920s, according to Women-Belts.com, when men’s pants were worn lower on the waist. Eighty years later, men’s pants and general belt use would both drop further, much to the dismay of anyone who does not appreciate a good morning buttcrack.

The belts that are in style today are definitely not functional–one could say that constraining the waist and then going to a Chinese buffet is actually quite the opposite–but are designed to be eye-catching.

Published at The Lion, The Stitch, and The Wardrobe on March 6, 2012.

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