Do you wear belts with dresses at work? Do you have a formula to make this work? Or maybe you have some tricks up your sleeve to make this a fool-proof style stunt?
Recall two weeks ago my conundrum with my Missoni dress and the “to belt or not to belt” or maybe the “purple or yellow belt” questions. The sticky style situation led me to today’s installment of Suit Your Style, a recurring series about what the heck “business casual” means and how we can decode the dress code to ensure we’re not skirting into any style danger zones in front of our bosses. Today we focus on belting a dress at the office.
1. Play Off Your Accessories
We’ll start with the very classic matching accessories option. While matching your shoes and your belt is certainly no longer a rule by any means, I chose a pink belt to play off the bit of pink in my shoes. Choosing a color that shows up two or three times in small doses throughout an outfit can help to make it look more cohesive.
2. Define or Create Shape
Some dresses don’t provide much shape or structure. While that’s perfectly ok, you can change the entire feel of the outfit by adding a belt and creating a more fitted, structured look. In many cases, this can also help to make the look more flattering.
3. Add Texture to the Outfit
I gave this really simple sweater and skirt pairing an upgrade by adding a braided belt to the look. The added texture just gives the outfit a slightly more finished look and adds some depth to the combination.
4. Try Different Belt Widths
Belts come in various widths from tiny and skinny to wide and heavy. Generally, the wider belts create a more casual look while skinny belts tend to fit in better with a more professional vibe, so you’ll see skinny belts more often at the office. The best size belt, however, often depends on your body shape and the dress itself.
With respect to body shape, you can try on different types and see what feels best for you. EBay actually has a helpful guide about belting a dress that includes information about matching body types and belt styles.
5. Add a Pop of Color
A neutral outfit works well for work on it’s own. But if you’re feeling like you want to add bit of oomph to the look, use a belt (or other accessories) to add some elements of color. In this example, the red makes a strong statement and is the focal point of the look. I also incorporated tip #1 above allowing my belt and shoes to play off of each other.
6. Add Interest with a Knot
Certain knots can be a bit casual. But a clean knot with a nice thin belt will be professional enough for the office, especially in a business casual setting.
7. Add Contrast
Consider selecting a belt in a color that contrasts or complements the rest of the outfit. This will work best when the dress or outfit doesn’t already have too many colors in it.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Compete with the Dress
Many of the dresses I’ve shown above either have simple patterns or I’ve chosen belt colors that blend in with the pattern of the dress (like the navy belt with the orange and navy dress). If your dress has a strong pattern or makes a statement, stick with a simpler belt option. Maybe you don’t even need a belt? This attempt at pairing a belt with my Missoni dress didn’t work because the horizontal line of the belt competed with the strong vertical lines on the dress.
While more aggressive pairings can be fantastic fashionista statements, they likely aren’t the best options for the office. Furthermore, it’s easy to go awry when experimenting with these pairings if one doesn’t have the most astute of fashion fluency (that would be me, if there’s any lack of clarity).