Friday, July 24, 2015

Belts, Blazers, & Cardigans: Closet Necessities and Your Waist Line's Best Friends

    I've never been a belt wearer.  I've always stayed away from them, mainly because it was just one extra step that I wasn't interested in taking.  In the last year or so, I've seen the light and totally reformed.  I think back now to all those outfits that looked so frumpy that I gave them away, and I see now that all they were missing was a great belt.  Sometimes we have to look beyond something as it is presented to see the potential it has with just a little tweaking.

    Very often pieces don't start out great, they need to be tailored or personalized in some way to make them right for the individual.  I think of certain items like cotton dresses "the basics," they're a starting point not a finished piece.  The most frequent culprit in a blah waist line is the empire dress. So, I've chosen it to demonstrate the how to unlock the potential of a piece. 
    An empire dress has its place in the world, but quite frankly that place is in Regency literature like Pride and Prejudice, and the closets of four year old girls.  However, every now and then I see a really gorgeous print, so versatile, so lovely, and so unfortunately attached to an empire waist.  My solution is very simple and one that I hope you'll employ before tossing out the next frumpy dress you find buried in your closet: Add a belt.  
    There are of course some things to keep in mind when choosing this route.  First of all, forget about the belt loops on the dress and put the belt on the narrowest part of your waist.  Second, make sure that the belt is standout color.  It makes a world of difference in drawing attention to the narrowest part of your waist when you have some sort of visual contrast there.  
    I know I've focused on belts so far, but if you've kept up with my blog for any amount of time, you've probably noticed all my cardigans.  I own so many of them for a very good reason; they are a relatively inexpensive way to that add pop and polish that make an outfit look complete.  
    When it comes to cardigans, I have one in every color and length, but the opposite can be said of blazers.  I have only two blazers at present, and while it's true that blazers tend to be more costly than cardis, the fact is that a good blazer will go with just about anything and make it look classier in the process.  
   I decided to demonstrate the drastic difference these items can make on an outfit with one of my recent thrift store purchases.  This dress is by Maeve, a very nice brand by Anthropologie, and it cost me $18.  The pastel mosaic print is gorgeous and the cotton is so soft, I decided to take a chance and see if I could work with it.  

My reason for hesitating was, of course, the empire waist.  I had a pretty good idea how it was going to look on my frame and I was correct.  I don't mind saying that without a belt this dress looks horrible on me.  It feels like that awful, old style of maternity wear from way back when women were trying to hide their baby bellies.  In other words, it looks like I put on a circus tent.

    At the back of the dress there is some smocking to give a more comfortable fit to the top, but again I look much wider without a defined waist in the dress.

    Even though the dress came with a belt, you'll notice in the store photos that it's meant to be worn around the empire waist.  That's an absurd notion, so I didn't even waste time doing a photo of it.  However, even moving the belt to my natural waist was not the way to really fix this dress, because the belt is made of the same fabric and print as the dress.  This means that it is completely camouflaged and therefore does little to improve the shape of the dress or to bring visual interest to the outfit.

    Because the darker orange is such a standout color in this dress, I decided to make it a focal color and chose an orange grosgrain ribbon for a belt.  

    I love to use grosgrain because it's not as slippery as satin ribbons, it's inexpensive, and available at most craft stores, so  I can easily and inexpensively accent my outfits.

    Right away there is a huge change in the silhouette of the dress.  Now there is some visual interest and the eye immediately goes to that pop of orange right at the narrowest part of my waist.

    Since I was on a roll with the orange, I decided to take it one step further and replace the orange ribbon with an orange cropped cardigan.  This really brought out the colors, and created a smooth silhouette.  The poof in the skirt needed a little flattening around  the belt and this cardi did that perfectly.  

To give it just a little extra something at the waist I went back and added the original belt.

    This is the finished look.  It was taken on a different day than the others, but there is such a huge contrast between the original shape of the dress and the finished look that I wanted to recreate my process when putting together an outfit in the hopes that it will demonstrate the value of belts and cardigans in your own wardrobe.


  1. Brilliant! Love the demo! I always avoid empire waists, but I love the sweater trick!


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