Thursday, 19 May 2011

Belts and the new waistline

Belts have an obvious practical function: they serve as an aid to holding up one’s trousers. But like most things with a neat, practical purpose, belts leave room for adornment. Why wear something that only serves one utilitarian function when it can also serve to individualize you? Why wear a plain leather belt to hold up your jeans when you could wear a sequined one instead? Belts have come a long way since simply residing on the waist and blending in with the fabric of one’s dress or pants. Today belts can be found on all items of clothing and different belts can be associated with many diverse fashion statements.

Belts have been servicing the fashions of women for thousands of years. In Ancient Rome the long tunics of women would be cinched around the waist by primitive belts. Over the ages the standard belt rose and fell on the waist. During one fashion era it might hang low on a woman’s hips. During another era it might reside just below the breast in an empire waist fashion. The belt adapts to the dress and not the other way around. As you see women’s dresses change, you can observe the style of the belt morph simultaneously. Similar in purpose to the belt, but stylistically very different, is the sash, or in Japan, the obi. The sash serves the same function as the belt for women in holding up the fabric, but its effect is far more decorative than utilitarian. The sash accentuates the waist more than a normal belt and can serve as a formal (on ball-gowns) as well as an informal (over a pair of blue jeans) reminder of a woman’s femininity.

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