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How to wear...the waist belt

After its Noughties heyday, fashion is embracing the waist with practical, stylish accessories that can do a lot for an outfit – and the woman wearing it, writes Meadhbh McGrath

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Candice Swanepoel walks the red carpet ahead of the "Marriage Story" screening during during the 76th Venice Film Festival at Sala Grande on August 29, 2019 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Candice Swanepoel walks the red carpet ahead of the "Marriage Story" screening during during the 76th Venice Film Festival at Sala Grande on August 29, 2019 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Florence Pugh. Photo: Getty

Florence Pugh. Photo: Getty

Isabelle Huppert. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Isabelle Huppert. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Regina King. Photo: Getty

Regina King. Photo: Getty

Blazer, €365 from Weekend Max Mara at Brown Thomas

Blazer, €365 from Weekend Max Mara at Brown Thomas

Faux snakeskin, €18 from Accessorize

Faux snakeskin, €18 from Accessorize

Black leather, €98 from All Saints

Black leather, €98 from All Saints

Burgundy, €19.99 from H&M

Burgundy, €19.99 from H&M

Coat, €1,465 from JW Anderson at Netaporter.com

Coat, €1,465 from JW Anderson at Netaporter.com

Two-tone, €35 from M&S

Two-tone, €35 from M&S

Boiler suit, €75 from M&S

Boiler suit, €75 from M&S

Sash belt, €15.99 from Mango

Sash belt, €15.99 from Mango

Chocolate brown, €95 from Reiss

Chocolate brown, €95 from Reiss

Tortoiseshell buckle, €59 from & Other Stories

Tortoiseshell buckle, €59 from & Other Stories

Jumper, €89 from & Other Stories

Jumper, €89 from & Other Stories

Mother of pearl buckle, €75 from Uterque.com

Mother of pearl buckle, €75 from Uterque.com

Knit dress, €49.95 from Zara

Knit dress, €49.95 from Zara

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Candice Swanepoel walks the red carpet ahead of the "Marriage Story" screening during during the 76th Venice Film Festival at Sala Grande on August 29, 2019 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Watching the models strut down the catwalk, we can admire the beauty of the clothes, but it tends to feel like there's little on show for real women. What about those of us whose bodies are anything other than incredibly lithe and tall, who need clothes to wear outside of the confines of a fashion show or magazine shoot?

Slowly but surely, designers are increasingly looking to simple but practical solutions - which doesn't mean leggings and a sweatshirt, but maybe a pair of flats over stilettos, a tailored trouser rather than an ultra low-rise style or, crucially, the addition of a waist-cinching belt.

This season's belts go a long way towards making fashion's dramatic, exaggerated pieces wearable for everyday. Consider JW Anderson, the Northern Irish designer whose shows have become the hottest ticket at fashion week and who wrapped wide canvas belts around his couture shapes - such as the sweeping draped coats and capes - and instantly created a highly desirable and flattering look.

From the fluid midi dresses to the single-breasted blazers and chunky knits, these were pieces women immediately wanted to wear: rather than coming across like a shapeless blob in expensive clothing, we could see how these pieces could be made to work on our bodies.

Acne Studios took a similar approach, with wide-leg workwear trousers and culottes cinched in with narrow black and tan belts, giving those oversized designs a new and much more accessible silhouette.

Isabel Marant nodded to the 80s with her collection of strong-shouldered boho dresses and stone-coloured peg leg trousers, nipped at the waist with wide black belts. The effect was typically insouciant and also seen in Karl Lagerfeld's final collection for Chanel, where the Parisian house's classic tweed skirt suits were replaced with trouser suits: wide-legged houndstooth trousers were paired with neat white belts, while Nordic knits were tucked into wool and cashmere skirts in shades of black, white and tan, finished with lambskin sash belts with chain-edge trims. It was fabulously cosy, yet chic, and had audiences (and shoppers) lusting for wintery days.

Waist belts have been popular over the years, most recently in the 2000s, when Gok Wan solved every wardrobe dilemma with a waist belt and chunky beads, and while that look was hugely popular, it wasn't terribly fashionable. Now, as designers realise the waist is an important factor in how women shop and get dressed, we're seeing a lot more waist belts.

When choosing a style, you can go wide, such as Regina King's tan Valentino style, or try something a little narrower to ease yourself into the look, such as Isabelle Huppert's Celine version. In King's case, the belt refines those billowing pleats into a sharp style statement, while Huppert's brings a feminine touch to a fully-covered-up dress.

The goal, of course, is to achieve the much-lauded hourglass silhouette, which may seem retrograde as the modern fashion landscape embraces gender-neutral clothing, yet for those who find androgyny hard to pull off, a structured waist can do a lot for an outfit - and the person wearing it.

When all eyes are on the waist, you necessarily stand taller, holding your head and shoulders high. Our posture is better, and that change in how we carry ourselves suggests greater confidence, which might just trick us into feeling that bit more confident too.

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