The answer to most fashion rules and conundrums is usually pretty simple. Does black really go with brown? Emphatically, yes. Can I wear checkerboard print with florals? Why not? What exactly does “come as you are” attire mean? Okay, that one is tricky, but we’ve got you covered on every kind of dress code. Fashion is a form of self-expression, and we live by a “you’ve got to do you” mentality. However, the occasional “rule” or “guideline” can help determine size, fit, proportion, and so forth, like layering necklaces or figuring out what size belt you need.
Until you’ve shopped for a new belt, you probably had no idea the process could create such pause. So many questions come up—do I want a skinny belt or a wide belt? Is an O-ring, box buckle, or woven design my jam? Does my size vary when it comes to waist belts versus regular belts? Is there even such a thing as a “regular” belt? Quick answer: Sort of, yes—the common term is “hip belt.”
So, before you spiral into an existential belt crisis (which is deeply unnecessary), we’ve tapped Sophie Cataldi from B-low The Belt to share her expert-guided tips on figuring out the best belt size for you. Learn all the tips below, plus an edit to shop so you can belt it like the best of them, whether at the waist or hip.
Meet the Expert
Sophie Cataldi is the social media and marketing coordinator at B-low The Belt, a Los Angeles-based accessories company that has offered a range of quality pieces (including belts, handbags, and more) since its 2002 founding.
Measure Your Belt Size
“The best way to find the perfect fit for a belt is always to use a measuring tape and the size guide from the specific brand that you are purchasing from," Cataldi says. "There is no general rule of thumb to follow when comparing clothing size and belt size. Belt sizing varies across brands, so the typical small, medium, large sizing may not be the same for different designers. Of course, if you’re a size medium [in general], you are likely to be around a size medium in belts. However, everyone’s bodies are different—someone who is a size four may have a smaller waist than another person who wears clothing in the same size.”
Invest in a Tailoring Measuring Tape
“They’re super cheap, and you can find them at your local pharmacy or sometimes at the checkout at your supermarket and, of course, online," Cataldi explains. "You’ll find that this is one of the best tools to have when shopping online.”
Measure Where You Plan to Wear the Belt
“Ideally, you want the belt to fasten on the center hole to ensure that you get the correct size for either your waist or hip," Cataldi says. "Also, it’s important to note whether a belt is designed to be worn around the waist or hips, as they are sized accordingly—for example, our size small waist belts measure smaller than our size small hip belts. However, if there is a hip belt that you would like to wear around your waist, you can size down, and vice versa. This is also why it’s important to measure where you want to wear the belt.”
Consider the Number of Holes
When measuring what size belt you need, it's good to think about more than just where you want to wear it—the number of holes on a given style can be crucial, too. “This gives you wiggle room in terms of sizing," Cataldi explains. "For example, we take measurements from the center hole on our size guide for B-Low The Belt. This means there are about two inches of flexibility in either direction for each measurement. So if you’re in between sizes, think about which hole you would most like to wear the belt on.”
Find a Versatile Belt Style
Given the popularity of both high-waisted and low-rise jeans, you may be wondering how to find a belt that works well across different styles. Good news: It's more than possible to multi-task. “Certain styles such as braided, woven, chain, and wrap belts are fully adjustable are great for this," Cataldi says. "Also, a belt with more adjustment holes is a versatile option as it provides a wider size range. The ideal multi-wear belt will fasten comfortably on the holes near the tip to wear on your hips. Then, adjust to holes closer to the buckle for your waist.”
Consider Fabric, Width, and Design
When thinking about how a belt will fit in practice, it's important to consider more than circumference. “Wider belts are usually designed to be worn around the waist, while many thin belts are designed to be hip belts," Cataldi says. "A good example would be our crystal Farah belt. This style was designed to be worn on the waist and made of a crystal chain with no stretch, unlike leather belts."
But that's not all—think about how (or whether) a design will work alongside your wardrobe, too. "The width of the belt also determines how it can be worn," Cataldi explains. "For example, if you’re looking for a belt to hold up your jeans, it’s best to look for one that will fit into the belt loops on your jeans. Typical belt loops can hold belts up to 1.5 inches wide, so be sure to measure.”
Add Holes If Needed
If you need a new size over time or just want your belt to have more flexibility, you may find yourself wondering how to add another hole or two. “You can purchase a belt hole puncher—they vary in size and shape so you can match it to the holes that your belt came with," Cataldi advises. "Belt punchers are very inexpensive, so it is a must-have if you consistently wear belts."
Not sure about DIY? "A shoe cobbler should be able to resize (more specifically cut down) a belt for you to get a more personalized fit that, in most cases, will not affect the overall look of the belt,” Cataldi says.