The wide, waist-cinching belts - now turning up on torsos everywhere - serve the dual purpose of calling attention to the narrowest part of the body while adding personal style.
"It's a way to define the waist, add color, add interest and a way to make an outfit uniquely your own, just as a piece of jewelry would," says Gregg Andrews, a fashion director at Nordstrom.
That sounded pretty good to me, so I agreed to take one out for a spin.
I had visions of testing something edgy, like the black, studded Azzedine Alaia number Michelle Obama wears. But that vibe just wasn't right for my decidedly non-edgy close.
I ended up with a 2 1/2-inch thick, open-weave belt from Belgo Lux in tobacco-colored leather (retail cost: $48). The belt's design was pretty in a way I felt would work well with my feminine wardrobe.
I tried it with as many types of outfits as I could to gauge its versatility:
Shopping day was easy. I wore my belt out of the store over a plain scoop-neck white T-shirt with jeans.
The next day I chose a close-fitting green tank top with a sporty flared pink skirt. I buckled on my belt, and it was easy as could be. A friend noted it worked well with the preppy color combo.
In both outfits, the belt gave me a more finished look, especially because I was wearing basic pieces with little jewelry. It felt good to be wearing a polished accessory.
And being strapped in gave me a feeling of power that made me walk a little taller.
However, day three was a challenge. I hadn't tried on my outfit ahead of my early morning workday. I ended up in a short-sleeved button down shirt with a chambray blue and white skirt. The proportions were off with the belt over the tucked-in shirt; it looked messy belted and untucked. But I found success when I retucked and lowered the belt for a low-slung, though not of-the-moment, look.
I mixed things up for day four, wearing the belt over a puff-sleeve black top. I wasn't sure the belt would look good over a dark color, but you could still see the delicate work of the belt's weave.
The next outing was another quick change, heading to dinner at a friend's house. I felt confident in a belted sleeveless straw-colored top over a white printed skirt and a cardigan. At the end of the night, our hostess said she liked the look: "I thought you looked all put together."
Back to work again on day six, and I wanted to replicate one of Mrs. Obama's looks: The unbuttoned and belted cardigan. I belted an open lavender cardigan over a white camisole and wore it with a blue and white micro-check skirt. I was happy with the outfit, though I wanted the sweater to stay straight and had to adjust it when I stood up.
A co-worker complimented the belt as "interesting" and "intricate," and said it looked "handmade, of course." Another colleague coveted it in the way I never had before. "I want one of those belts," she declared.
- Lisa A. Flam, The Associated Press