Q: I understand how to wear a belt with pants that have belt loops, but what about belts with skirts or dresses? They always seem to slide around. Also, how wide should they be and where should I belt?
A: The brutal truth: Belts worn with dresses and skirts that lack belt loops will slide around. On everyone. Always. This is irritating, but hardly cause for alarm. Your belt is most likely to shift when you sit down, so make a mental note to check your belt’s location whenever you stand and you’ll be just fine.
As for width, consider your proportions: If you’re short-waisted, petite or super curvy, a wide belt will take up the entirety of your torso and make you look like a chest on top of hips. Slim belts, on the other hand, will balance you out. If you’re long-waisted, skinny belts may look a bit too skinny, but wider styles will create great proportions. As a fallback plan, a 1½-inch-wide belt works on most figures.
When wearing a dress, belt at your natural waist — the smallest part of your torso — unless the dress design places a defined waistline elsewhere. For skirts worn with skinny belts, belt about 1 inch below where your tucked-in top and skirt waistband meet. Wide belts can cover the spot where top and skirt meet.
Q: How do you wear prints without letting them wear you?
A: When people talk about items that wear the wearer, they’re typically referring to design elements that overwhelm the eye. It’s pretty unlikely that a white-background shirt with black pin-dots is going to “wear” anyone, but a red-background shirt with enormous chartreuse flowers — that’s another story.
If you feel like prints overwhelm you, consider scale, color, contrast and regularity. Good bets: prints that are medium or small in scale, contain no more than three colors (or rely mainly on neutrals), offer low contrast and are geometric or regular. Giant six-color paisleys will look amazing on some plus-size and tall figures, but may seem like a bit much on the rest of us.
Still worried? Use prints sparingly. Avoid printed dresses, pants and skirts in favor of blouses that will peek out from beneath solid-colored blazers and scarves worn as accents.
Q: Do you have any guidelines on sizes/lengths of necklaces? I like statement necklaces rather than small chain-type necklaces, but I am short with a short neck.
A: Let’s start with the basics: Your necklace should be long enough to sit about an inch above your neckline, and should reflect your neckline shape. So a strand necklace that curves when fastened will work with rounded necklines. A pendant creates a pointed shape that works best with narrow and V-shaped necklines. Your other option is to select a longer necklace that falls far below your neckline and doesn’t interact with it at all: A bib necklace with a crew neckline or a long pendant with a scoop.
Considering necklace scale is helpful in crafting balanced outfits: A giant necklace on a small person can look overwhelming, just as a delicate chain on a large person can get lost. Since you’re petite and wish to de-emphasize your short neck, you’ll want to avoid enormous statement necklaces that sit high on your clavicle. You need a size that suits your body scale, and a style that falls away from the base of your neck. If you like the look of bib-shaped statement necklaces, pick one that is designed to hit lower on your frame and features a medium to small airy design.
Long pendants are another great choice. They draw the eye up and down your figure, lengthening you from neck to navel. A necklace that hits 2 to 3 inches above the navel works on most women, and can be worn with virtually any neckline.
Sally McGraw is a Minneapolis-based personal stylist and creator of the Already Pretty (alreadypretty.com) blog. Her fashion advice appears on this page once a month. Send questions to: email@example.com.