From beaded to braided to jumbo-buckled, belts’ sphere of influence keeps on growing.

"They’re becoming bigger and bigger as far as height and size – and trendiness," Amy Gallagher, fashion expert for Marshall’s stores, said. "We’re seeing a lot of big belts that are resting on the hips. That’s because the tunic look is very in right now. It’s a fun way to break up a long shirt."

Belts can be an inexpensive way to make those jeans look as fresh on Sunday as they did on Saturday (and Friday and Thursday).

The big news:

Thick belts worn not through the loops but hanging on the hips. And big buckles – which is good news for hips, Gallagher said.

"You never want to go overboard, but a big buckle really makes your hips look smaller," she said.

The big caveat:

"One thing I see people make a huge mistake with is not buying the right size belt. You really want it to easily buckle and have a little extra left over," she said. "If you pull it too tight, you can be a skinny girl and still look cinched in the middle. It’s not cute to see skin above or below the belt line."

That matters only if your belt is exposed, she clarified. Otherwise, "it’s there for function, not style," she said, "so you can do what you want."


1. A ribbon belt – If you don’t already own this from last spring, think preppy grosgrain or tapestry-type fabric.

2. A long scarf that can weave through belt loops. (Scarves are a true value item – for use in hair, on neck, around handbag handles, even as a bandeau top in some cases.)

3. A leather belt with a large buckle.

4. A large belt that sits on the hips and can be worn over a tunic.

"If you have those," Gallagher said, "you’ll be set all spring and summer."

But don’t let that stop you from shopping for others.

Non-leather belts often are more affordable and versatile than leather. Fabric belts sometimes are reversible, like those from Kansas City-based Annie Shugart and partner Sara Tumminia. Their Waist Wraps also fasten with optional pins that can migrate elsewhere in your wardrobe.

© 2005, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.