80’S ACCESSORIES – 80’S BELTS – Belted in the 80’s – double belts , skinny belts , big belts!


At the beginning of Pretty in Pink – Molly Ringwald wrong-side-of-the-tracks-
princess adorns herself for a senior day at high school circa 1986. Among
the items she adds to her neo-new-waver-meets-neo-thrift-store-Victorian
outfit is an loud pink floral cloth belt with elaborate bauble buckle ( homemade
– we learn from the crafty Andie ) while, moments later, as if in direct contrast,
the other preppy girls seem breezily beltless and later still, Trax store owner
Iona gilds the lily in a horror-show of a belt – black leather? black rubber dangling
every bit of paraphanelia she can find – tiny handcuffs , dyed lucky rabbits feet ,
even what looks to be a yoyo!
How many belts were there in the 80’s? Too many, it seems, to count however
one can go over the obvious trends with a bit of ease.

The earliest point of the decade 1980 comes in on the heels of the late 70’s the
fashions are still influenced by disco , synthetic fabrics and the looks waver between
the blousy tent-likeaftan dresses balloony and beltless , waitress style dresses with
cloth-belts attatched via little thread loops , and those atrociously good / atrociously
bad jeans ( depending on your preference. ) You remember the ones – rather
than low-waist they came to a girls actual waist giving you a long
uninterupted rump shaping it intoa rather volumptuous valentine heart
– if you had a good rump – if not it seemed like it either went on forever or
ended prematurly like an eraser end all rubbed out. These jeans often came
with little skinny belts , synthetics of course or perhaps even canvas. The
beginning of the decade was minor for belt history – they came in on a whisper –
skinny belts to break up the lines , emphasis a school-girl waist with ribbons
of sherbet canvas and or draw attention to the wrist-small waists of the
early 80’s ushered in by the willowy Charlie’s Angels types.

As the decade moved more solidly into it’s own , and fashion became
influenced by the sign of the times – the working woman , and the frivious-fun-girl ,
belts took on new shapes and new looks to outfit new styles.

Keeping in mind that the working woman of the 80’s is essentially a drawback to the
forties – when women were put to work in factories to fill the gaps and the men were off to war
personafied on the silverscreen with the dashing new women – Joan Crawford , –
the same broad , padded shoulders , elaborate solids , heavy pins and printed
blouses. Belts were going the same way.

For the most part belts in the power suit either went two routes inubtrusive –
much like a man’s belt ( pretending to be vital while really being decorative ) or funky –
chain belts which crossed over from the seventies and featured numerous styles – of linked
hoops , snake-chain , even chain swooping up and down over a leather belt.

The frivilous fun-girl belt was something else altogether – I hesitate to call it
the material girl belt, simply because too much of the 80’s style seems to
point to Madonna – not so! She simply was the first person to be
recognised wearing it. Plus hinting of Material Girl belts would only hasten
to bring to mind Madonna’s most notorious belt buckle – Boy Toy.

The frivilous fun-girl belts are slightly punk – they featured the
double wrap belt – a long thin , belt studded or decorated with punk-metal
rimmed holes and could be wrapped around the waist twice , and was
usually worn slightly droopy on the hips. It was often paired with slightly
punk, slightly thrift store panache – lace capris , tight skirts , mesh tops or
huge brightly colored and or metallic belts.

There was essentially 12 belt types in the 80’s – The Big belt ,
the cloth belt , the skinny belt , the fabric belt , the fringe or adorned belt ,
the chain belt , the gimmick belt , the elastic belt , the cord belt, the canvas
belt, the metal belt and the double belt. Within these categories thousands
of belts spawned like shead snake-skins only materials , shapes , styles all
changed certain convigurations of the belt type making it it’s own. For
instance one could look at the cloth belt and fabric belt and scratch their
head in wonder – aren’t they the same – no. The cloth belt like Andie’s belt at
the beg
inning of Pretty in Pink or the belt that accompanies the dress you buy
from the Sears catalog is worlds different from the fabric belt.

The fabric belt –

is essentially a free-style thing – it could be a knotted string of chiffon scarves ,
or more than likely, the trend of braiding or twisting contrasting strips of fabric,
for the sporty, Bananarama-type belt. See the difference?
Perhaps not as easy to note the types of belts or their fabrics was
how they were worn. How did belts enhance a style? and even become a
style in their own?

Perhaps the biggest fun-girl style of belts was perhaps the
hugest trend (and the most known) of the 80’s – the fun girl style is not
hampered by looking specifically like anyone – they are neither too
Madonna wannabe , nor too dress-upy like Cyndi Lauper , they are
influenced by the stars but not copy cats , they love color , comfort , a playful
down to earth girly style that can be both sexy and effortless – It’s the
belt over the sweater look. These belts – the belt over the sweater,
could be any belt – Most 80’s sites however will tell you, emphatically,
that the belt over the sweater was huge and bright and boldly buckled –
sure in half a dozen pics from the 80’s that’s the general idea – but like
Madonna pictured on Desperately Seeking Susan it’s only one outfit and
presumptious to assume that it is the end-all or totally emcompresses her style.

The belt over the sweater could be big bold , hugely , twinkling ,
sparklingly buckled – it could also be thin and unassuming with the sweater
pulled up and hung over it – giving one the notion of wearing a shirt that
cinched in by itself. Perhaps the most know 80’s belt shape, for this look,
is the v shaped belt producing a vampy b-movie tramp shape that conjures
images of 80’s villianesses from lousy sci-fi movies – but the truth be told
the shapes run the gamet – they could themselves have their own alphabet
– from adorned to bullet belt – to chain to sash. I’ll try a bit of a run down.

First let me mention the materials which varied depending on your
outfit however though the 80’s was extremely matchy-matchy – with
monochormatic trappings such as lemon sherbet shades paired with lemon
sunshine brights right down to the shoelaces – moments in the decade
encouraged brillant clashing color contrasts , a bright-red v-neck sweater
with a shimmery bronze belt over it , A royal blue sweater with bright yellow.
Snakeskin and various animal prints came into play as synthetics were
becoming more easy to produce, inexpensive though beautiful,

fakes and with the working woman pictured as aggressive – it was easy to
subliminally, enhanse that image with a strip of tiger print for the
newly coined tigress. Plastics were becoming huge in the 80’s – toys ,
housewear , electronics you name it – even fashion, and belts offered
a playful range of plastic belts from the typical – strip belt
with various shades and patterns, though most wanted to play up
on the fact that it was jelly-clear – Cinderella see-thru and like her
glass slipper could circle a waist cinching, but with nothing more than
a whisper that it was actually there ( I often thought that Cinderella’s
glass slippers had the imagery of allowing her to look as though she
was walking on air).

Other plastic belts offered more punk offerings – thick
plastic chains for a heavy-duty look at half the weight , plastic interlocking
loops , chains that dangled plastic charms – remember Sweet things?
Those plastic charm bracelets they have a belt ( though I’m usure if the
name branding is same ) , a strip of jelly-bean shaded see-thro plastic
danging their various jingle belled charms.

Suede , fabric , cow-hide,
sequins, and metal which hinted at the gamut fashion ran from ease to
excess. Faux leather/plastic paperthin was a must but like a lot of 80’s
fashion had a limited lifespan was there anything more devestating
than losing the pom-pom off your pom-pom sock? The thin-skinned faux
leather plastic had a tendency to develope a kind of psoriasis – flaking
away into an unsightly patchwork of shiny and bald.

Canvas came in from the 70’s offering skinny belts that had a simple
metal-plate covered buckle – they were often colored in three stripe
colors – two tone sherbets and tan. The canvas belt was usually
paired with jeans but eventually broke off and entered the wide world
of skirts and dresses , the wearing of the canvas belt also became
something of an art , the shapes changed growing wider , achieveing buckles
and sometimes just an ordinary metal loop called the double d ring – the
canvas belt was cinched and anchored in such a way that the
tail end , the excess was never layed flat like the strap of a watch –
it was made to look jaunty , tucked backwards under the flap of the belt,
like a cat who has slung her tail over her arm. Canvas was not the only
belt to be knotted and tucked away , but it was probably physically the
easiest due to it’s material.

Elastic belts were the clown moment of the fashion
trend – okay a bit mean, but elastic belts could be, lets face it, a horror-
unless your waist measurements mirrored Molly Ringwald – what good was
wearing an elastic around your waist? – and if you were in the habit of
gaining a few pounds it could easily loose it’s snap – on the plus side –
the buckles were something else entirely – it was like wearing a gaudy
clip, a beautiful jewel, a cluster of pins on your waist. The over all
shape of the elastic belt was a widish band of material that resembled
the stretchy fabric and probably was the same material as suspenders
the buckles were either elaborately clustered bits of bauble
( sequines , spangles , beads and such ) or enameled buckles featuring
something that became an icon – the butterfly clasp , or
something more obscure – a faintly flavored oriental design or
mere geometric shape splashed with bright color. The elastic material
however branched off into other belts whose fronts offered better
fabrics – these stretch belts came in all corset, cinch styles and colors
, with bits of plasticy faux leather , and real leather – offering the look
of a cinched belt with the beauty of something contemporary and stylish.
There was even the stretch/elastic belt that was entirely
covered in sequins – ( mentioned once as part of Beth’s new wave costume
for an updated version of Romeo and Juliet in The Fabulous Five #10
Playing the Part ) it was the all important touch of glitter that was
becoming so essential.

Metal Belts – unlike chain belts , snakechain belts or any
kind of belt that resembles something assimilating a necklace these
often merged with material. Metal Belts a kin to that of elastic belts, for
very often the metal was plyed onto the stretch fabric allowing them a certain
flexibility. These could have other names – fish-scale belts – for the metal
petals were offened layered fishscale style or they lay slab like – like a slab
bracelet giving them the dub of slab belts. There were also huge linking
medallion belts , sometimes even just touches of metal trimming suede or
leather bracelets. No-matter, the design, the idea of the metal belt lay
in the whole trend of 80’s fashion – the excess, the brassiness the
pairing of feminine and rough bad girl-tigress ( notice the fabrics
for woman – black leather , metal belts , big hair ) I recall a brilliant
observation from the 60’s of a woman lamenting that fashion was making
women look like Lolita’s or Liontamers! ( unfortunately I cannot sum up the
80’s so succinctly )

Twisted fabric belts – as I mentioned earlier were a kind of
sporty trend – they were usually two colors of fabric – often contrasting
– green with white ext. and where never usually an actual braid as in the
typical – three fabric , three locks of hair braid most people associate
with braid, it was more of a twisting of two fabrics together. For added
interest ( these belts were easy to make and were often featured in
sowing magazines ) they adviced taking one of the strips of fabric
and wrapping it with something eye-dazzling – a bit of decorative
gold braid , a gold chain , some silver lame , and then twisting the
two fabrics together – now it was sparkling with a bit of something
extra. These belts were usually worn exclusively with the more easy
going 80’s fashions – the Bananarama out-fits of jumpsuits , tank-vests
over t shirts , rolled-top work-out pants , waitress-sundresses , that
sort of thing. Sometimes the fabric belt was not necessarily twisted,
sometimes it was a mere sash – a scarf tied around the waist ( sash
belts in the 80’s had two routes an actual sash – bit of fabric knotted
cleverly or a belt made to resemble a sash, I put them under the
category of fringe belts because in a way the dangling ties , in leather
or some other fabric, could assume a mental idea of fringe even if at
their heart they seemed to battle the duel image of both corset and sash. )

Corset belts in the 80’s were about style and shape. They
were not exclusively of certain fabricsthough often had backs of stretchy
elastic , they also did not have to have lace up or buckle up corset themes
– mainly, to be dubbed corset was the fact that it was excessively wide
and cinched in – hugging at the waist rather than big belts that could be
made to droop on the hips. Corset belts were worn with dresses though
sometimes were seen over sweaters.

Cord Belts were essentially sashes or elastic belts depending
on the type of fabric used. If the fabric was elastic the belt varied little
in comparison to the elastic belt with the exception of size and buckle –
the elastic cord belt was usually small the width of a thumb or finger it
was any type of color though usually white was key their buckle was
usually intersecting loops dainty and unellaborate – this type of belt was
essentially the glamourous version of the elastic belt – while teens might
sport the butterfly clasp belt a working woman could clip on one of these
and suddenly rise in her glamor status without having really moved out
of the trapping of what it actually was – an elastic belt. The other
type of cord belt is little more than the sash – the 80’s was never too
crafty a decade ( with the exception of hoards of knitting magazines )
but there were still ideas and hanger-overs from the 70’s , Andie-types
who wanted to be now-but-different and with the idea of twisted fabric
belts , sashes , the scarf as belt kicking around the cord belt was an
acceptable fashion trend. The idea was to find a pretty cord and tie
it sash-style around your waist leaving enough leftover with a pretty
dangling trail. These cords could be any color style satiny or downright
ropey for a nautical look. Usually but not always these went with
the shirtdress or the clam-digger.

Gimmick belts – with the ecception of charm belts it’s
hard to come up with some gimmick belts when your looking for them
– what constitutes a gimmick – for me it’s bordering on novelty – when a belt
doesn’t enhance the outfit it kinda well becomes a focal point or
distracts from the outfit – The Bullet belt – a definite punk-pleaser,
this belt is exactly what it sounds like a rambo-ish ode to he-man stylings –
rather than wrapping a round of maching gun ammo around your torso,
why not drape them around some girlish hips – bullets pointing
upward-shell-to-shell if you don’t think anyone actually wore these
check this out (I laughed finding this belt worn by one of the most
beautiful woman of the 80’s Paulina Poriskova in a little know movie
called Portfoilio.). Though not entirely a belt in my neck of the woods –
Ontario, in the mid 80’s certain punks had the habit of wearing bike
chains as belts – recall those bike chains? – dial a lock combos , and
a sheath of see-thru plastic covering the chain in jubilant
colors like pink , sky-blue , purple and green. Another 80’s gimmick
belt was the LED belt or light up belt. Hugely-clunky they were no-where
as slender as they are now, a belt that featured black plastic squares
made slightly cumbersome and gauwky with added wire and battery
packs, that in their cleverness could only offer up a blinking light
display of trailing arcade red lights. This belt I found in a movie
called Hey Babe – though I do recall the belts, the movie offered the
bonus of an unremembered addition of a matching pin attached
dangling a black wire. This was probably club wear or for the slightly goofy
– tiny lights were being added to fashion, I’m not sure why – Fashion in the
80’s was always striving for futuristic looks and I suppose with new
technology – look how tiny we can make light bulbs!
– comes the unevitable – this must mean eventually we’ll look and dress
like Christmas trees? well…Almost.

The Conch Belt – in the 80’s their was a lenghthy
ongoing love/hate relationship with the western look – in the
early 80’s country music was a huge influence on style and updated
Dale Evans blouses , cowboy boots and lumbering denim jackets
moesied onto the market – but the conch belt – medallions of metal ,
strips of anchoring leather , glorious bits of turquoise was perhaps
the one style anyone could agree on was the most lasting – probably
because it was and istimeless – the conch belt could really be paired
with anything – though in the 80’s they were often attempting a cheesy
blend of country meets N Y nightlife – a kind of oddball Dallas match that
even Dallas probably wouldn’t attempt.

The Double Belt – The double belt was both a style and
an actual physical object. Offered in Sears among other stores it was a
lengthy belt that could wrap round your waist twice but as a fashion
trend it went much deeper than that. Their was also the faux double
belt which was a belt that from the back looked like one belt but up front
split into two belts with two buckles. The double belt came out in mid 80’s
hanging on the MichaelJackson era of sequined glove and mesh tops, the
double belt as a fashion style requiring two separate belts started in the
late 80’s when Johnny Depp started on 21 Jumpstreet and excess culminated in
brandname fever – like Double mint – Double the fun – objects were craved
in duplicate sometimes triplicate – for example remember Punky Brewsters
trend of wearing mismatching Converse sneakers? – a costly trend, it meant
you had to have, at the time when feet are still growing, two costly pairs of
Converse sneakers , recall Swatches – they were worn three on an arm!
Double pierced ears! I could go on and on – but returning to double belts the
idea of wearing double belts may not stem from Johnny Depp but he’s the
one I automatically think of – his teenybopper pin-ups showing the whole
marvelous length of him and his slightly re-hashed rebel-with-out-a-cause
waredrobe but for the sight of two belts you’d hardly think him a product
of the 80’s at all.

Braided – the braided belt – forget for a moment the twisted
fabric belt – these belts were essentially multibraided – usually in materials
such as canvas ( looking slightly macrame ) , leather , plastic they were
multi-purpose virtually looking good with anything and in any color from
cleanest white to most vibrant purple. A timeless sort of belt hardly could
you call them 80’s but I will.

Fringed or Adorned belts – are pretty much what they
sound like a do-daded belt usually wide usually leather and or suede
that was gussied up with either some fringe appeal – to accompany
the new trend in fringed suede jackets or adorned with fake jewels ,
sweeps or chain , baubles of some kind. These were pretty over the
top belts, not for the faint of heart, though in all honesty I think
they were toned down – paired with bold but simple skirt suits –
with boxy jackets , but the overall effect was the jangley boldness
of accessories – pins that drooped a swathe of chain danging charms
, a huge gold necklace that sort of thing. The sash belt – The Sash
belt bore some resemblances to asian influences – it was often a
wide tube – could be any material leather , elastic , faux plasticy-leather
suede – the front may or may not lean towards a nod to a tie detailing.
I recall one Teen layout in the late 80’s included models hocking tubes
that could be worn anywhich way making up a dozen or so outfits from
Tube tops to tube belts that definitely looked kind of geisha girl.

The indescribable belt- these are the ones that catch your
eye , goggle your senses and have you point – now that is an 80’s belt.
They could be any combination of the above, seperated only, perhaps,
by a sense of shape and styling the way the fabric is looped through a metal
heart , a non-buckle , the way a plastic belt wraps around you like
bandaid ends overlapping , a button to anchor your faux leather tie off ,
or a couple of shoestrings dangling giving you a look, slightly like a herdsman.

I seem to recall the mention of a feather belt in one of my
series fiction – Babysitters Club probably – I was unable to find the sentence
but the idea of a feather belt somehow baffled my imagination – was it a
regular belt trimmed with the kind of bright day-glo feathers you find in a
craft store? Was it nothing more than a feather boa sash? Or was it merely a
belt with feather touches? Who knows.

By the end of the 80’s we were still in the moment of excess –
two of everything and also moving towards a crisper glamor – as Cindy
Crawford and the supermodels took over. Chanel was resurging and
rehashing old trends – quilting in purses and in jackets , chain in belts
and in purse straps and the gaudiness of jewelry – hugely, clunky moved
into the world of belts as heavy chains once again became more the style
– though hangers on – cloth , wide , and especially conch belts continued
to sell to a lesser degree – mom jeans , shorts with elastic waists , Lycra
dresses didn’t seem to need belts and for a while it seemed as if the belt
phenomenon had reached it’s apex.

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2 Responses to 80’S ACCESSORIES – 80’S BELTS – Belted in the 80’s – double belts , skinny belts , big belts!

  1. Pingback: Plastic Charm Necklace, Argyle: 6th Graders (b. 1973) Rock 80s Fashion

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