Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), wore a lime-green belt that was high around her upper abdomen. She paired it with a tropical-print skirt and a button-down to show off her midriff. The headpiece was inspired by tumbleweed in Sex and the City (Season 4, Episode 15,). Viewers furrowed their eyebrows. Even Carrie, whose most well-known outfits include a Kermit Green mini skirt with bustle and a bandeau bra with a cowboy cap, isn’t it questionable to wear something so utilitarian as the belt in a way that serves no physical purpose?
Even Patricia Field, the SATC costume designer, was shocked by the look so she decided to recreated it. The show ran for six seasons and featured 24 episodes per season. She said she only had one outfit where she could look at it and think, “Eh.” “She was wearing a skirt with a crop top and I tied a belt around her… waist.”
The most puzzling thing about this look is that, 20 years after Carrie’s decision to add a waist accessory to her look left millions scratching and confused, people seem to be accepting the idea of wearing belts to enhance their look. Unnecessary belts will be a popular trend in 2021, for one reason or another.
Olivia Rodrigo, a member of Gen Z, traveled to the White House in July to convince fellow Gen Z members that the vaccine was “Good for U.” She wore a pink plaid skirt suit by Chanel from Chanel’s spring’95 collection, paired to white Giuseppe Zanotti platforms, and a silver Chanel belt that was attached to absolutely nothing. Lyst, a global fashion shopping platform, reported that there was a 121% increase in searches for waist ornaments similar to hers over the week following her television appearance.
Similar to Lady Gaga, Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid paired no-work and all-play belly belts and belts with bikinis in this summer’s fashion show. Kim Kardashian, Bella Hadid and Beyonce wore theirs with readyto-wear. More waist baubles were seen on the catwalks at Blumarine and Jacquemus, Chanel, Dior, and Chanel. Although they were styled in various ways, the belts of all the above, including Carrie, held nothing up. They served no useful purpose.
It was hard not to wonder what this says about the world. A belt that was purposeful is being used as a garnish. This is comparable to a cocktail band or string of pearls. How does fashion’s current interest tie back to Carrie’s 2001 look, as well the looks worn by Christina Milian, Beyonce and others during Y2K.
Dr. Carolyn Mair is a cognitive psychologist who specializes on fashion. She says that we are currently experiencing a similar Zeitgeist to the early 2000s. This was marked by fear about unknown technological advances, political and economic problems, as well as terrorism. These fears are still present today, with the added stressors of an epidemic. Mair told us that fear brings excitement and fear agitates. According to Mair, in such situations, there are three options: Stay and fight, Run Away, or just stay the same while ignoring the reality. Fashion doesn’t change, so fashion followers decided to fight. They want to be seen, to be heard, to get noticed. This has led to stylish people during times of turmoil to wear flashy belts, even though their reason for wearing them is solely based on fashion.
Today we are “fighting” for something different from what we were in March 2020. We dressed for our safety and wore clothing that could protect us. This included masks but also keep-away-from-me shoulders, cumbersome boots, and stay-away from-me shoulder pads. Our bags were large and our clothes had even more pockets to ensure that we always had enough. We now want to enjoy the freedoms that we were able to experience after the U.S. ended lockdown restrictions and the availability of vaccines. These freedoms include the freedom to dress as we like, and not having to think about safety.
Dr. Dawnn Karen is a fashion psychologist and author of Dress Your Best Life. How Fashion Psychology Can Take Your Look and Your Life to the Next Level. She believes that unnecessary belts can be tied directly to this. Belts that are only decorative in nature symbolize our freedom to wear things we no longer need or couldn’t do 365 days ago. Mair concurs: “Some people dress more frivolously and in more fun ways as a expression of their freedom to socialize as much as they want.”
Karen also attributes the rise in wholly decorative trends, such as the unnecessary belt, to the déjà vu feeling that we all have about the second wave lockdowns. We’ve returned back to being cautious about the unknown because of the Delta variant. We could all be brought back inside at any time. Why not wear your most outrageous and extravagant outfits while you still have the opportunity?
She says that she hasn’t heard a compliment in over a year. “It was difficult to go back to solitude after experiencing those external affirmations.” Karen says many people are stocking up on accessories because “the clock is ticking.”
There are other reasons why the belt was removed from the market. The trend cycle dictates that styles return to fashion every 20 years, so it’s not surprising that Y2K-era belts are back in style. Low-rise jeans and tube tops, trucker caps, belly chains, and other staples from the early 2000s are all set to return in 2021, just in time for the two decade mark.
While we can certainly blame the trend cycle for many of the Y2K trends, it is more troubling that a belt as practical and utilitarian as it is being used for decorative purposes. With the threat of another lockdown, perhaps we should not worry about something as trivial as a beautiful belt and instead spend more time creating whatever sartorial chaos makes dressing up more fun.