Long and Belted

Like Punxsutawney Phil with the weather, many people look to the "hemline theory" as an indicator of economic times. For those of you who aren't familiar with this old adage, the theorem posits that you can use skirt-lengths to predict whether the markets will be bullish or bearish. For example, when the stock market is aloft, short skirts rule, whereas in a tight time, when the stocks are plummeting, so falls the hemlines. Now we aren't economists, but we do make it our business to track the trends of what our favorite style stars are wearing and we've noticed that some of the most in-the-know women are choosing long dresses. Given the hemline theory, it's no surprise that this look is back en vogue, but it is interesting that ladies like Kate Moss and Erin Wasson are wearing their maxi dresses cinched at the waist with heavy-duty leather and metal belts. Although we aren't sure what this means for the economic climateÂ--besides more figurative (and apparently literal!) belt-tighteningÂ--we do know that it's a look we love.

Though all of our spotlighted ladies have effortless personal style, for the rest of us, it's best to follow a few rules to ensure that your maxi looks modern. (Such as: check out the Fendi F/W 09 runway for a little outfit-influenced inspiration!) When deciding on a dress, remember you'll get a lot of mileage out of a pretty piece that features an unfussy print. Trust us, there were loads of print gowns on the spring runways, indicating that eye-catching fabric is not only perfect for a festive holiday party, but also will carry you, ever so chicly, into the warmer months to come! Rachel Roy's abstract patterned piece (from her spring 09 collection) was perfectly suited for the 500 Days of Summer New York premiere and is a great example of how a graphic print can also ground an ensemble. A monochromatic dress in an elegant fabric is also a wise choice. Kate Moss, for instance, smartly set her sights on a Swiss dot and tiered silk chiffon ruffle dress from the Christian Dior archives for the British Fashion Awards last week. Another option is to follow the clothing cues from Ally Hilfiger, whose satin blush vintage Gucci garment was pitch-perfect for the David Yurman-hosted Fall Fete this past October. Remember, one of the most imperative elements of the trend is to keep the line long and lean with a little bit of flare at the feet; it's not as dramatic or voluminous as a mermaid skirt, but it definitely doesn't hug the body and taper at the bottom, either.

Of course, the right dress is only half of the equation. When deciding on a belt to create and accentuate the feminine shape, go for a substantial selection at the natural waist to add an edgy accent. Erin Wasson's vintage chained cincher, which she wore to attend a gallery opening in November, beautifully illustrates this point, as does Rachel Roy's vintage menswear cognac leather pick (Hilfiger's vintage Hermes isn't too shabby, either). And finally, though this look can be dressed up or paired down, make sure that all other pieces play second (actually, third) fiddle to the dress and the belt. Whether you opt for a pop of color via a bed jacket or a little borrowed-from-the-boys androgyny, your layers should not compete for the sartorial spotlight!

Of course, now that you know the rules of engagement, we want to point out a few seriously stylish selections that will help you look like a million bucks! When it comes to dresses, you would be wise to invest in ASOS' Coast Tiger Cross-Over Maxi Dress ($255), as this black beauty is the ideal backdrop to a standout cincture. If you want a muted monochromatic maxi, we think that ASOS' Seam Detail Jersey Dress ($54) will fit the bill. And if it's a printed pick you crave, we recommend you sate your appetite with T-Bags' String Back Long Dress ($251). Of course, belts are integral to making this trend a huge success. We think that See by Chloe's Alligator Chain Belt ($290), Diane von Furstenberg's Deliah Studded Belt ($255), and Gap's Vintage Leather Belt ($30) are top-notch. Just pair them with your favorite flowing frock and get ready to be spoiled silly with a wealth of clothing-centric compliments!

Photo of Kate Moss, from GettyImages.
EXPLORE: Beauty, Ally Hilfiger, Erin Wasson, Kate Moss, Christian Dior, Rachel Roy


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