Great Belt Expectations





By Michelle Crowe



Betsy Bloomingdale, simply lovely in a ruffled dress with a belted waist.

With Betsy Bloomingdale: A Life in Style happening through Christie’s, the images of this couture-clad hostess and friend are mesmerizing. The Billy Haines interiors, the day ensembles and evening dresses, the coiffure and the gardens are all so intriguing. It will be wonderful to see what Tom Ford and Richard Buckley do with the estate, and the catalogue of the sale is sure to be a collector’s item and will live on as a guide to high style.


 Betsy Bloomingdale wears a unique belt over a tunic and pants.  


Perhaps all this gazing upon Mrs. Bloomingdale’s perfect taste is what has me thinking about how much a good belt can do for a lady. She wore them often, day and evening. Possibly to show off her trim waist, much the way that C.Z. Guest is said to have worn her wonderful Mainbocher dresses from decades earlier because she could.


Mrs. Bloomingdale attends a reception for “High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture” wearing a belted evening dress, FIDM Museum photo.


While she certainly didn’t belt everything, she did often enough and not necessarily in the same way. Sometimes it was a softly tied ribbon, sometimes a waist-cinching leather version. Looking at this icon’s looks over the decades, it’s refreshing to see that while she always looked wonderful, she never fell into the style rut of wearing variations on a uniform. She mixed it up—then put a belt on it.

While I don’t believe Betsy wore Mainbocher, the wonderful exhibit “High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture” presented by the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles in 2009 was filled with Dior, Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent, we classic Chicagoans cannot get enough of “Making Mainbocher” at the Chicago History Museum.


From Making Mainbocher, Red velvet dress;

Ball gown with accessories, fall 1947

Gift of Mrs. Watson Armour, III; 1959.345a-d


If you duck in to revel in the beauty again this spring, keep an eye open for the trim little waist accents on many of the meticulous looks that are a part of this exceptional experience. 

For belt devotees and those who haven’t thought much about this accessory lately, inspiration is everywhere.


From Making Mainbocher, Green floral dress with stole

Dress with matching stole, spring 1965

Gift of Mrs. Dorothy H. Rautbord; 1980.88.6