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What Is a Belt Purse?

Judith Smith Sullivan
Judith Smith Sullivan

The belt purse is a handbag that is worn at the waist on a belt. Typically, it is a small envelope, or rectangular bag. Some come with an attached belt while others have loops or clasps at the back so that the belt can be changed. A few designs are made to attach to belt loops as well. Belt purses are made by designers and mass market companies, so the price range is wide.

Almost any type of fabric can be used to create a belt purse, but some of the most popular materials are real and faux leather, synthetic blends, and cotton. Prints and fabric combinations are also used to create different styles and designs, and embellishments like buckles and zippers are common. Dressier purses are typically made with velvet, sequins, or metallic leathers while more casual bags are made with cotton and synthetics.

Woman posing
Woman posing

The most common shape is the envelope. Ranging in size from no bigger than a deck of cards to over a foot (about 30 cm) in length, there is a great deal of variation among these purses. Although not as common, another shape for the belt purse is the crescent, a curved bag which conforms to the shape of the hip.

Belt purses can be worn in the middle of the body or to either side. Smaller bags are often worn at the waist on a thin belt while larger bags are commonly slung loosely about the hips or below the abdomen. They are not usually worn at the small of the back.

Although similar in many attributes, the belt purse is not to be confused with the fanny pack or hip pack. A fanny pack is a practical bag, not typically thought of as stylish or attractive, and is usually attached to a nylon belt with a plastic clasp. Fanny packs can be worn in front or in back. The hip pack style, a larger fanny pack made for outdoor activities like hiking and camping, is usually worn at the back.

The belt purse style is not a newcomer in fashion, as many popular brands including Gucci and Chanel, produced belt purses in the 1980s. The fanny pack had become very popular by the end of the 1980s and was quickly ridiculed for its unattractive and unflattering appearance. Designers avoided the belt purse because of its resemblance to the fanny pack until 2010, when the belt purse emerged as a popular accessory in the spring 2011 fashion shows.

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