The Radcliffe girl has pulled herself together.
The days of the underslung sweater and doubtful waistline are over and, in spite of heroic efforts to the contrary by glossy-covered fashion magazines, this year's waistline is evident, tiny, and belted for all it's worth.
Most important of the new middle-definers is the cinch belt. Strictly speaking, the cinch is a flat, rather wide, belt of almost any material--from humble grosgrain to velvet and fur--with an uncompromising elastic backing which allows the wearer to breathe a little while it nips her waistline to its smallest possible circumference. "Cinch" will probably become a generic term, however, for any belt playing a prominent role in costuming, including the classic brass-buckled leather belt as well as the shaped belt which tucks in at the waistline and spreads out to cover part of the rib cage above and emphasize the hips below.
The cinch's great value lies in its almost infinite maneuverability. If a girl goes along with Charlie Caldwell in believing that depth is vital to modern sports, she will find her wardrobe expanding by the square with the addition of the cinch, which allows her to belt in any combination of skirt and top, often with telling effect. Sweaters--which fit, this year--are often particularly startling, and the girl, her waist defined by the unyielding cinch, can now wear them with a full tweed or flannel skit without looking like a teddy bear. Hips and terse length permitting, she can also belt together a sweater and straight skirt, but this requires discretion and a rear-view mirror.
The fabric of the belt depends upon the hour of the day and upon the formality and texture of the costume. The self-respecting Cliffedweller would as soon wear luminous green eyeshadow in the daytime as appear in red satin cinch for a nine a.m. class. Leather--plain polished saddle leather or colored calf--looks best with sweaters and tweeds, but a girl could conceivably branch out into monetone or even striped or polka-dotted grosgrain and possibly velveteen for daytime wear. After-five and night-life cinches encompass a staggering range of materials, from supple leathers (since sweaters are now correct at any hour) to fur, valvet, fake fur, and anything with sequins.
The width of the cinch is again a matter for the wearer's taste and depends in great part on her physical build. A very wide belt on a short-waisted girl can make her appear to be looking at you over the back of an overstuffed chair, and conversely a too narrow belt can be lost on the lithe and rangy. An extremely tight cinch on a girl broad below the belt can give a built-in crinoline effect with a full skirt which is not necessarily unpleasing, and which could bear watching. A tight cinch with a sweater, however, requires the best possible restraint for the embonpoint.
Belts can be decorated and dressed up or down at the whim of the inventive manufacturer. Brass fittings are still the most popular, and range from the simple buckle-and-eyelet on the classic leather belt to the most elaborate of emblems. Nailheads on the strict elastic cinch are the most straight-forward decorative shape. Heraldic emblems are still popular, and vary in size from an inch diameter to giant encrustations of spurious coats-of-arms. A gleaming creation that is not strictly a cinch at all but a development of the Mexican concha-style is the belt made entirely of nationalistic or heraldic emblems joined with links. Some belts have buckles or clasps of an ingenious and occasionally coy sort, such as lock-and-key or hinges like the sort found on heavy oaken doors.
The shape of a belt bears little relation to degree of formality but can often have a transforming effect on the wearer's figure if she chooses the shape with careful attention to her good points. A plain cinch of uniform width on a short and chubby girl can be disastrously unappealing, since a wide fabric belt has a tendency to curl over at the edges. Many girls would do well to choose a shaped belt that tapers off and widens at strategic places, playing up the slender areas and playing down the padded ones. There is even a new invention, almost not a belt at all, which rides over the hips like a cowboy's gun belts and may not reach the waist-line at all; this innovation obviously for the slender of hip who can let her waistline take care of itself. A final word on this particular subject: it's just as well to plan on middies or the Old Look if the waist is much more than 26 inches around. Otherwise the girl looks like a sack of potatoes tied in the middle by a rapidly-failing rope.
An obvious extrapolation of the new, pulled-together look at the waistline, with an important belt making a costume of discrete separates, is an emphasis on attractive and complementary neckwear.
Old ideas on which colors "go together" and which do not have been scrapped in the face of new successes for pink and red, brown and black, olive and forest green. Even more radically, prints are mixed with other prints, checks and tweeds are mated with fabrics using the same colors in a larger pattern. Paisley is making a bid for an untried tartan market. All of this will take form in scarves and narrow tie-scarves being worn with standard-colored sweaters. Look for some smart manufacturer to cash in on the inevitable matching vogue with cinches and scarves to match: it's bound to happen.