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I have a bizarre relationship with winter coats and their built-in closures. As in, you’ll hardly ever find me wearing a jacket that’s zipped or buttoned to the neck. 

But while walking the streets of New York, I recently found a styling trick that allows me to wear jackets as God intended, while still showing off my figure: Just add a belt. In fact, I’ve noticed quite a few posh NYC ladies, perfect blowouts and all, strolling across streets and gallivanting into restaurants with their chic wool coats smartly fastened—at the tiniest part of their torso—with a leather belt. Sometimes their coats are navy and their belts are black; other times they opt for camel outerwear and a tonal strap. But the look is always polished and figure-defining.

Here are four ways to effectively belt your way to a warmer winter—and one style to avoid.

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Statement Coat   Chain Belt
Claudio Lavenia/Getty Images

Do: Statement Coat + Chain Belt

Before you roll your eyes at the early 2000s–inspired spangly gold chain belt, hear me out. When pairing this accessory with a statement jacket, the outerwear actually becomes your entire look. Consider this a smart styling trick for events that you know will take place outside, and take care that your scarf and hat are coordinated so as not to muck up the ensemble. One rule? Make sure the hardware on your coat matches your chosen belt. (No silver buttons with a gold belt, people.)

Get the look: Topshop coat ($170); Black & Brown belt ($130)

Swingy Camel Coat   Thin Leather Belt
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Do: Swingy Camel Coat + Thin Leather Belt

Whether your camel coat is A-line or straight as a pin, it will benefit from the addition of a thin leather cincher, especially if it’s in a deep shade of chocolate. We love how this gal tied hers by looping it around and down. Bonus points if your shoes and handbag also match.

Get the look: Forever 21 coat ($42); Séfr belt ($115)

Black Coat   Black Belt
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Do: Black Coat + Black Belt

Listen, you don’t have to hook a water bottle on to achieve that utilitarian look and feel. (But at least it’s an eco-friendly addition.) Opt for black on black when you don’t want to make a statement, but you do want to add some definition to your waistline.

Get the look: Mango coat ($130); Madewell belt ($52)

Neutral Coat   Statement Belt
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Do: SLIM COAT + WIDE BELT

While a thin belt is a short coat’s best friend, a wider one works best with a longer, slimmer style, since it plays with proportions in order to make your legs look Amazonian, providing an unbroken line from waist to mid-calf. As for belt type, go bold with hardware, color and material. Don’t worry,  your mid-length coat can handle it.

Get the look: Rails coat ($231); Rachel Comey belt ($395)

how not to wear a coat and belt
Hanna Lassen/Getty Images

Don’t: Oversized Jacket + Low-Slung Belt

The whole point of this styling trick is to emphasize your curves and cut a sharp figure. But when your coat is already oversized and your belt isn’t snug enough to your midsection, the outcome is just unfortunate. See how this leather jacket pools in awkward places and makes this (gorgeous) woman look kinda wide and lumpy? Tragic! To avoid this faux pas, stick with softer materials (like wool) and take your jacket to a tailor if it feels too roomy to be flattering.

RELATED: We’re Borrowing This Eco-Friendly Styling Trick from French Women—and Here’s Why You Should Too

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