Welcome to Dressed for My Day. Today I’m tackling a reader request and sharing my thoughts on how to successfully pair shoes with outfits. In fact, when I began blogging here a little over four years ago, that was one of my first requests from a reader. Things like pant silhouettes and even shoe trends have changed a bit since then, and I’m a tad more experienced, too. So I thought I’d make this a two-part series and share shoe and outfit pairing tips first for spring and summer, then later for fall and winter. Let’s get started!
Shoe Wardrobe Basics
Pairing shoes with outfits really begins with building a good shoe wardrobe. Have you ever put together a great outfit and then realized you didn’t have the right shoes to wear with it? That’s so frustrating! But if you will carefully cultivate your collection of footwear in the same way you curate your clothing wardrobe, you’ll never have that problem again. More than likely your new problem will be which shoes to wear that day because you have so many options.
Here are a few basic tips for curating a shoe wardrobe that will work for you:
- Your shoe collection should reflect your lifestyle. Make sure you have shoes for all the activities you do on a regular basis, which could include things like working in a particular environment, gardening, touring, playing with grandkids, going out to lunch or coffee with friends, going to church or attending semi-formal events. Of course, I suggest everyone include some sort of appropriate shoes for the exercise(s) of your choice.
- Only buy shoes you absolutely love. Footwear is important for our health as well as for our sense of style. So only purchase and keep shoes that you truly enjoy wearing. Don’t settle for anything less if at all possible.
- Purchase the best quality footwear you can budget for. Again, shoes play a big part in our health and well-being, especially as we get older. So look for shoes with adequate insoles, good materials, long-lasting construction and heel heights with which you are truly comfortable. Low quality shoes reveal poor construction with loose threads, uneven and large stitching, exposed glue, poor design, loose ornamentation and wobbly heels.
- The most basic shoe collection should include your necessary shoes (see first tip) in your flesh tone and/or the neutrals of your choice. Particularly for spring and summer, I suggest ensuring that you have the shoes you need – whether they be heels, sandals, flats, sneakers, etc. – in your flesh tone first. (They don’t have to be a perfect match to your skin.) Then, especially if you wear a lot of full length pants, you might want to add footwear in neutrals such as black, beige, navy, white or brown.
- Add shoes in your selected signature colors, trending colors or patterns only after you have a full selection of shoes in your skin tone and/or neutrals. Colored or patterned shoes are fun and do have a place in our wardrobe, but they are generally less versatile than solid colored shoes in our flesh tone or neutrals. So limit this collection if you want a smaller shoe wardrobe or if your budget is prohibitive.
- Finally, make sure all the shoes in your collection accurately reflect your personal style essence. None of us need every shoe style. When I purchase shoes that don’t reflect my personal style, I end up not wearing them. Think about the shoes that will work with the kinds of outfits you like to put together. Also consider the personality of the shoes: are they sporty, bohemian, sophisticated, preppy, ultra feminine, youthful, classic, etc.? How does that personality work with your personality?
Once you’ve culled the shoes that don’t meet the criteria above and have filled your closet with only footwear that does meet these standards, it will be easier to pair your shoes with your outfits.
Tips for Pairing Shoes with Outfits
I almost always wear my shoes strategically. In other words, I choose my footwear for each outfit with a purpose in mind. I don’t always have the same strategy, mind you. So, while this first tip has become the mantra of some and it is indeed probably my favorite strategy, you do not need to limit yourself to this one goal.
Use footwear to visually elongate your legs.
You don’t always need to do this, but you absolutely can use your footwear to create a visual extension of your leg. During the fall and winter we generally do this by wearing shoes in the same color or at least the same intensity as the pants we’re wearing. But during the spring and summer we frequently wear shorts, cropped length pants, dresses or skirts, so we accomplish this in one of two ways.
You can elongate your legs with flesh toned shoes, whether they be heeled sandals…
…or even sneakers.
The second way you can visually elongate your legs during the spring and summer is by wearing sandals that bare plenty of foot. To do this you’ll want to wear sandals in a light color if your skin is light or darker shades if your skin is dark. And you’ll also want the sandals to have a low or extended vamp (top opening of the shoe). In other words, these have to be sandals that truly show more skin as opposed to those with more shoe to them. Think strappy sandals.
Above my strappy sandals are in fact in a shade close to my skin tone. But they don’t have to be. They just need to show plenty of skin, as in the old photo below.
There is actually one more way to visually elongate your legs, but we do it more in fall and winter. When you wear shoes in the same color or tone as your pants you can achieve this same goal.
Of course, you can do the same thing by wearing black shoes with black pants or navy sandals with navy pants, etc.
Use footwear to bookend your outfit.
I tend to use this footwear strategy more in the fall and winter, but you absolutely can use it in the spring and summer, too. In fact, in the photo above with the pink sandals that’s what I did. I wore pink earrings up top and pink sandals below to bookend the navy and white gingham jumpsuit. Let’s look at that outfit again.
Let’s find another example.
In the photo above I bookended my grey jeans with a white tee and jacket combo and ivory flats.
So I think one of the best take-aways here is that if you have colored shoes in your wardrobe, this is a great way to incorporate them into your outfits. You can use those colored shoes to bookend an outfit by wearing a similar color top or jacket, or just a piece of jewelry in the same hue.
Let’s move on to the next strategy.
Use footwear to accessorize your outfit.
Spring and summer is also a fun time simply to accessorize your outfit with interesting footwear. Add a little bling or pattern. The only “rules” I would suggest are to be careful that, one, your footwear does not sabotage your overall look and that, two, your shoes do not grab all of the attention. To combat those two problems simply remember those pointers for building your footwear wardrobe. Only own shoes that will truly work for you, ones that reflect your personal style and are in your personal signature colors.
We’re not seeing as much animal print this year as we have in recent years, but it’s always in style. We just saw a LOT of it in the past three to four years. So pull your animal print sandals and sneakers out of your closet and wear them. You can treat animal print like a neutral, wearing it with almost anything, including other patterns.
And you can generally treat other print shoes or sandals the same way. Just use them to add a splash of interest to your outfit.
You can also add a splash of color to an outfit with your shoes. I think it’s smart to have the color somewhere else in the outfit, but it’s not absolutely necessary. And I tend to add colored shoes only when they’re not too much else going on. But really this is a matter of personal style preference.
Of course my personal favorite way to accessorize an outfit in summer with footwear is to choose metallics. I absolutely LOVE metallic sandals in the spring and summer, whether they are formal heels…
or strappy sandals…
or more modern casual sandals.
I probably wear my metallic sandals more than any other shoe during the summer. They go with most anything!
Remember that Your Shoes Set the Tone
Let’s wrap up this rather lengthy conversation about spring and summer footwear selections with this final thought. Your footwear choice can absolutely change your outfit. It sets the tone. And a simple change of shoes can take a singular outfit from office ready with heels…
(or with flats)…
to going out for lunch…
to vacation ready for dinner out…
By the way, those sneakers above are from Calla, my favorite brand for feet with bunions. I don’t have bunions and they still work well for me. But Calla shoes are high quality shoes made for women with bunions. Use code KAY20 to get 20% off your order over $159.
Could I get more detailed about which shoes to wear with which outfits? Maybe. But then again, how you pair your shoes with your outfits is also a matter of personality and personal style. You can combine different shoes with dresses, pants, shorts and skirts in a way that is uniquely you. And these days, most anything goes. I think the smartest strategy is simply to make sure that your shoe choice accomplishes what you want it to do.
Thanks so much for stopping in today. If you have questions that I didn’t address, feel free to ask in the comments section. I’ll gladly get back with you ASAP. Have a great day!
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Blessed for My Day
While I’m all for wearing fashionable shoes on our feet, the best “footwear” we can put on when we get dressed for our day is the gospel. The gospel is simply the good news that Jesus has made a way for us to be at peace with our Creator. Through His death on the cross He paid the price for our sin, which separates us from our God. So when we accept this grace gift, we are restored to a good and loving relationship with our Creator. Without Jesus we are hopeless in our sin.
If you’ve experienced that saving grace, then you have good news to share with others each day. You can tell them about how they too can have peace with God. Let’s be sure to be prepared to share this simple gospel as well as our own testimony of salvation with others. That’s how we “put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” spoken of in Ephesians 6:14-16.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. ~ Ephesians 6:14-16