Shoes are the final touch that can make or break the flattering impact of an outfit. They add extra pop, lengthen the leg line if that’s your figure flattering priority, and set the mood of the ensemble. I’ve written many posts on footwear, and of course will continue to do so. After all, most of us love shoes. Here is a summary of what I regard to be the most important points, all in one place for easy access.
Conventionally Flattering Footwear
There are four basic ways to create flattering footwear proportions. These concepts eliminate feelings of dumpiness and stumpiness by lengthening the leg line. You can apply them all at once or in combinations.
- Wear low contrast footwear: A low contrast between the colour of your footwear and the colour of your skin, hosiery, jeans, or trousers will lengthen the leg line. That’s why wearing “nude for you” shoes on bare legs is so popular. Personally I prefer to go with gold, silver, cream or pale snakeskin footwear as a low contrast option against my own skin because those options are a little brighter than nude.
- Wear low vamped footwear: Footwear with a low vamp, like pumps or ballet flats, reveal the top of the foot and naturally elongate the leg line.
- Wear heels: Extra height lengthens the leg line. That said, I do not believe that wearing high heels is a prerequisite for looking stylish. Wearing flats or very low heels can look just as fab, if not better. It really depends on your personal style.
- Wear pointy toes: Pointy toe footwear in general extends the leg line even further.
Once you understand how to use footwear to create flattering proportions, you are well on your way to trouble shooting problem outfits. Suddenly, guidelines on how to wear flat oxfords, booties with skirts and dresses, shoes with midi skirts or cuffed/rolled pants, and how to create a long leg line with cropped pants begin to make sense.
That said, there is often more to an outfit than conventional figure flattery. These days, it looks as if almost anything goes in the style world because the most creative and over the top street style outfits are applauded for being cutting edge and directional. It’s extremely trendy to create irregular outfit juxtapositions, and one way of creating an interesting juxtaposition is by wearing unexpected footwear with an outfit. So guidelines on how to create flattering footwear proportions sometimes fly straight out the window.
For example, wearing high vamped footwear with skirts and dresses can be fab. Wearing high contrast boots and oxfords with shorts can look great. Sporting socks with pumps, and sassy sneakers with just about anything can be stylish options. But I still maintain that you need to get a handle on conventional footwear flattery before you can bend the so-called rules in clever ways and still feel like you’re wearing an attractive outfit.
Size & Fit
Toe cleavage is inevitable when you wear low vamped footwear and have long toes. I wouldn’t worry about it! Tailored knee-high boots must fit correctly on the calf, unless they are intentionally slouchy. Calf-length boots are often easier to fit than taller boots, especially when you have a small or large calf measurement. Heel slippage in boots needn’t be a bad thing, and shopping for wide sized footwear is not the only solution for wide feet. You can successfully alter footwear, so don’t give up when a shoe or boot almost fits because a little shoe doctoring might do the trick. And there is heel hope for flats fashionistas when you follow these guidelines.
I’ve generally found that feet with smaller bone structure look best in daintier footwear, whereas feet with larger bone structure pull off chunky styles to perfection. This is by no means a rule, and “refined chunky” footwear — the best of both worlds — does exist. I have dainty feet and ankles, and as much as I love the look of chunky footwear, it bosses me around. My feet and ankles drown in those styles and I can’t fill them out. But I do wear chunky boots with big soles as long as they have a refined element to them.
Color & Pattern
This is not a rule, but one highly effective way to pull together an outfit is to frame it by repeating your hair colour in your footwear. I bookend the colour of my hair and shoes very frequently, which is why you’ll often see me wear light coloured shoes, or patterns that are white, taupe or cream-rich. The eye naturally travels up and down the body, picking up the symmetry in the repeated colours and interpreting it as an attractive combination.
On the other hand, you can also treat shoes as a standalone item, making a statement and creating an effect that is quite the opposite of repetition. For example, wearing this grey dress with red shoes makes the shoes a statement piece.
Finally, shoes do NOT have to be solid or neutral. My favourite footwear is patterned, and these guidelines will help you match printed shoes in outfits. Don’t be frightened to pattern mix! And non-neutral shoes, brights and pastels can be bookended with other parts of your outfit to create a pulled together look.
Feel free to post your footwear challenges in the comments section. Between my clients and my own feet, I am very familiar with this fussy part of the body and promise that we can find solutions.