June 19, 2014
Now that you’re in the process of having your new and wonderful trousers altered to fit perfectly, it’s the ideal time to make sure that you have the right shoes in our capsule wardrobe.
Let me vent. If you’re one of those people who has a stack of shoes under their desk at work, or piled into a file cabinet drawer, it’s about time to stop that. Trust me, the CEO does NOT keep a wardrobe of cheap shoes in their office. In fact, I’m willing to wager that absolutely nobody on the executive committee keeps an assortment of footwear under their desk. If we’re in an office environment, let’s measure up to the highest standards we can manage.
Whew! thanks for letting me get that off my chest…
Now, choosing excellent shoes. These should be the very nicest shoes that you’ve ever owned in your life. Beautiful leather, or if you’re vegan/vegetarian, the very finest fabric you can find. Exquisitely constructed. Soles that can be replaced, repeatedly. Interior support that makes them comfortable to wear for 12 hours straight. Heels that won’t snap off, or get caught in steam gratings and scraped raw.
Have you ever noticed that there is no category for “Comfort Shoes” in the men’s department?
Yes, I have very strong feeling about shoes…
So I’m focusing on timeless, elegant, classic shoe styles that are appropriate for work, travel, social life, errands, religious events – whatever life might throw at you, short of a full-dress ball.
Look for shoes that are very simple and sufficiently “un-memorable” that you can wear them a few times a week without attracting undue attention.
Excellent quality brown shoes are more difficult to find that black ones, but the rewards are well worth it; nothing is more beautiful than burnished, well-polished brown leather.
Note: These Frye ballet flats also come in a darker, semi-sweet chocolate shade too.
Our wardrobes still look pretty meager, but the journey of a thousand miles starts with a nice pair of pants, and some good shoes!
Loafers and oxfords just do not seem feminine enough for me. I guess I am a bit of a girlie girl. While I don't wear high heels ever (and only lower heels for very dressy occasions), I am always searching for just the right shoe. I'm happiest in my La Canadienne boots in the winter time. They are perfect. But, in the warmer months I do struggle to find the right shoes. Can you provide some alternatives other than loafers and oxfords? I know that flats are an option, but sometimes they look clunky as well. And, what color flats for summertime? Black just seems too dark unless I am wearing black. I do have some brown flats. I don't wear sandals due to having to wear medically prescribed compression stockings.
By the way, I agree about having a great pair of well tailored pants as a starting point.
A ballerina flat (Pointy toe optional) might work.
Susan, I really like cognac coloured shoes for summer. They work right through winter if you want, but they pair so well with white or black. Think a black linen shift dress and cognac leather sandals or ballet flat. I agree with you about loafers and oxfords, I just can't embrace them.
I agree with GK about cognac leather, though with your hair color, taupe might be even better. I think slim canvas tennis shoes are a great option for summer and look pretty with skirts and dresses too.
Agree these are mostly "man" looking shoes. Are the 80's back and we need to look like them to get ahead?
Sara, most offices have dress codes that forbid sports shoes at least Monday through Thursday.
These shoes are ugly, except for the ballet flats. The reason men don't have a "comfort" section is that these are their comfort shoes. Surely there is a more feminine range between these loafers and oxfords and stilettos? And the socks issue…
I have what might be a silly question…what socks do you wear with loafers? The socks could possibly be seen while sitting, and I can only assume that regular socks are a don't. So, knee highs?
I don't wear loafers anymore, but when I did, I would purchase "trouser socks" which are very thin and stretchy (like tights) but opaque and usually go up to the knee. I've bought them at Target, Macy's, etc. Any thin sock would do, actually. I had been advised to match the socks to my pants, so that's what I did.
Such a great post, I agree with very word. My partner is not keen on heels, and sometime in my early 30s I rather reluctantly took the strategic decision: no more heels, skirts or dresses. Best thing I ever did, wardrobe-wise. There is so much more flexibility in possible clothes combinations, and I can spend my time and money on finding the best feminine, elegant and fun flat shoes (they do not have to look utilitarian – there are many great options).
But then again, you could wear something fun..stripes, dots..if the event is not too formal, they can be a conversation starter!
Jean Shaw says
I can't read your mind to know what you like, but take a look at Ecco, Beautifeel, Munro for starters….
Tracey Neuls has some good ones, also French Sole. I also second Ecco. Not sure if any of these are available outside the UK though.
After 12 years of parochial school, I just do loafers–or plaid! Cole Hahn does a variety of styles that you could describe as dressy ballerinas. I love them. Susan in SLC
Correction:CANNOT do loafers. Sorry!
Madame Là-bas says
I have a pair of brown croc embossed loafers that I wear with trousers all the time. I really like ballerinas to wear with casual skirts and dresses and have invested in a beige and a blue pair purchased in France. They are more expensive but they have good arch support.
I read your blog yesterday and tried to reply without success. You said you had chased choc. Brown and tan for your colors but I was wondering why not black, navy, or gray to go with you gray hair. You then could add blue tops to match the color of your pretty eyes and maybe a bright rose that is the same color as your cheek color in yesterday's picture. I could wear brown before my hair turned gray but now it just makes me look old. A bright gray would also be beautiful on you.
I agree that these are mostly men's wear inspired shoes, but they work for a tailored dresser like myself beautifully. But regardless of style, price and quality in shoes go hand in hand. I have become a huge fan of Cole Haan's Nike Air shoes. I wear them in some form or other to the office every day and they are comfortable right out of the box.
I totally love to wear classic loafers with dressy slacks/trousers. I'm on my feet all day when teaching, and its a classic yet comfortable style for me to wear in the classroom. It's no surprise that I often prefer to slip on a pair when I'm in jeans on the weekend either. My favorite color is cordovan ! Remember, though, my 'career' wardrobe is planned mainly around fall & winter clothing. My summers are 'off' and canvas slip-ons, tennis shoes and sandals take over as our E TX summers can be brutal !
All these styles completely appeal to me. But here is my question and the problem that I have with shoes. I find a nice pair of low heeled shoes for work to go with my beautifully tailored pants. But I want to wear the pants to a dressier event – and so need a strappier, higher heeled shoe – which of course my pants aren't tailored for! So, what is the solution – another pair of pants tailored for the higher shoes or just focus on the "top part" of my ensemble??
Janice Riggs says
Or find dressy shoes with lower heels!
I'm always a little shocked when shoe choices like this are immediately called 'manly'. Google image search some of the most glamorous and 'womanly' screen goddesses of the past and you know what you'll see? Loafers, modified oxfords, saddle shoes!
Monica Bailey says
I had to de-lurk for a moment to say what fun this is shaping up to be! I'm following along as though I were really doing this, and saving my own selections to a Pinterest board. It's the most fun game I've found online.
Absolutely love your choices as I'm all for stylish shoes, but ones that don't have you falling in a grate or twisting an ankle.
I thought of you and your concept of "whappage" when I recently bought a pair of gunmetal patent leather oxfords by Robert Clergerie that were eye wateringly expensive. They were on sale but I waited two months before going back and they were still there and still made my heart beat faster. They may look very out of place in Sydney's sea of flip flops and T-shirts, but they are the most beautiful shoes I have ever seen and are a joy to wear. Some ladies commenting here would feel they were too 'manly', but I would humbly beg to differ.
Thanks so much for giving me the confidence to spend up big on something I truly love and am getting very great pleasure from.
I forgot about Robert Clergerie in my list above – wonderful flat shoes, and worth witing for sales and saving up. I have a pair of t-bar (?). Yours Oxfords sound really lovely.
Reading the comments, how IS that pointed toe loafer "man-ly?" The penny loafers and classic oxfords might look a bit manly to many women/girls, but there are dozen of variation of them and doesnt it depends on how your style it? o.O;; (not really a question, just wondring to myself). There are oxfords with slimmer appearance and pointed toe, low heels and embellished loafer doesnt sceam "manly", at least not to me. Im not sure how girly those people who find oxfords/loafers boy-lish are, but adding a girly details change up most andrygonous/men inspired footwear or clothing, like pussybow blouses, lighter colored tops/sweaters, pearl or other dainty jewlery, makeup etc is what I prefer to wear with them to make them more feminine. I.e. What guy would wear pointed shoe flats with slacks, a pastel blouse, pearls and soft toned makeup? ;-).
Personally I prefer to wear ankle booties that are more fitted at the ankle and has almond or slight pointed type when wearing slacks/dressies pants because they looks like pumps from above, like these from Vagabond: http://www.swellshoesmall.com/images/1/xNelEI/[email protected]_05.jpg (Im not sure if th links show up though…) I buy my shoes from mainly from Vagabond, Ecco and recently found a brand called Gabor. Recently I found a pair from gabor that are a ballet flat but with orphodicts (sp?) sole and looks like a wedge. Not sure which countries they can be bought outside europe, though.
and I have these slim shaped oxford-ish flats I absolutely love to wear with trousers: http://vagabond.com/en/ROSE-3714-001-20/ but maybe a bit too casual for office ladies? (Im in my 20's and live in Sweden, so we dont have the same dresscodes here…)
the gabor flats looks similare to these: http://www.gaborshoes.co.uk/womens-c1/shoes-c2/gabor-petunia-wide-fit-ladies-leather-ballerina-pumps-p1873?attribute%5B1%5D=1283 (except for the toe cap)
Thats the shoes Im usually wearing when its not winter or tropical-hot summers, so I dont need to worry about buying anymore smart but comfortable footwear. :P (and mentioned them on here if anybody else is interested in the brands). One of the best thing I learned after years of trials is – Finding your-favorite-brands-of-shoes. It makes the hunt for shoes ALOT easier. These brands has never dissapointed med, but it they might do for somebody else. Being born with a very high footarch and troublesome calves, where even ballet flats would kill my back faster than a pair of pumps, footwear is something I have to prioritize, because last time I wore 3inch heels, I damaged my ankles for an entire month. :L
and sorry for the somewhat long comment if thats bother anyone. ^^;; (I rarely comments, but when i do, I usually have alot to say…hahaa….)
Thank you for emphasizing that you have very high arches. I have very high arches and I am missing two tendons (one on the top of each foot), that balance the Achilles’ tendon, so my feet can only bend upward about ten degrees. I do exercises every day to keep my Achilles’ tendon from shortening and to keep a good range of motion in my feet. I also have a hammertoe (my pinky toe) on each foot. This means it is extremely important I have a small heel (1″ -2″) on all my shoes and plenty of room in the toebox. Since my work requires dresses or professional business suits with skirts, I usually go for a pump with a small wedge or kitten heel and a rounded toe box. Low heeled Mary Janes also work well. Believe me, it is better to spend your money on one perfectly fitting pair of shoes or boots in a basic, classic style, than on any other piece of clothing. It saves your whole body of medical problems later.
While I like loafers with my jeans, when I am in a corporate boardroom they are too casual., so I look for low (1 inch or so) wedges with a simple upper- I have a perfect pair by Accessoire Diffusion, a French brand. With you on shoe quality- and also think that like bags, some of the high end do not give quality for price and are too delicate to last. I love Fratelli Rosetti, Arche and Clergerie but also have a pair of Naturalizers that are fantastic.
On a soapbox here: I wish a woman would not wear maryjanes, flipflops clogs in offices if she wants to look professional, Heels are not necessary but if wearing the same style a five year old wears, she doesn't look grown up.
I'm with you Duchesse, I couldn't countanence any of the above (except maybe the brown ballet flats) for work. I wear medium heels to work (and flats for my long drive in).
If I couldn't wear heels, I'd be in something like this: http://www.clarks.co.uk/p/26103892
On more casual days when I walk to the local office, the best shoes I've found are an earlier version which looked like these: http://www.clarks.co.uk/p/20358826 I can't swear to that particular model, but the earlier version are still going strong after regular long walks over about 18 months.
Why do you care what other people wear? I don’t particularly care if people think I look “grown-up”, and it’s no one’s business anyway.
Perhaps I have found the answer to all your needs, re: shoes for a professional life…………..Has anyone heard of Tanya Heath shoes with their interchangeable heel heights ie one pair of shoes but three "looks". I feel a blog entry coming on very soon……………..Swan – Now Living in France
I guess it works for some, but none of these look like something I could walk in for 10 hours. I'll take a good pair of tennis shoes instead.
Jhon Staphen says
I agree that these are mostly women wear inspired shoes, but they work for a tailored dresser like myself beautifully.I agree that these are mostly women wear inspired shoes, but they work for a tailored dresser like myself beautifully.
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Cole Haan with Air Jordan are pretty and comfortable. Almond- or round-toe patent, croc-embossed or plain calf leather in black, oxblood, cognac and beige solve almost every need.If kitten heels aren't the thing, wedges may be. Busy boomer and pre-boomer women want flattering, feminine shoes that don't hurt, and the manufacturers are getting smarter about providing them.
Look at Nordstrom Rack and Zappos for starters. T
these shoes are ugly :( all of them ;
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Nancy Harrison says
I have settled on navy and grey as my neutrals. What color shoe should I choose to go with both? The sample above for navy/grey/purple/pink shows black – but would black work with navy?? If it matters, I haven't quite settled on my accent colors yet – definitely pink and perhaps purple though I am leaning more toward teal. They will be clear bright colors as I am a "winter."
I am thinking cordovan for the shoes to go with both navy and grey…thoughts and opinions appreciated!!!
Janice Riggs says
I would always say black. Men wear black shoes with navy ALL THE TIME – you'll almost never see a man in a navy suit with navy shoes – navy shoes barely exist in the world of men! Black is much easier to work with, and your choices are wider.
But cordovan is a great idea – it's got a really rich, luscious look that would be beautiful.
Maybe 1 or 2 of each? But honestly, either would be lovely…
I know this is an extremely old post, but the comments seem kind of unfair to me and I just had to reply… I’m 26 and I actually have a pretty feminine style, but I love Oxford shoes! I wear them with slacks and a blouse or with floral dresses (especially in winter/autumn, with tights and a cardigan), and I definitely don’t look like I’m in men’s clothes. They help give a “warm” and cozy touch to the look, and pair well with my Autumn colours.
I feel Nancy’s quandary over the black shoes with navy. I don’t see well-dressed men ever wear black shoes with a navy suit, it is always brown shoes and belt with navy.
Two pairs of shoes for us? Black to match gray clothes and brown to match navy clothes?
As someone else suggested, cognac is a shade of brown that could be matched with both gray and navy and it it popular in the current fashion cycle so should be easy to find. I’m don’t look good in brown though! Maybe I can pull off such small doses.