Your shoes are the anchoring device that pulls your whole look together. And by sticking to a few tried-and-true style rules, finding the right shoe can be both fun and easy! Looking great, being practical, and feeling comfortable is the goal when dressing well. Read on to discover the appropriate style, color, and shape of shoes for any outfit!
#1 Understand the role shoes play in your overall silhouette
Knowing how your shoe fits into the overall silhouette you’re creating with your outfit will help you select the correct footwear style. Typically categorized into slim, straight, and wide, the silhouette refers to the general shape of your figure emphasized by your clothes, shoes, and accessories. You can create different silhouettes by combining various styles of tops, bottoms, and shoes. The ones that suit you best will depend on your personal style and preferences, but there are some general rules you can use to get started.
Keep in mind, for example, that slimmer shoes, i.e., shoes with a thin outsole that fit tight on the foot, go better with slimmer silhouettes, and chunky shoes (possibly featuring a platform or oversized buckle) look more balanced when worn with some oversized items. That said, if you’re wearing leggings and would like to pair them with chunky sneakers, you could opt for a top like an oversized hoodie to balance it out. Narrow dress shoes, meanwhile, can benefit from a pair of cropped pants and a fitted jacket.
You can also help determine your most flattering silhouettes by doing a bit of homework. A great exercise to help you plan is to take out a notebook and write down your favorite outfits. Perhaps it’s a great pair of jeans with a nice top and pair of Derbies, or a turtleneck, high-waisted pants and clogs. By looking at the clothing you already own and love, you can understand what clothing and shoes you should continue to search out. Then, as you get more comfortable with the various silhouette types, you can experiment and play around to see how different shapes complement your lifestyles, activities, and preferences.
#2 Add in color (or not)
Once you’ve determined the correct type of shoe for your outfit, the next step is to pick the color. You might be intimidated by the thought of bright and colorful shoes, but when done right—the color of your shoe can be used to pull together your whole look. The critical rule for incorporating color is not to overdo it. An easy principle is to use a neutral or solid color within the outfit you are wearing.
If your outfit has a pattern, for example, pick one color within the design and match it to the same color in your shoe. If your outfit is made up of one or two solid colors, you can either pick one of the colors or select a neutral color.
#3 Make sure you use different materials in your outfit.
There is such a thing as being too matching. Sticking to a uniform color scheme is a great way to look polished but be careful not to match your outfit's material to your shoes. Instead, choose footwear in the same color as what you're wearing but in a different material—say, velvet or metallic, to add texture to your outfit. Also, be aware of the fact that certain fabrics look better together than others.
A few classic pairings include patent leather or suede with denim, velvet with winter clothes, and anything strappy with your summer shorts and dresses. If you’re wearing a fancier outfit, you’ll want a more refined shoe choice with a pair of leather flats or oxfords, a pointed-toe heel, or a sleek pair of loafers.
#4 Dress for the occasion
As referenced above, appropriate dressing means dressing with the occasion in mind and finding the right shoes to complement your look. For example, if you’re wearing something very formal, you should ensure your shoes are not too casual.
For men’s shoes, the more formal the occasion, the smoother and simpler the men’s shoe upper. A plain oxford is, therefore, the perfect choice for very special events; to a lesser extent, so is the plain derby. Ballerinas and loafers, meanwhile, are a blessing in disguise for women who don’t feel comfortable in heels. They go with almost any dress, and you can go with contrast or matching colors.
#5 When in doubt—opt for simple and neutral
If you are having a tough time picking out a shape of shoe or color to match, go with a nude-colored shoe with a classic shape. A nude shoe should match your skin tone (as close as possible). This will elongate the look of your legs while also giving the appearance of height.
Other neutral colors like black and brown should also be wardrobe staples that will leave you able to accessorize any outfit. However, remember to consider your overall color palette when using neutrals. As in— if your whole outfit is in pastel colors, reach for a lighter shoe instead of a black one.
#6 Make your shoes the focal point.
If you have a very detailed pair of shoes with a pattern, a print, or other noticeable embellishments, match your outfit to the shoe (instead of the other way around). If the shoe is the statement piece you want to draw attention to, pull a color from the pattern or print it in the shoe and bring it into your outfit (especially in the bottom half of your look!) Remember that shoes are a great way to inject some personality into a simple outfit.
#7 Prioritize comfort.
It’s hard to look good if you don’t feel good. Shoes should always make you feel at ease and empowered. If your feet aren’t happy, you won’t wear an outfit with as much confidence as you otherwise would. For example, if you’ve tried high heels or very rigid dress shoes but struggle to walk comfortably in them, it might be a good idea to try out a lower heel style or use inserts that can provide the extra cushion you need to feel good.
It is also worth remembering that these days there isn’t much you can’t do in a trainer – unless you have a smart dress code at work. White leather is the smart option if you want to dress your sneakers up a bit.
#8 Find and evolve your personal style to suit your private and professional life.
Your fashion choices should allow you to express your unique personal style and stand out on dates, at social events, or at the office. Shop more efficiently by only buying shoes you can imagine wearing with several different outfit options, and that share a similar color palette and vibe with your overall wardrobe. This way, you will have way more outfit options and fewer headaches.
#9 Remember that rules are made to be broken
At the end of the day, fashion is about having fun and expressing your creativity as an individual. Knowing some basic principles when dressing well also prepares you to break the ‘rules’ more confidently. Putting your outfits together should be enjoyable, inspiring, and never boring!