Reader Kelly e-mailed me this request:
I would love to wear heels and when I was younger and without scoliosis I did; now they seem to be a thing of the past though I keep trying. Could you do a post about flats? Specifically how to make them look good with dresses ( I don’t think they do) or anything for that matter.
So I’ve written a bit about flats and have several posts in the archive with visual examples, and I sent those along to Kelly:
But let’s talk about flats with dresses. Of the non-fancy variety. And I can hear many of you scoffing through your computer screens as I am a confirmed heels lover myself, but at least give me a shot!
Flats are extremely important. I don’t wear mine as often as I should, but I’m trying to incorporate them more frequently because there is a growing pool of evidence indicating that a steady diet of high heels can cause serious, long-term health issues. Flats also have a bad rep. We are trained to favor a long leg line, and told that flats cause our legs to look stumpy. I, personally, find flats to be tougher to style during cold weather because they can look a little odd paired with tights.* And make walking in the snow an unpleasant experience. So, ya know, uphill battle. But it can be fought.
Assuming that the main concern is leg-elongation – which is usually the case – here are some ways to make flats work with dresses and skirts:
Opt for higher hemlines
We’ve all got our hemline happy zones, and I’m not suggesting you veer outside of yours. But since flats won’t give your legs any lift or length, showing a bit more leg near your dress or skirt hem will help your legs appear longer. Even an inch will help, I’ve found.
Pair with like-colored tights
This is my flats-in-winter solution. Any time you can do hosiery and footwear in like colors, you’ll elongate your leg line. That low contrast allows the eye to travel all the way down the leg nearly to the ground before stopping.
Match your skin tone
And when it’s warm out? Allow me to trot out a piece of style advice that will never, ever die: Shoes that match your skin tone make your legs look longer. This includes flats. Go for something in a nude-to-you color.
Go for low vamps
I’ve seen so many women pair oxfords and dresses to great effect. I have never successfully done it myself. A high vamp shoe will cut your leg line higher up, so if you want your legs to look longer pick a lower vamp style. Ballet flats are a reliable favorite.
Experiment with shapes
I am always, ALWAYS drawn to round-toed everything. But when it comes to leg-lengthening, round toes fail. Pointy-toed flats have been trending for several years now, so consider trying a pair if they’re not too uncomfortable. If true points don’t suit you, go for a middle ground between round and elvish.
This may or may not work for Kelly, but it’s something to consider if you prefer flat footwear but your eye just won’t adjust to other flat shoe styles. Boots offer an entirely different level of coverage and break at very different parts of the body. (Info on boot height and leg flattery here.) Depending on your proportions, flat boots may look more appealing than flat shoes. And remember, boots can work in summer!
Match shoe and dress styles
I’m a fan of juxtaposition, to be sure, but aligning styles can feel far more natural. Polka dot ballet flats with a red bow on the toe will look slightly “off” worn with a structured sheath and blazer. Super athletic flats probably won’t work as well with a retro-influenced shirt dress. Make sure you’ve got a few flat options available so your dress and shoes will work with each other.
Direct focus elsewhere
Even if you’ve got low-vamp flats and a slightly high hemline going on, you may still dislike the overall look. But if you’ve gotta do flats, you’ve gotta do flats. So consider diverting attention from your feet and legs. Wear a bright or printed top. Try a statement necklace. Cinch your waist with an eye-catching belt. As always, distraction tactics can be incredibly helpful. If you’re not wholly pleased with the bottom half of your outfit, make sure there’s something fabulous going on up top.
*I’m talking ballet flats, loafers, oxfords, and the like. In my experience, flat boots are a bit easier to pair with tights.