When I worked as a stylist, I was always puzzled when I visited a client with a wardrobe full of lovely, current, perfectly-fitting clothing and a tiny mound of outdated, weather-beaten, unloved shoes that in no way align with their owner’s style. To me, appropriate, interesting shoes are an integral part of an overall look and I believe that knowing your preferred shoe types is absolutely essential to building personal style.
But not everyone feels that way. Despite the stereotypes about women and shoes, I think that many of us struggle to track down styles that suit our tastes AND lifestyles. Shoes get worn harder than clothing in most cases, and that makes buying them far trickier. A dress has to work with body shape … but shoes have to be comfortable, affordable, stylish, AND work perfectly with a multitude of outfits under a multitude of circumstances. So cultivating a lasting, useful, beautiful collection of shoes can be quite a project, and some women would rather focus on objects of style that require less versatility and research.
And since I know at least some of you readers are wondering how to get a great shoe wardrobe started, I went against my own grain and assembled a list of shoe types that I believe every woman should own. Or, at least, every woman who works in an office, academic, or similar environment and deals with seasons. If these lists may make your blood boil, I totally understand – but here’s hoping it’s a helpful resource for some!
Pumps: In my opinion, pumps are the most versatile style of shoe. They work for women of nearly all ages, heights, styles, and income brackets. The can be easily dressed up or dressed down. They come in a HUGE variety of styles, from sky-scraping heels to kittens, from snub toes to exaggerated points, and there’s something for every woman. A set of great pumps in your favorite neutral is a must.
Ankle boots: This style is relatively new to the classic shoe cannon, but considering how long it’s been “trendy,” I think it’s here to stay. Ankle boots can be tricky to style, so look for a style that hits right at your ankle bone. Higher may throw off your proportions.
Tall boots: Ahhh, I can hear the groans and grumbles already. But the fact is that tall boots are a classic style – again, working across many stylistic boundaries – and there ARE ways of tracking down a pair that fits. Even if you have narrow or wide calves, or can’t take a heel. No client has ever escaped my grasp without investing in a pair of tall boots. Again, go for your favorite neutral to start – black, brown, congac, or gray.
Comfortable, stylish flats: Owning and wearing a variety of shoe heights is best policy for most women, and flats are a non-negotiable must. If oxfords irk you, try ballet flats or Mary Janes. There is a style of comfortable, flat, walkable shoe out there that will suit your exact style preferences.
Comfortable, stylish sandals: Because your feet need to breathe in the summer, and having a pair that work equally well at the office and at the outdoor music festival is a fantastic feeling.
Dressy/fancy sandals: In my opinion, fancy sandals should cover two jobs. They should add sass to workweek outfits during the summer, but they should also be dressy enough for special occasion wear. There’s something about a sandal that makes it capable of crossover. Seek a style that has versatility; Metallics are great for this style of shoe. Black-tie-appropriate shoes may not be as versatile, but not everyone needs a pair of those. It’s super handy to have pairs that work for cocktail parties and more casual gatherings.
Dressy/fancy closed-toe shoes: Fancy happens when it’s cold and/or wet outside, too. So find a chic pair of dressy shoes that will keep your tootsies warm and dry. Ideally these shoes, too, should be capable of spicing up a workweek ensemble as well as taking you gracefully to an evening event.
Red shoes of some sort: Many women prefer to keep red well away from their faces, but virtually every woman can do red shoes. And, as red is edging its way into neutral territory with every passing season, every woman should at least consider red shoes. You choose the style, heel height, and material. Just make sure that your base collection of neutral shoes includes one pair of bright red ones.
And those are the shoe bases that I believe every stylish woman should cover! You’ll notice that there are no snow boots or gym shoes on this list. That’s because those styles are activity-specific, and I assume that if you engage in those activities, those shoes will naturally work their way into your collection. Also omitted are casual wear-specific shoes. I don’t have weekend-only shoes because I use fun, interesting, slightly dressy shoes as a way to create unity between my work and weekend looks. And I encourage other women to do the same.
All images courtesy Zappos.com.
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