What about shoes?

Almost every time I do a seminar or workshop on professional dress, I get the question, “What about shoes?” But no one ever tells me exactly what he or she wants to know about shoes. In working with clients, I’ve found coordinating shoes can often be a challenge. Many times, there is a very fine line between shoes that work and shoes that kill the whole outfit. Not only is it necessary to get the style right, but finding shoes that are also comfortable enough to get you through a whole day can be tough.

Although each case is individual, I’ve come up with some general shoe guidelines that will help you determine the best shoes for your professional image. By taking these shoe tips into account, you’ll be certain to put your best foot forward!

  • A tailored outfit requires a tailored shoe. On the other hand, when the outfit is less tailored, it calls for a softer more feminine shoe. One time a client of mine showed me a black suit that she absolutely loved, but every time she wore it something just didn’t feel right. The jacket was a collar-less Chanel style with a matching tulip skirt. I asked her to show me the shoes she typically wore with it. There laid the discord. The shoes were a very plain, low heeled, square-toed pump. They were far too tailored for the feminine suit. To solve the problem we found a beautiful patent leather, sling back pump trimmed with a small chiffon bow. Now the style of the shoe matches the personality of the suit.
  • A semi-pointed or pointed toe pump is a great basic to have in your shoe wardrobe. This especially holds true if you’re not a real “shoe person”, or you don’t want to invest in more than a couple of pairs of shoes. Choose black, brown, camel or taupe; depending on the colors you wear the most.
  • If you’re wearing a skirt, two to three-inch heels for business are best. Anything higher can be inappropriate for business.
  • If you can no longer wear high heels, it’s better to stick with pants. A business appropriate skirt or dress worn with low heels or flats can look frumpy or matronly.  I always ask my clients how they want to be perceived in the workplace, and “frumpy” and “matronly” have never come up!   Wearing a great pantsuit with a pair of stylish flats will lend you far more credibility than a skirt with flats ever could.

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2 comments on “What about shoes?

  1. Hi Dana,

    I read all of your newsletters, and often find great tips.

    This time, though, I must disagree with one of your points. Wearing flats and skirts is not “frumpy” or “matronly” if you do it right.

    I am the marketing director for a downtown architecture firm, so “stylish” and “classy” is the dress code. I cannot wear even a small heel due to advanced arthritis in my big toes. But because I’m a serious athlete, my legs are one of my best features – plus I love the freedom of skirts – so I wear them nearly every day. I own killer shoes – including several pairs from Stuart Weitzman – which I combine with gorgeous, funky tights/stockings and flattering, tailored clothes.

    People continually compliment me on my outfits, which are professional with flair.

    I have a developed sense of fashion and plenty of self-confidence. Your message to women – especially if they’re shorter – that either high heels or pants are required for style or power is off the mark. I’d love to see more tips on being gorgeous without sacrificing comfort or health.

    With sincere thanks if you’ve read this far –

    A Flats Fanatic

    1. I love the feedback! To be absolutely truthful with you, I believe that every fashion “rule” can be broken. Remembering a conversation about all of the tights you found in Europe, I can only imagine how great your outfits are.

      Since you’re in a creative field, you have more freedom than say an attorney who might want to wear a corporate looking suit and needs guidance about what will be the best look. And as I mentioned earlier, there are always exceptions to the rules!

      I would never expect someone to sacrifice their health for fashion. I also believe that to be powerful and confident, one needs to be reasonable comfortable at work. I’ll blog soon on finding comfortable, fashionable clothing.

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