Matching Dress to Shoes

Katie Davies
shoe options

Sometimes it's not easy to coordinate an outfit. Not only do women have more fashion options available to them than men, but they are constantly faced with new, emerging trends where the rules are rewritten season upon season. It can be particularly challenging when trying to find the right footwear to go with a specific dress - especially when your choices are limited.

Think About the Occasion

The first factor that needs to be considered is the occasion that you plan to wear your dress. Is it a black-tie, formal event, or just a casual dinner with friends? Either way, this will affect the corresponding shoe choice. For instance, you're not going to wear your 60s-style over-the-knee boots with a cocktail dress for your Dad's 60th birthday ball!

Likewise, your stiletto open-toe glitter sandals wouldn't exactly be appropriate with your knitted dress for a quick shopping trip to the mall. However, the other way around would certainly work for each occasion.

It's all about matching your footwear with your dress for the right type of event. As a general rule: an open-toe wedge or sandal always looks fabulous with a formal dress, and closed toe shoes or boots are ideal for a casual affair.

Choose Shoes According to Dress Length

As well as the occasion, it's important to consider the length of your dress before you pick out the perfect pair of shoes.

Length and Formal Occasions

For example, when it comes to formal occasions, you're better off choosing an open-toe shoe with a significant heel if you're wearing a floor-skimming number. The heel will give you that extra lift you need to prevent you from tripping over the train of your dress. However, if you're already tall and you decide to wear a cocktail dress, a smart, flat sandal would suffice.

flowing gown with open toe shoes

Shoes for Different Casual Dresses

Then there are casual events. Maxi dresses work better with casual sandals, whether they are heeled or flat, whereas short, laid-back dresses are more versatile. In these instances, boots, flats, sandals, or even sneakers, are acceptable.

Make sure that you consider the weather though. You wouldn't wear sandals or flats with bare legs in the rain, or knee-high boots with your dress during the hot summer season - unless you want your feet to fry!

Consider Color

When it comes to the hue of your shoes, you have three different options. You can match your shoes to your dress exactly, complement your shoes with your dress, or go for a complete contrast for more of a daring, fashion-forward look.

When to Match

Matching the exact color of your shoes to the exact hue of your dress is considered a more old-fashioned, traditional look. However, this can be modernized simply by choosing accessories in a contrast color, or choosing a handbag that complements rather than matches. There is an exception to the rule though - and that consists of the LBD. Your Little Black Dress will look even more striking if you pair it with black stiletto sandals or black boots with a block heel.

Choose Colors That Complement

If you want your shoes and dress to complement each other, first you have to take a long, hard look at your dress. If it's just one color, you can go for a multi-colored shoe featuring that hue. Or, if it features more than one color, you can choose a shoe in one of them so that it picks up the matching shade on the dress.

For formal occasions, silver, gold, black, nude and ivory shoes almost always complement a dress - no matter what its color is. The same applies for casual wear, but in white, black, brown, gray and tan hues.

shoe choices

Make a Statement With Contrasting Colors

If you're feeling brave, you might want to completely contrast the colors of your dress and shoes to make a serious, up-to-date style statement in the fashion world. For example, you could wear a purple court shoe with a tailored orange dress for the office, or a brick red sandal with a turquoise blue or bold yellow cocktail dress for your graduation prom.

These contrasting color combinations tend to look the most refreshing during the summer months. They might be loud and proud - but, when done correctly, they pack a real fashion punch.

contrasting colors

Current Trends vs. Classic Traditions

As well as the occasion, your dress length, and the color of both wearables in question, you must also take the current season into consideration. There are many different styles and types of footwear that come and go with the trends each season; however, the key is to experiment with the ever-changing fashions as and when they occur in certain circumstances.

Androgyny

Androgyny is a significant recent trend. Think: loafers, combat boots and sneakers, like the styles of typical shoes that men would wear, taking inspiration from designers such as Alexander Wang and Dior. Keep in mind that this trend wouldn't work with the average dress - only in winter, with tights and a plain casual or knitted dress.

dress with combat boots

Party Shoe Trend

Likewise, you could only rock the sparkle and shine of the party shoe trend for a more formal event. Simply pair your satin slingbacks with a sequin or metallic dress, a la Tibi or Phillip Lim, for a look that screams ultimate disco chic this season.

party shoes

Modern Cowgirl

Then there's the modern cowgirl trend featuring cowboy boots that have been given a contemporary twist with different shapes, colors, and textures thanks to Balmain and Alexander McQueen. This trend would only look appropriate when combined with a casual, printed dress for a fun daytime 70s look - and not for your office's black tie Christmas party.

short dress with cowboy boots

Follow the Rules Yet Play Around

Coordinating the perfect match in terms of dress and shoes is a skill, but one that can be learned over time. There are just a few factors that need to be considered when going through this thought process. There might be a few absolute no-nos when it comes to matching your dress to your shoes, but most of the time it's up to you to make up your own style rules. Whether you're a trend follower, or prefer to stick to classic traditions, don't be afraid to experiment with this art form. After all, fashion is a fun form of expression - and it's meant to be enjoyed.

Matching Dress to Shoes