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How to Buy Shoes:
Choosing your Best Womens Fashion Shoes
"Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the
world" - Marilyn Monroe
Do you love shoes? I certainly do!
I'm often asked "how do I choose shoes?" Since the
right shoes add that perfect finishing touch to an outfit it's
useful to understand how to buy shoes that flatter you.
The main considerations are to choose shoes that...
- Flatter your proportions
- Work with your outfit
- Are appropriate for the occasion
- Suit your personality
Oh, and I could add: that are comfortable!
certainly be one of my criteria for how to buy shoes and from the many
emails I get
asking where to find comfortable womens fashion shoes, I know
only one. However, that may not be one of your top concerns.
Let's look at each area in turn...
How to buy shoes to flatter your body proportions
Anatomy of a shoe
First let's look at the parts of the shoe to consider...
How to Buy
The parts to consider(Image
The vamp -- this is the
opening where the foot goes into
the shoe. Straps that come higher up the foot typically give the effect
of a high vamp. Shoe boots and ankle boots are classed as high vamp
shoes. A lower vamp makes your legs look longer and
your foot slimmer.
The toe -- can be open,
closed or peep-toe and varies in
Closed shoes are typically seen as more formal than open-toed shoes
(with the exception of evening wear) and are always suitable for work.
The heel -- heel heights
vary from flat to ultra high. Heel
styles vary from skinny, such as stillettos, through chunky,
stacked styles to a wedge, which is the most supportive to the foot.
Thicker heels make the shoe look heavier.
The sole -- varies from thin
to platform. The thicker the
sole, the heavier it appears.
The proportions you should consider are...
- Your vertical
- The size of your ankles, calves and thighs
- The length and width of your feet
The vertical body shapes are:
balanced; short legs, long
legs, short torso,
The balanced body is the perfect vertical proportion. The aim
of the person with this vertical body shape is to keep their vertical
shape looking balanced. For example, if you have a balanced body and
are very slim your best shoes will not be ultra-high heels.
The aim for the other 2 proportions is to give the illusion
of a balanced body by making proportionally long legs look shorter and
proportionally short legs look longer.
The elements of the shoe that affect perceived leg length
- The heel -- the higher the heel, the longer your legs will
- The sole -- the thicker the sole, the longer your legs will
- The vamp -- the lower the vamp, the longer your legs will
- The toe -- the longer and more pointed the toe the longer
and slimmer your legs will look. However, long, slim toes also make
your foot look larger.
- The color -- nude color shoes (those that blend with your
bare leg) or colors that blend with your hosiery and hem
color will make your legs look longer
Conversely, to make your legs look shorter, wear flat shoes,
with a high vamp, rounded or broad-square toes and thin soles, in eye
Calves, ankles and thighs
If your calves, ankles and/or thighs are chunkier your best
not be too exteme. That is, not too
delicate looking, or too heavy looking, since either of these looks
will bring attention to the thickness of your legs. For example, a
medium width stack or column heel will work better
than a stiletto or kitten heel.
toe shape of a shoe will affect the perceived length and width of your
foot and can make your feet and legs look longer and slimmer or shorter
Round toes, such as Mary-Jane styles will make your feet look
wider and your legs shorter. Pointed toes will make your feet look
longer and slimmer.
How to buy shoes to flatter your outfit
Current fashion trends give much broader option than just
choosing shoes to match the color and style of your handbag.
your style personality is Classic you may still favor this look, but
beware it can be seen as too matchy-matchy and boring!
Here my shoes pick out brown of leggings and dress and
echo the snake skin pattern of the dress
These shoes are more like my skin color, so have a nude
effect, making my legs look longer
These sandals echo my hair color and so tie my shoes
into my overall look and create a balancing effect
However, your best shoes for any outfit will tie in with some
aspect of your outfit for
one or more of the following...
- Color -- the best choices are
(see picture examples above):
- Pick a color within your outfit.
If you tone your shoes
with your hose and hem your legs will look longer. If you want to wear
a fun, bright color such as red, and you don't have proportionally long
legs, make sure you wear some of your shoe color above the waist, in
your outfit (for example, a necklace that includes your shoe color)
- In spring and summer nude shoes
(shoes that tone with the skin color of your legs) can be a great
since these will go with a large number of outfits and make your legs
look slimmer. Nude shoes may also allow you to wear a higher
vamp than would suit you in a more contrasting color (for example, a
nude gladiator style)
- Your hair color -- this has
the same balancing and tie-in
effect as picking a color within your outfit. The shoes don't have to
match your hair exactly, but be similar enough to have a tie-in effect
- Texture -- sometimes it's
enough to repeat a texture within
your outfit, even when there's no color in common
- Theme -- keep shoes in the
same general theme as your outfit (though don't make it too
"costume-like"). For example: a leopard print dress and a snake print
shoe; a tribal look, with a beaded wooden shoe
- Level of formality -- match
the level of formality
and perceived weight of the outfit in your choice of
example, heeled pumps
(courts) are good with a suit, casual sandals are great with a summer
dress; an evening dress with a dressy sandal. Typically, the heavier a
shoe looks, the more casual it is. Matt shoes are seen as more casual,
shiny is seen as dressier
How to buy shoes appropriate for the occasion
Of course you should also take into account...
- Form and function -- if you need to do
a lot of walking that might rule out killer heels!
of year and weather -- for example, more covered shoes for cooler and
wetter weather; lighter, more open shoes for warmer, drier weather
of day -- evening shoes are typically dressier, shinier,
(lighter looking), and more embellished, than day time wear
- Level of formality of the occasion.
Heeled pumps are a classic choice and always
appropriate for office work. Funky sandals or boots are more
appropriate for a weekend lunch with friends.
How to buy shoes to suit your personality
As with clothes, you'll like your shoe choices best if the
style of shoes you buy suits your personal
example, if your main personal style is Classic you might like a black,
mid-heeled pump. If your main style is dramatic, you might like a pair
of ultra high, platform, peep-toe shoes is the latest bright fashion
color, or in a snake skin print.
More Tips for How to Buy Shoes
When trying on shoes...
- It's best to try on shoes at the end of the day, when your
feet are largest (especially if you've been sitting all day and the
weather is warm)
- If you're intending to wear the shoes with socks or hosiery
make sure that's how you try them on
- We all have one foot at least a bit larger than the other,
so make sure you try on both shoes for fit
sure there's enough room for your toes in the toe box of a covered
shoe. There should be a bit of space between your longest toe and the
- Stand up and walk around in the shop to make sure the shoes
are comfortable. If the upper part of the shoe is leather they will
stretch a bit. Shoes may rub a bit until you've worn them in, but if
they're uncomfortable in the shop, don't buy them!
If you're buying shoes online
- The online store has a good returns policy
- You check the sizing scale the store uses. Sizes vary by
country. A good online store will show you conversions between the
different types of sizing schemes
- Buy the larger size you usually take (unless you know the
size you take for the particular brand). For example, if your shoe size
is 6, 6.5 or 7 (depending on the brand) and the online store only has
whole sizes, buy a 7 and use gel sole inserts and/or suede heel grips
to correct the fit
Want to Know More About How to Buy Shoes?
more help with how to buy shoes, including lots of lovely photos
showing examples, on how to
choose your best shoes (and to
learn a lot more about all types of accessorizing) I recommend "The
Finishing Touch" ebook
by Imogen Lamport. Imogen also gives guidelines for how to choose the
different shoe types for a shoe wardrobe so you always have appropriate
Made Shoes -- are you having difficulty finding the right
shoes? If so, it's worth considering custom shoes.
Magic of Accessorizing -- do you know these 3 key
accessorizing tips to keep
your look stylish and contemporary?