RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – Somewhere between my favorite workhorse winter boots and the flip-flops I’ll wear on my summer beach vacation is the shoe that would fill in the gaps. It would take me to work, and through weekends, and out to dinner afterward.
But for all the time I spend staring at the floor of my closet, I still don’t know which shoe that might be.
Maybe I don’t own it yet. Yes, that must be it. It’s a perfect excuse to go shoe shopping – and what woman doesn’t love that?!
Unfortunately, I’ve been on three retail excursions since then, and I’m still mostly alternating between some old tan ballet flats and a pair of brown cork wedge sandals. I’ve also had on espadrilles, woven-leather flat sandals and patent-leather peep-toes. Not the one-size-fits-all solution that I was hoping for – and not the one-size-fits-all solution I feel like my dark brown riding boots give me half the year.
Shoes are important to creating an image of yourself, says Los Angeles-based stylist Laurie Brucker. Nothing makes you feel better than when you are wearing a fantastic pair of shoes.
I’m on the right path with neutral tan shoes, she advises, but there needs to be something to jazz them up: a bright contrast color, a print or some sort of embellishment.
That might seem counterintuitive, but, she says, that special detail is what a shoe needs to draw you to it.
Brucker suggests a light beige patent leather pump, maybe with a peep-toe, as an almost surefire option for someone who dresses up for the office – and then might be going out afterward. Any shoe that’s a similar color to your skin tone should be particularly flattering, advises Brucker, part of Stacy London’s Style for Hire network.
That one isn’t going to take me to the sidelines of my children’s soccer games or even a Saturday night party with my mostly casual crowd, however.
A cap-toe ballet flat with contrasting colors would give a lot of mileage, Brucker explains, because it can be grounded in a neutral camel or black and then tipped with a pop of color or a flash of metallic. A pointy-toe front is probably a little more fashion-forward and will live into the fall season and beyond, she says. (I’ll be back in my boots by then.)
The popular flat platforms are too clunky for me and my pretty straightforward-but-not-quite-conservative look. But while they’re a bona fide trend this year, I will note I saw them mostly on sale racks.
There was a pair of almost-winner Cole Haan-Nike Air wedge-heel sandals, but they were in black, and I wasn’t sure if the dark ankle strap would work with enough of my lighter-hue summer wardrobe.
Jennifer Gosselin, senior vice president and general manager of online retailer Piperlime, later tells me that I probably was wise to be a little wary of black, especially if I’m wearing a lot of brightly colored bottoms.
Her first suggestion for a go-to shoe has a hint of shine to it. A sandal like the Sam Edelman Sophie sandal, with its metallic buckle and moderate 2-inch wedge heel, easily transitions from weekday to weekend, she says.
The height makes it a little more polished, but it’s not quite as dressed up as a pump or high heel, Gosselin says. You could wear it all day.
And, Gosselin says, the quintessential summer shoe is a canvas-top espadrille.
It’s a style I love, even if I really imagine my mother wearing them, but I doubted it would work as an everyday shoe because, at least back in the day, if the jute bottom got wet from even a drizzling rain, it never seemed to get dry again.
Technology and rubber soles have improved that, Gosselin says.
An espadrille says summer like nothing else. It can be dressed up or down, she adds, noting there are open-toe versions but that a closed-toe canvas shoe sends an appropriate warm-weather vibe and hides toenails that haven’t had a recent pedicure.