Friday, April 27, 2012

Black shoes do work with colourful dresses

A friend who is a Canberra (that's in Australia) stylist, Jane Allen said today that black shoes generally dont look right with colourful dresses. 

I totally understand where she is coming from. It makes lots of sense actually.

But I'd like to keep our options as open as possible & re-cast the statement as:

"Black shoes generally DO look right with colourful dresses AS LONG AS THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA ARE SATISFIED....."

So what are those criteria?....the easiest way to demonstrate is via photos.....


Black shoes will look great with a colourful outfit as long as there is sufficient black in the rest of the ensemble to visually link the shoes to the rest of the ensemble. 

Kind of like matching bag & shoes in my nanna's day, but not so matchy-matchy.

The shoes can visually go back to anything - bag, belt, bangles, necklaces, colours in the fabric or the lining, hair accessories etc. Anything.

Eye movement

Underlying the content of this post is the concept of eye movement - what this means is that when you look at a person, how does your eye move? Ideally if they are well dressed, your eye should move reasonably evenly up/down & end up at their face. If it stops and *&^%^#%#Y at the black shoes, then those shoes need a re-think. I have plenty of posts about eye movement - its one of my most preferred labels because it is such an important indicator of whether someone is well dressed.

NB: You should be doing the eye movement test on yourself in front of a full length mirror every day.

Blink test

If you are trying to work out the eye movement and you are very distracted - ie: your eye isnt calm enough to be able to decide where it wants to go, then the blink test is what you should do. I also have plenty of posts about the blink test - another of my fave labels.
Face the person, shut your eyes for 5 seconds & clear your mind. Then open your eyes, staring straight at them. Where did your eyes move? If they $%$(*&) at the black shoes, then its also time to re-think them.

Again, you can do the blink test for yourself in front of the mirror.


Amanda Hearst on the right & Rose Byrne on the left in a Prabal Gurung fuschia number.

Amanda just doesnt have enough black for the shoes to go back to.

Rose does - in particular, the belt has sufficient width to mimic the width of the vamp on the shoe. It just works.

PS: Try to ignore the impact of the black carpet for Amanda  it makes her choice look even worse than it is....

Next, Camilla Belle - she links back the black solid pumps with a substantial belt. Score.

Again, Camilla Belle - yes I have a girl crush.

She gets it right with the sunnies, belt & pocket thingey (?).  Note also the shoes have straps & girly bows, so the belt stays thin & girly too. Now do you understand why I love this girl? 

Next, madam lash booties with wide "tough girl" belt. Even without the bag, this ensemble would work.

Fergie in a Christoforos Kotentos dress and jacket. The shoes go back to the black sections of the dress/jacket. Too easy.

Now, take a look at this - which do you prefer?

I hope you said the one on the left. The black colour of the shoes for the one on the right are just too out of touch for such a light floaty colourful dress.

Try to ignore shape differences in making your assessment - I am not trying to work out whether a pump looked better than a sandal or whether the frock fits better on one girl over the other.  For the purposes of this blog, just focus on the colour of the shoe. Having said, colour aside, a substantial pump may look out of place with a flimsy dress, but we'll cover that in another post!

Now take a look at Nicole Ritchie v Jennifer Aniston. Which shoe looks better? The gold/nude on Jen? or the black on Nicole? 

Did we all agree that Jen's shoe colour was better than Nicole's? I hope so! LOL!

Now look at the next three ladies.....the black shoes, as elegant as they are, look "off" with a glamour dress like that. Like her friends on the right, a lighter or brigher shoe would have been far more aesthetically pleasing.

The next one is a Victoria Beckham dress.
Firstly worn by Victoria - with a black shoe (small white trim) and a very boxy heavy VB bag. Before you give this one a score, scroll down....

to Olivia Palermo wearing the same dress.....

She understands that such a colourful number needs colourful accessories - banish the black.  Enter hot pink satin bag & animal pumps.

Gwyneth in a coral Calvin Klein with a neutral sandal & gold hard clutch.....

A black pump definitely would not have worked here. However she may have been able to get away with a very fine black sandal - only because the the black wasnt interfering with the coral/gold.

However, I dont know about you, but I dont like wearing something just because it doesnt interfere with other items I am wearing.I like to wear things things that go out of their way to enhance everything else I wear. So fine black sandal is out IMO.

Liv Tyler & Kate Winslet in Stella McCartney pull off black shoes because of the black scuba panel on the sides of their dress. Tick.

Finally, here is an interesting one - the coat & the tights stand out here - they are the highlights.

So why do the black shoes work? Because they go back to the black dress underneath the coat. The only other colour of dress that may have allowed the shoes to work is a dark grey/anthracite.



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  2. Black shoes can work when a coloured dress or outfit features black when you adhere to the rule of three. so in most cases there were two features of black in the dress, add a black shoe then you have made your quota of three.
    But you have given great examples of when a nude or colored shoe compliments a dress perfectly!
    Good job Val... will be sharing this blog!

    1. Thanks Jane. Where does the rule of three come from BTW?