I’m going to my niece’s “formal” wedding soon, my first since the pandemic. I have a nice dress to wear, but I don’t know what to do with shoes. I’ve sworn off heels – I don’t need them for work and just got tired of the pain – but sneakers won’t cut it. What is the best occasion option that will look stylish and appropriate for the event while not making me look like a child? – Ruth Ann, Bloomfield, Conn.
Yoko Ono married John Lennon in apartments. Keira Knightley married her husband, musician James Righton, in apartments. Jerry Hall married Rupert Murdoch in apartments. OK, maybe that last example wasn’t the best since they’re now parting ways, but the point is: If these women, very much in the public eye, can go flat out for what is one of the most important dress-up moments of their lives, the rest of us also wear them.
There are such things as formal occasions—and as Christian Louboutin, of red sole fame and a man who undoubtedly spends more time than most of us thinking about the Tao of footwear, said when I asked, they “have no age limit. (Then he added, “51 is the new 15!”)
But what do they look like?
There are so many possible options that it might be best to start with what not to wear. Ballet flats, the acceptable comfortable flat shoe-that-isn’t-a-sneaker since Audrey Hepburn wore them in “Funny Face,” can look childish and clichéd. Ditto Mary Janes. (There’s nothing wrong with a little fashion irony, but maybe not for a wedding.)
Strappy sandals and mules are airy in the heat, but they require a lot of foot care. If you’re going to reveal your toes and heels during a formal occasion, you’ll want to make sure those toes and heels don’t look like the digits of a Disney-worthy evil stepmother. (Bad juju.) Depending on your tolerance for mitts and pedicures, that might mean the best option is a simple closed-toe and heel style, perhaps with something of a point, rather than rounded toe and a streamlined profile.
Then focus on color and decoration. In the absence of eye-catching heels, this is what will elevate – no pun intended – your flat shoe game.
Sir. Louboutin suggests that instead of trying to match your shoes to your dress, the best strategy is to either match your shoes to your skin (in 2013, he began offering a line called “naked” which has grown to include eight different skin tones) or choose metallic ones gold and silver. Both choices have the advantage of working with a variety of outfits, meaning they are an economical option.
(In general, the better the materials and structure, the longer a shoe will last and the more comfortable it will be — but also the more expensive. You’ll have to weigh the cost-benefit analysis, but this is an item that may be worth a little of a multitude that will pay off over time.)
You can play with embroidery and sparkling additions that transform a basic occasion into something special. For inspiration, watch Dior couture shoes shown in January; designer Maria Grazia Chiuri treated her flats and near-flats like jewelry, encasing them in jet pearls and practically making them objets d’art unto themselves. Then check out Badgley Mischka’s sparkly slip-ons or ankle strap styles and Nine West’s rhinestone speak up.