Reader Request: Incorporating Colorful Shoes

How to wear colorful shoes

An anonymous commenter said:

I’d be thrilled if you could talk about how you choose shoe styles and shoe colors to go with the rest of the outfit. I only recently become bold enough to buy shoes that weren’t black and by not black, I mean brown, gray, and beige/cream. I’m very unsure about how to approach colors as well as styles. Like how do you determine whether a pair of shoes goes with a skirt/dress, pants, or both?

Oooh, fun, fun, fun! I’m a huge fan of bright footwear and believe that there are many reasons to move beyond black shoes and embrace vibrant tones. For starters, colorful shoes are fantastic way to wear colors that don’t play nicely with your complexion; Yellow sweaters may make you look ill, but yellow shoes will just make you look bold. Colorful shoes allow you to wear conservative clothing, but still let your quirky side peek through. Bright shoes are a fabulous way to incorporate more color variety into your wardrobe and daily wear. And besides all that, they’re just plain fun. Times three. As indicated by my semi-coherent introductory sentence.

Here are a few ways that I like to incorporate colorful shoes into my outfits:


Bright shoes don’t necessarily need to be worn with bright clothing. If you’re fearful of looking like a child’s finger-painting by overloading on the colors, let your bright shoes be a simple pop of color against neutrals.

Here, white, khaki, and tan are a muted mix allowing the cobalt shoes and necklace to pop. The bright shoes have a bright accessory partner elsewhere in the outfit, which is not required, but helps create a cohesive ensemble quickly and easily.


Why does this technique come up so often? Because it WORKS, people. Just as the necklace/shoe pairing pictured in the first outfit creates a shortcut to cohesion, adding a piece of clothing that mirrors your brightly colored shoes will help those shoes seem like a natural choice. Cardigans, blazers, and shrugs or even scarves and shawls can work wonders toward drawing vibrant shoes into the mix. For a refined look, create some distance between the shoes and their colorful friend. Here the pumps and bolero are separated by the navy sheath and striped obi.


If you’re not much for layering, draw your shoe’s color out by wearing a top or dress that includes the same shade. As you can see here, a little dab will do ya: Just that splash of red in the beige top makes the shoes seem like a natural choice.


If you’re interested in doing color all over and want your shoes to join in the fun, a mix of shades in the same value family will do the trick. Here, that means loads and loads of muted, dusky purples and lavenders. With reds, you could include brick, maroon, and even pinker shades like fuschia and magenta. Blues could include cobalt, steel blue, and navy. To make your mix look intentional try to get at least three different tones of the same color into your ensemble.

Originally posted 2011-01-31 06:15:54.

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54 Responses to “Reader Request: Incorporating Colorful Shoes”

  1. poet

    As usually, these are all awesome outfits and good strategies! I would totally wear monochrome sunshine yellow πŸ™‚ Unfortunately I’m one of those boring sensible people who hardly buy colorful shoes, so I can’t even begin to emulate you in this respect… maybe I’ll start buying more colorful shoes in the future.


  2. Cynthia

    I love colored shoes (and boots!). I have lots of colored clothes, so I just make sure that whatever color shoes I’m wearing picks up some color element of the rest of the outfit.

  3. Freya

    Your posts are always so inspiring! I myself am a big fan of the colour popping – Every girl has to have a pair of red shoes…

  4. Casey

    This is insanely helpful, Sal! I’m trying to get out of my “neutral” shoe rut I seem to have fallen into the past couple years. All my closet is populated with right now are cream, black and brown shoes (with a random red shoe here or there). *sigh* Soooo boring! I’m determined to get at least two pairs of colorful shoes over the course of this year, preferably in some color other than blue and possibly something as unusual-for-me as yellow or green. πŸ™‚ Though purple would be dreamy too…

    β™₯ Casey

    • JennyDC

      Purple (dark purple) and olive are basically neutrals! Both go well with grays and khakis, some purples go very well with dark browns, and I think both also could go with black. And jeans, of course. I’m thinking of pants colors people are more likely to wear. I also have a pair of dark maroon patent pumps that I wear all the time (usually with gray, tan/khaki, or black pants) and always get compliments on them. Oh, and I pair my olive flats with a skirt that is a medium blue green, a bit bluer than teal. Looks great.

      I hit a point where I decided to allow myself to buy ONLY colored shoes, no more black! Now all my black ones are worn out, guess I need some black shoes.

  5. Stacie @ Imperfectly Healthy

    I’m drawn to colorful shoes when I’m in stores, but I’m always afraid they won’t get enough wear for the money or for the space they take up (I live in NY where space is precious!). I still really want a pair of red shoes though – maybe someday soon!

  6. Mistie Watkins

    I loved the sunshine yellow outfit!

    With my bright shoes, I like to use the pop of color technique. Although, I’m also a big fan of using my shoes and accessories to add a contrasting color to a monochromatic look.

  7. Alyssa

    Ah! This is so helpful! I have this awesome pair of hot pink pumps I got at a vintage store and I feel they sit in my closet WAY too much because I simply don’t know what to do with them!! Thanks for the tips!

  8. Maven

    I think red is practically a neutral where shoes are concerned these days, so I’d only add that if you’re thinking of branching out, red is a good place to start.

  9. MJ

    This was crazy helpful!! I was nervous about wearing colorful shoes too, but after seeing a personal style blogger pull off school bus yellow pumps with a cute LBD, I just had to try it! I’m glad I did too and my favorite way to wear colorful shoes is against a neutral outfit. I love the way it makes the outfit pop!

  10. La Historiadora de Moda

    I am a fan of colorful shoes and boots and employee all of these strategies.

    Sadly, I have never found the perfect pair of yellow pants on which I quested for a year. If I had, I would definitely join in for yellow monochromatic playtime!

  11. L.

    What a great question and great answers! I too use these strategies for incorporating colorful shoes. I would also say that it’s easier to wear bright shoes in the warmer months of the year, so if you’re color-shy you might want to ease your way in that way.E. also has a pair of orange shoes that she does some magic with as well.

  12. angie

    Nice post!

    I love bright shoes. Your first pair of pumps are delicious and they launched me into orbit this morning.

  13. erindyan

    Awwww. Summer Sal Shoes. A rare beast indeed. I loved getting the chance to see them again! I forgot about a couple of them!

  14. Nanina

    Great idea each with the necklaces and patterns! I usually take the color of my shoes up again in a belt. Or my bag. Or both πŸ™‚

  15. Courtney

    I find that colorful shoes are often available at thrift and consignment stores – perhaps they don’t get as much use as black/gray/navy/brown shoes? I’ve got a great pair of red boots ($20, in excellent condition, on consignment) and a heart-stopping pair of purple wedge boots ($8 on consignment) that I’m wearing today with charcoal slacks, a purple blouse and a lighter gray jacket.

    • Maria

      Oooh, some major shoe envy ongoing here πŸ™‚ I love colorful shoes. Some ten years ago I used to have a pair of dark cherry patent pumps (major sale at the time!) that proved to be amazingly versatile – neutral enough to not stand out too much but colorful enough to give a lovely pop of color and draw tons of compliments!

  16. Gracey

    Oooh, I love brightly colored shoes and I think you’re spot on with your recommendations. The only other thing I would add is that if you’re new to wearing brightly colored shoes, wear them with an outfit you’re very comfortable in. That way it’ll offset whatever qualms you have about wearing a bright shoe.

  17. Vanessa

    I love bright shoes and I really wish I had more. I’ve always loved the outfit you posted above of you in the floral tee and red heels. Those shoes are just perfect!

  18. Zoe, All for Style

    I absolutely LOOOOOOOOOOVE the first pair. I wanted a funky pair just for spring and those are the ones I want! I would probably wear them with a simple outfit to allow those shoes to do the talking πŸ™‚

  19. Megan Mae

    I looove colorful shoes. I employ them in anyway possible, but I try to follow the above guidelines. Sometimes though a colorful pair just “goes” with the rest of the outfit even if the color isn’t anywhere else.

  20. Sheila

    I often use my coloured shoes as a contrast – I wear my plum purple pumps with emerald green all the time.

  21. Mugdha

    This post alone was enough to make me want to be your best friend. I love statement shoes, and I’m pretty sure I’m in love with every way you’ve worn yours!

  22. Mindy K

    I have a pair of Dr. Scholl’s zebra print flats that I pretty much wear like I would a pair of black flats. It’s surprising just how many outfits and work with zebra print!

  23. kristin

    I love colorful shoes! They can really add a lot to an outfit. Your examples are great – I especially love the last one (lavendar), so pretty!

  24. Sophie

    thanks for this brilliantly useful post, your logic is so helpful. I don’t think I have any colourful footwear, but I think I just might push myself to make a carefully selected choice. I want to shop now! Best wait til 30×30 is done tho…

  25. Jenna

    I’ve recently started looking to Jayma Mays as Emma Pillsbury on “Glee” as a fashion inspiration. Her character successfully wears a lot of brights, including shoes. She even has an all-yellow monochrome outfit that reminds me of your example here!

  26. Fabienne Jach

    I love all your colored shoes! I didn’t start following you until Fall so I missed all the color in your wardrobe. Lovely!

    Such beautiful tattoos, too!

  27. joann, sidewalk chic

    Excellent post, Sal! I really love your monochrome outfit.

    I don’t have that many colorful pairs of shoes in my outfits, mainly because I usually focus on more colorful clothing and I’m a bit rough on my shoes (outdoor photos in the woods tend to do that). You’re inspiring me to finally nab a pair of red shoes, though … πŸ™‚

  28. Liz

    Ha, as I’m writing this, I’m wearing bright yellow patent leather shoes, and bright yellow earrings, with the rest of my outfit being black and white, so YES! I am a fan of brightly coloured shoes. And tights. And rainbow coloured clothes…I think I might have a colour addiction.

  29. Anna

    This entire post was great! I was trying to pick a favorite example, but every example was lovely and helpful!

  30. Sheila

    I adore coloured shoes – they far outnumber the black and brown shoes in my wardrobe! In fact, a couple of years ago, I had to go search out a pair of classic brown pumps because I didn’t own any.

    I use most of your techniques (not so much with all one colour), but my favourite is to play the shoe off an accent colour in the outfit (eg. red boots and a red necklace).

  31. Erin

    What a wonderful and inspiring post! This spring I want to embrace colour and break out of my black winter uniform. Your colour combos definitely inspired me to pick some different wardrobe choices so I can buy some bright cute shoes!

  32. Aditi

    I like this!
    I am not much of a necklace person, but I do introduce ‘pops of colour’ by matching dangly colourful earrings and shoes. Or by matching a scarf/stole and shoes.

  33. Reylyn

    Brava again, Sal! You’ve broken this down beautifully! I’ve got some fun magenta peeptoes and teal peptoe slingbacks that I like to throw into the mix and I utilize the same principles you’ve shared in this post.

    Wouldn’t you know, I’ve just retired my favorote brown wedge heels and my black peep toe sling backs just broke while I’m here at work. Looks like my fun,colorful shoes will need to “step up” and help get me through the rest of the work week until I can buy new neutral shoes.

  34. Robin Louise

    Most of my shoes are pretty neutral. I wear a lot of bright colors and patterns, and only own a few pairs of shoes, so I try to keep them neutral to go with everything. Recently, I got a pair of red pumps that are “stone cold” as the security guard in the plaza I work at put it. However, they are about a half size too big, so they have not gotten much wear! I have been thinking about tying a grosgrain ribbon around the bottom and bowing it on top. Too cutesy?

  35. Haley

    While getting dressed the other day, I realised that everything I own is navy, gray or black. Time for a change!
    Those yellow shoes are absolutely amazing. Where are they from? Is there any chance of me being able to play the copy-cat?

    • Sal

      Haley, they’re Dr. Scholls and I got ’em on sale for about $6 on 6pm last winter. Don’t think they’re available any more!

  36. Trina

    Thank you very much for this! I fell in love with a pair of red flats at Torrid a week ago and wasn’t quite sure how to use them, so this post was very timely. Otherwise I might have ended up always wearing them with neck-to-ankle black and never doing anything else with them. Or just being too nervous to wear them at all. Instead, I got a couple compliments on how I look today.

    Also, that red-flower tee that you’re wearing with the red heels and neutral skirt? Gorgeous. Especially with the red bracelet and the green tattoo so near your shoes.

  37. Holly

    Oh that was me who left the anonymous comment! I don’t know why I left it anonymously. ;P

    Thank you so much for responding! I am educated and inspired. I love how you paired the cobalt shoes with the neutral colors. And the khaki/beige skirt and graphic tee combination is stunning.

    I am definitely lusting after brightly colored shoes now that I have some idea of how to deploy them

  38. Anonymous

    I love my bright shoes. I do sometimes have a difficult time working them into my wardrobe. Thanks for the tips.

  39. Zahira

    I’m so glad I found your blog! I just love your tips, and your sense of style. =)