Which Shoes to Pair with Dresses and Selecting the Perfect Pair

Which Shoes to Pair with Dresses and Selecting the Perfect Pair

January 13, 2022
By Erin Clark

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So, you’ve found the perfect dress. The one that seems to glow when you spot it across the store or catch your eye as you’re about to give up scrolling on your favorite (sustainable) dress website.

You’re ready to hit the town, head out the door, or just play dress-up in your own home (no shame). But there’s one thing missing: shoes.

Shoe choice can absolutely make or break the perfect fit. You want to find a pair that compliments your outfit, completely speaks for themselves, or adds a pop of color or pattern to your ground-level fashion.

Sometimes it is just so tough to decide on and shop for that perfect pair. Although we are going to give you our best tips and tricks, really anything goes. Don’t be afraid to break the boundaries, make a bold choice, or do something never-before-seen. Sometimes the best outcomes come from the most unlikely pairs.

That being said, below you’ll find our guide for how to select, and rock, that shoe and dress match made in heaven.

You’ve Found the Perfect Dress…

Or maybe you haven’t, and you’re still looking. Or maybe the perfect dress for that holiday party or beach bonfire is somewhere in your closet, just waiting for a great pair of shoes to spice up the overall look.

While every dress can’t be Princess-Diana-Revenge-Dress iconic, you can still make a statement. Dresses are such a great option because they’re an entire outfit in just one piece. On top of that, they really never go out of style.

Although there are certainly trendier dresses than others, the classic styles are still in fashion and can serve as a staple in your closet for years.

Pairing the right shoe with your dress can be daunting. There are truly endless options. What may seem like an impossible task can really be tackled from the comfort of your own home. Try and choose something that either matches the vibe of your fashionable frock or try an out-of-the-box option.

The first step is finding a dress. We encourage you to shop sustainably and thoughtfully. The next step is where we often find ourselves stuck. Whether it is a simple ballet flat choice or an impossibly confusing smocked midi dress, we’ve got you.

Types of Dresses and How To Pair Shoes

There are tons of dress types out there. We’ve decided to break it into a few categories so you can more easily sift through the tips we’ve laid out. Whether it’s a prom dress or a t-shirt dress, switching up the shoes will take the look in completely different directions.

So read on, little fashionista, and draw inspiration from our suggested dress shoe duos. You might just find the inspiration you’ve been looking for!

Although there’s no clear-cut answer to the dress-type shoe-choice conundrum, we’ve laid a basic framework for where to get started.

For most of the dress types below, we’ve given you some warm and cold shoe guidance, as things can change drastically based on the weather. And for our formal girlies, we’ve divided that section into types of formal dress rather than the season. In terms of formal events, the show, despite the weather, must go on.

A-Line Dress

A-line dresses are a timeless classic. The term a-line refers to dresses whose hem is much wider than its shoulders. This means that shape more than anything is important to consider when pairing this dress type with the appropriate footwear.

Check out these adorable a-line dresses on Queenly!

For When It's Warmer

In the warmer months, a-line dresses are often worn to office parties, baby showers, and other semi-formal events. Because of this, we like to recommend a peep toe shoe or some trendy leather slide sandals.

Peep toe shoes originated as a French classic. In this case, bare toes go best with bare legs, so they are the perfect fit for a-line dresses and will allow you to show off that new pedicure.

For When It's Colder

We love to get creative when pairing shoes with a-line dresses. The simplicity of the style allows us to experiment with shoe choice. So, try out something out-of-the-ordinary like some riding boots to keep your legs warm and class up your look.

Or even experiment with some velvet ballet flats with a strap across the middle of the foot. Bringing back timeless classics like these with a sweet twist will tell your guests that you’re stylish and confident.

The Formal Dress

Ah, yes. The dress of all dresses. The glittering, floor-length work of art. Whether you’re headed to a formal wedding or your prom night, shoe choice is often something left to the last minute. Don’t make the same mistakes and plan ahead to find your glass-slipper-style perfect fit.

Side Slit Dresses

Side slit dresses truly allow you to show some skin and some shoe! This stunning dress is basically a picture frame for the perfect shoe.

In that case, choose something bold and bright. We love a dark dress pair with a bright heel for the perfect subtle-but-stylish pop of color. Although stilettos can be a hassle, this may just be your time to tackle that beast.

The combination of a slender heel and a side slit dress will give your look the right amount of glam. Try a shiny silver heel if you’re looking to add a bit of glitz as well.

Have a little fun in these side slit dresses:

Ball Gowns

Ball gown dresses truly always steal the show. The large skirt and bodice are a stunning silhouette. However, they often speak for themselves, so finding a pair of shoes that compliments the dress without being an overstatement is key.

In this case, stick with simple. Nude pumps are a fantastic option, as they’ll give you some height while peeking out just below the skirt.

Another great shoe option for ball gowns is simple strappy heels. Aim for silver, black, or nude to give your dress the perfect foundation.

This option may come as a surprise, but sneakers can be the perfect sneaky (get it?) shoe choice. They probably won’t be all that visible under your beautiful skirt, and they’ll provide hours of comfort and dancing.

Be the belle of the ball in these formal gowns:

Cocktail Dresses

While some may struggle to find the cocktail dress that is the perfect balance of functional and fashionable, once you’ve got it, the question of shoes becomes the primary concern.

If you’re aiming to dress up your look, try a skinnier heel, possibly even with an ankle wrapping element. The great thing about cocktail dresses is that they come in tons of great styles, so the floor really is yours when choosing what to pair with them.

On the other hand, if you’re going for a more shabby-chic casual look, try pairing your favorite cocktail dress with a dainty pair of socks and some sleek loafers. Throw on a blazer or oversized jean jacket and all of a sudden you’re ready to walk the runway. Thank us later.

Go from day to night in these gorgeous cocktail ‘fits:

Bodycon Dress

Bodycon dresses are the frock of your form-hugging dreams. These dresses tend to be tight and fitted and can come in a variety of colors, necklines, and patterns.

The shoes you choose to wear with your bodycon dress really depends on what you’ll be doing, so keep in mind form, function, and fashion when making this choice.

More formal occasions often call for a high heel, whereas a long sleeve bodycon dress, a flannel, and some ugg boots can even serve as a cozy casual classic.

Try these flattering body con dresses for your next event!

For When It's Warmer

When it comes to bodycon dresses, it can be the perfect opportunity to go big or go home. Because the dress is always tight, the shoes you choose to pair can really go in any direction.

We love to see a bodycon dress for a night out or semi-formal dance. In both of these cases, colorful pumps can be your best friend. Maybe even go for a fun pattern or new color to spice things up.

When in doubt, walk it out. Practice walking in heels around your house before you commit to a whole evening. They sure are beautiful but may come at the cost of comfort.

If you’re not a big heel person, look for point-toe flats or platform sandals to keep the semi-formal look going without going full-on stiletto.

For When It's Colder

Although knee-high boots have their moments, this may not be one of them. We love to see a bodycon dress paired with over-the-knee or ankle-length boots. Both of these tend to accentuate the length of your legs and give a nice contrast from the dress.

The over-the-knee style gives your bodycon dress a more dressed-up feel, while ankle boots can lean more toward the casual side. But, this isn’t always the case.

Try a brown leather over-the-knee boot to make this option a bit more casual. As for the ankle boots, a stark white leather option will get your look rated trendiest in the room. Add some sheer tights and a great bag to complete this form-fitting look.

The Shift Dress

East, breezy, beautiful. The shift dress serves as our shapeless staple. Super versatile and easy to throw on, this dress shape provides tons of options for shoe pairings. With a simple dress like this, it’s fun to play around with a more casual look or even try dressing it up for some day-to-night continuity.

These straight shift dresses are a wardrobe must-have:

For When It's Warmer

A shift dress in the summer is oftentimes a godsend. Ever been too hot for shorts? Sometimes the sweaty, sticky weather calls for one thing and one thing only. And that is a shift dress. When this is the case, try a strappy brown leather sandal. The less material the better, in this case.

What can also work with a shift dress in the warmer months is a pair of sneakers. Picture this, a striped shift dress with a cross body bag, high pony, and some white trainers. Adorable. Show-stopping. Simple.

For When It's Colder

Although not as common, shift dresses can make an appearance in the winter. Layering a plain turtleneck and some tights under your dress can make it immediately a wintertime outfit. In this case, there are two main shoe choices that we like to stick to.

First, boots. Although boots in the winter may not seem groundbreaking, they are the perfect match for your free-flowing shift dress. Usually, we have a height preference, but in the case of the shift dress, pretty much everything goes. Try a knee-high option for optimal warmth or a Chelsea boot with a pair of warm socks.

Second, flats. Another timeless classic, the ballet flat will never fail you. When done right, they are the perfect elegant end to a great outfit. And as long as you’re not in a blizzard, they’ll do just fine for the colder months. Try a pointed-toe flat for a more formal look or a pop of color to slip on your feet.

The Midi Dress

Talk about on-trend. The midi-length has certainly made a comeback in recent years, and we are so here for it. Midi dresses are flattering, modest, and ultra-fashionable.

Grab these midi dresses for maximum style!

For When It's Warmer

A sleeveless, bustier midi dress is perfect for your summer picnic, semi-formal dance, or beach party. Although the latter may not even need shoes at all, there are great options for shoe-pairing with a lightweight maxi dress.

We recommend pairing some shorter heels with this dress style. Try a short, chunky-heeled shoe with an ankle and toe strap. These will keep you comfortable while giving you some much-appreciated height.

For When It's Colder

A long-sleeved midi dress can be the perfect vehicle for clean lines and rich color in the colder months. Try a burgundy or deep green to bring out the feeling of the winter season. In terms of footwear, we love pairing this calf-length dress style with a strappy kitten heel for a holiday party or a fitted suede heeled ankle boot for a more laid-back look.

Bonus: Specific Duos That Truly Deserve an Honorable Mention

Although we’ve tried to provide a generalized foundation for you to begin your shoe matching journey, there are some combos that are a bit too specific but are still magic when paired together.

- Babydoll dress and flat sandals - This dress style is the perfect dainty spring item, and a great opportunity to show off some leg. Pair this dress with some flat sandals that wrap up the ankle for some extra texture and style.

- Puff-sleeve mini dress and platform sandals - Need we say more? Combine these two trends for a sweet-yet-edgy vibe by combining a floral dress and matte black leather platform sandals. Chef’s kiss.

- Ribbed tank dress and white sneakers - Sporty and chic, yes, please. Grab your favorite sunnies and sneakers and prepare for wherever the day takes you, in style.

- White maxi dress and Birkenstocks - Pairing an eyelet, sleeveless white dress with these casual sandals will give you the cottage core style of your dreams. Grab your reusable bags and hit the farmer’s market.

- Relaxed mini and espadrilles - Hello, summer. Espadrilles provide a stunning texture and earth-toned piece to any look. This outfit says: effortless.

- Sweater dress and over-the-knee boots - The boots will elongate your legs while balancing the texture of your fav sweater dress. Throw on a long coat and you’ll be ready to brave the colder months.

- Romper and open-toe mules - We know, not technically a dress. But we would be remiss not to mention mules, the comfort shoe of the high heel world. A short, earth-toned romper and a great pair of mules can take you all the way from the grocery store to your sister's beach wedding.

Some Final Thoughts

Remember that there is no wrong answer. Personal style should be a matter dealt with between you and yourself. We’re so glad you’re drawing some inspiration and looking around to find the perfect fit, but remember that if you don’t love it, you’ll never feel good.

Opt for the shoe that will keep you feeling confident all day, or night, long. Looking for some height without the heel, try a flatter platform sandal or sneaker. Want to get multiple uses out of your favorite mini dress, start the day in sneaks and switch them out for some killer pumps when the sun sets.

When flip flops are too casual but heels would ruin the ease that a sundress brings, it can be quite the predicament. Been wanting to try a new color trend? Aim for a simple shoe shape to accomplish this without going all out.

Even casual shoes can be great matches for a sundress or sweater dress. Pair your combat boots with a sequined dress, who knows, it might be your best look yet!

Whatever shoes you choose, strut with style and the rest will follow!

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