You Asked For It: Shoes for Maxi Dresses

Greetings friends and lovers, yesterday dear reader Helena wrote in with the following query:

Do you think it is appropriate to wear blue wedge espadrilles with a Chico’s maxidress and lightweight cotton sweater to a wedding in June? It’s at the Newark Museum in fabulous downtown Newark, NJ. Thanks in advance. The Chico’s lady told me to wear strappy sandals but with my size 11, not particularly nice feet, I vetoed that immediately.

I know what you’re thinking, and although the jokes just write themselves (I mean Chico’s and the Garden State? It’s a slow soft one right down the middle), one must always remember that some are born Newark, some achieve Newark and some –presumably like our friend Helena– have Newark thrust upon them.

That being said, I’m not entirely sure espadrilles –which I love and will feature in an upcoming post– are the way to go here.

One of the few fashion rules actually reliable in the real world is “the longer the skirt, the flatter the shoe.”

The inverse –shorter skirts require higher heels– often is true as well, but it’s by no means as reliable and should be approached with fear and trembling, especially in New Jersey.

I love maxi dresses because they are so effortless. In fact, the only time I see a maxi dress gone truly wrong is when some well-meaning but inevitably dopey-looking person Tries Too Hard.

Jean Arthur in a hostess gown circa 1929


The maxi is the natural descendant of the hostess gown, a floor-length dress popularized in the late 1920s and so called because it was an easy but elegant uniform for casual gatherings at home, especially in the late evening as they historically incorporated elements most often found in negligees and had a sort of glamorous pajama chic.  Their popularity has been cyclical –the last time we really saw a major resurgence was the early 1970s– but ankle-grazers have been going strong for several years and it looks like we’re in for one of those rare, decade-long trends (see also: boot cut jeans).

Prior to to the baby boom, a hostess gown might be worn with low-heeled mules, but when maxis re-emerged slightly before the days of disco –thank YOU, Halston– they were considerably less formal and best served by nearly pancake flat sandals.

Do we think that's Marisa Berenson modeling a homemade hostess gown in Woman's Day, 1967?

The same holds true today.

I tried on all four of my maxi dresses with shoes of varying heights and the highest heel that didn’t look actively bad was a 1 1/2″ wedge.

As owner of not one but two “size 11, not particularly nice feet” I understand your hesitation re: strappy sandals. They’re questionable as a species in the best of times since so often they show a lack of discipline, surely one of the few cases where more straps equals less restraint.

Instead of espadrilles or strappy sandals, here are five appealing but relatively minimalist sandals, streamlined enough to be elegant, but casual enough to reinforce the effortless glamor of a maxi dress (which I’m sure you’ll be accessorizing with a shawl or wrap instead of a cardigan and one –count ‘em ONE– piece of Major Statement Jewelry and little else, correct?)

Read on the see the shoes


The Larissa from Cole Haan, available in four colors and two widths, this has a micro wedge and is special enough for a casual wedding but could easily serve double duty with jeans.


The Zigi Intrigue in burnished gold or pewter is a little fancier though still not flashy, and the lovers knot is a sweet touch for a wedding especially if you’re one of those sentimental types who loves love and gives the stink eye whenever I try to add a discreet fiver to the divorce pool at the reception.


On the ultra-minimalist end of the spectrum we have the Frye Madison braided sandal.  It’s got the Greek thing happening, which might be nice if the reception involves wine, philosophy, and drunken acts of sodomy (and really, what reception doesn’t?) and since it’s Frye, you know they’ll last forever.


One of the rare examples of the well-executed strappy sandal, the Delman D-Shaya is streamlined and elegant. It’s also on pretty significant sale which makes it extra appealing, especially for a blue chip brand like Delman.

Finally for the budget minded there’s the perfectly serviceable Gigi from Sam Edelman. It’s available in approximately six squillion colors including this unusual combination.


They’re worth a look in the entirely likely event being seen in New Jersey without at least some leopard print is a criminally punishable offense.

 

 

12 Responses to “You Asked For It: Shoes for Maxi Dresses”

  1. Thinposter May 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Just in time! I have just recently gotten over my fear that a maxi dress will make me look like Audra Lindley, and ordered this one from Boden, in navy:
    http://www.bodenusa.com/en-US/Womens-Dresses/Below-Knee-Dresses/WH324/Womens-Appliqué-Jersey-Maxi.html?NavGroupID=4
    I have no idea how to wear it. Now I just hope it is short enough that I can wear flat sandals without tripping over the un-shortenable hem.

  2. Lise in NJ May 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    The Neward Museum is a surprisingly nice small exhibition space with a few very nice collections. Certainly, a shawl rather than a cardigan.

  3. Orora May 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Here’s my issue with all of these sandals: There is no arch support to be seen anywhere. Those of us with with flat arches need something with a little support, or the plantar fasciitis will be incredible come October. Any ideas?

  4. SarahDances May 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    @Plumcake, these are all lovely, but can I take a moment to complain on behalf of those of us who simply cannot abide thingies between our toes? When did all shoe designers get together and decide that all flat strappy sandals shall, from this day forward, include toe floss? It makes me insane!

    @Orora: Hey there, plantar fasciitis club! I have actually had great success with Cole Haan in recent years. They were bought by Nike, and use Nike air technology in all their shoes these days. I find them to be the best as far as actually cute shoes go. I’ve also has decent luck with Sofft. Neither brand offers orthotic level support, naturally, but better than the vast majority of flats out there which do nothing.

  5. Miss Plumcake May 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I understand all my readers are special special snowflakes by their very nature and of course my consulting services are available for all your delicate petal needs at my standard rate, but until this blog is bought out and becomes Sensible Shoes for the Big Girl, sometimes the sensitive, flat-footed (though I’m flat footed and have no problems) and otherwise afflicted are, unfortunately, just going to have to lump it.

  6. Helena Z. Wilson May 17, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    Thank you for your immediate and sensitive response. The blue espadrilles arrived today from 6PM.com and while really rather slipper like, I think I’m going to just go with them. Agree about the toe floss and as I mentioned, I don’t want to put my large feet/bunions/etc. on display. The blue of the espadrille will pop (Oh God, how I hate that expression) and since the dress is pretty long, they will hopefully just peek out. And I will be able to dance. Chico’s really isn’t all that bad (for the older, larger woman, which I am). And neither is Newark.

  7. Lisa from SoCal May 18, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    aiiiiiigh so pretty! These are what I refer to as “The Shoes of Heartbreak.” I remember once Twistie referred to her feet as “cubes” and it made me laugh and laugh. Mine are rectangular solids. I have a trifecta: big, wide, and high arches. Isn’t that sad? The high arch/wide combo means there is no ability to wear the cute thongie shoes such as these. Actually, it means no cute shoes ever. Because if you can find it WW, it’s not a 10. If it’s a 10, it’s no a WW, and if by magic I find both WW and 10, the high arch disqualifies everything but pumps and….sad….birks…and sad…tennis shoes. I can’t even wear those cute topsiders. Forget penny loafs.

    Unless I buy men’s.

    Sad.

    I love love love the Gigi sandal here. I hope some of you can wear these in great joy, while throwing whatever it is you are allowed to throw at weddings show the good luck but without killing birds. Money, probably.

  8. dcsurfergirl May 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    Note Jean Arthur’s closed-toe shoes in the top photo. What about wearing pumps that coordinate with the dress? Who needs sore feet drama?

  9. Helena Z. Wilson May 18, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Just to clarify: they are not the village-in-Espagna type of espadrilles but a closed toe, Vigotti brand, with a sling back and some strappiness. I don’t want you to think I’m not listening to your advice. I love all those flat sandals you show and agree that a flat shoe looks good with a maxi (that’s how I wore them in the 70’s, anyhow). Going to try the whole thing on for hubby later. He has a surprisingly good eye for a nerd.

  10. Thea May 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Another member of the plantar fasciitis club here (and yer just cruuuuuuel to mock us Plummy ;-) Many of us got this way because we lurved our heels and they didn’t love us back and YOUR DAY MAY COME MISSY!

    There are now light weight plastic orthotics that you can slip into wafer thin sandals. I ordered them at my local sensible shoe store. Waiting for them to get here, so I can’t vouch for em yet, but hope springs

  11. Jezebella May 18, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    Thea, what is the brand name of said orthotics? I would so like to be able to purchase NON-sensible flat shoes and wear them for more than ten minutes in a row.

  12. Robyn from Jersey City May 19, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    HEY! ;-)