My rule of thumb for heels in the office is to dress so that when I tell someone I’m an attorney, they are not surprised. Clearly this means there are certain clothes and shoes I never wear. Specifically, it means I don’t wear sexy, strappy, colorful, platform shoes to work.
Obviously, every office is different. The Devil Wears Prada is one of my favorite movies and I love seeing the outfits that Patricia Field arranged. One of my favorite scenes is when the main character gets a makeover and struts into the office wearing thigh-high Chanel boots. Although I love the outfit and it may be appropriate for the office when you work for a fashion magazine, I would never wear thigh-high boots to the office, Chanel or not.
Think of the following dos and don’ts for heels in the office as guidelines. You’ll have to use your own knowledge and experience of your office culture and how conservative or liberal the dress code is when deciding on footwear. Some heels work no matter what office you’re in and others will never work no matter how trendy and edgy your office environment may be. Use this advice when making decisions about the grey area between these two and understanding the lines you should never cross.
- Do – Ankle Boots
These are especially desirable when it’s cold outside. Opt for a chunky heel over a stiletto and only wear boots if your dress code is business casual. In my humble opinion, boots are already a little iffy for the office, but a stiletto heel pushes them over the edge.
- Don’t — Anything that Stretches Over the Knee
Calf-height boots fit in the grey area between a do and a don’t. Be judicious about wearing these to the office. Like ankle boots, I would only wear them if your dress code is business casual. And obviously, never wear anything higher than calf-height to the office.
- Do – Keep the Height Around Two to Three Inches
I usually push it to four inch heels, like the ones in this article, but when my heels are higher I shy away from loud patterns or bright colors. For example, the only four inch heels I wear to work are pretty nondescript, don’t have patterns, and are basic beige or black.
- Do – Experiment with Patterns More Than Colors
I’m obsessed with the tweed pumps I’m wearing in the photos at the bottom of this article. Even though the pattern is a little busy, these are appropriate for work because they’re black and white. These same shoes in a bright yellow or neon pink might not be appropriate for work. The bold pattern and risky color would be overwhelming.
- Do – Wear Chunky Heels
They are so comfortable and easy to walk in! You’re missing out if you don’t have a pair already.
- Do – Try Heels with a Bit of Embellishment on Them
Try a pair with a small tassle or a buckle on them (I said a buckle, not seven buckles).
- Don’t – Wear Shoes with a Platform
Aside from the shoe being pretty clunky, these Jessica Simpson heels aren’t appropriate because of the large platform. I typically encourage women not to wear a shoe with a platform to work at all, but definitely stay away from any platform higher than half an inch.
- Don’t – Wear Anything with Any Sparkle On It
This means no sequins or rhinestones. Also, no matter how small and dainty they are, don’t wear spike embellishment on heels for work. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear shoes with any added detail. It just means that, when there is some additional design element, make sure it is subtle and doesn’t make you think of Halloween or horror movies.
- Don’t – Wear Bright Colors
I say no to neon heels in the office. Beige/brown, black, grey, and navy are safe colors. You can branch outside of these, but I’d proceed with caution. If you’re going with orange, I’d make sure it’s a burnt orange. If you choose green, I’d stick with a dark, rich olive green. The same goes for red (burgundy is safe) and other colors. Of course, there are lots of exceptions but this is a good general rule.
OPEN TOE HEELS
- Do – Wear Peep Toe Shoes
There is nothing wrong with a little peep toe. A small one. We don’t want to see all your toes. One or two is fine, but please not the whole set.
- Don’t – Wear Strappy Shoes, Including the Popular Two-Strap Shoes
Unless your office dress code is casual (not business casual, but casual) I would not wear the popular two-strap shoes, here. Honestly, I wouldn’t even wear them to work if the dress code was casual, but I tend to opt for a more conservative style. I would never wear the two strap with a suit, either, no matter how many bloggers I see on Pinterest wearing them.
The two-strap is just too casual to wear with business casual or business formal clothes. If you’re standing next to a guy wearing dress shoes and your feet are almost completely visible, you’ll end up looking underdressed. Stick with a peep toe or closed toe shoe.
Just make sure they aren’t in loud colors like bright pink or bright red (a deep, rich burgundy would be acceptable, though)
- Do — Check out the White Collar Glam Pinterest Board on Work Shoes, here
If you need some inspiration for work shoes, you can find over 100 different work-appropriate shoes on the WCG Pinterest Board – “Work Shoes.” This includes both heels and flats!
- Don’t – Wear Over-the-Top or Risqué Shoes Just Because Someone Else Did
One final important note – don’t think that a particular pair of heels is appropriate just because you saw someone else in your office wearing them. One person getting away with wearing inappropriate shoes isn’t a hall pass to do the same. Err on the side of caution and aim to be a good example for others when it comes to office dress. Trust me, your colleagues will notice (even if they never tell you).
Have questions about a specific shoe? Message me here and I’ll address any inquiries you have!
Pictured below: dress (Calvin Klein, old), jacket (H&M, old), pumps (Ann Taylor Jolie Tweed Bow Pumps, here).