Dress for Success: The 5 Shoes Every Woman Should Own

When people walk into my bedroom their first reaction always seems to be “you have so many shoes!” It is true, I have a major shoe addiction and my collection takes up more space in my room than my furniture (a fact I’m completely okay with). My collection runs from worn-down leopard ballet flats to pristine Dior stilettos to Old Navy dessert wedges. Some I wear once a year, some  I wear every other day. There are irrefutably a few pairs that are wardrobe staples that I think every woman should own. For each one I would recommend sticking with the classic stiletto shape , closed toe, and standard 3.5″ heel. These will be classic anchor pieces for your shoe collection and will be appropriate no matter the current trends.

1Black. This is a no brainer. Every woman needs a pair of black heels that they can turn to to make them feel like a million bucks. Whether you choose a flat black or a patent finish is simply a personal preference as both will work on most occasions. I personally live in my Cole Haan Air Talia pumps. They may be a little pricey for some but definitely worth the investment as the Nike technology they incorporate really make a difference (and if you do a little digging you can usually find them on sale)

2Brown. Another no brainer, a great brown shoe is just as necessary as a black shoe. There are a lot of variations with browns and exactly which shade will depend a lot on your personal preference. I tend to gravitate towards cognacs and dark tans but I have found myself wishing for a chocolate pair on more than one occasion.

3Nude/Beige. Nude heels have gained a lot of popularity over the last couple years. They lengthen bare legs and add a great contrast to an all black/dark outfit. For this particular color I would recommend a patent finish over a flat finish as they tend to look more polished (and don’t dirty as easily).

4Statement Color. You should have at least one pair of shoes that will add a great pop of color to any outfit. Your options are really endless depending on your personal taste and style. If you have more classic taste then go with a lipstick red (not a stripper red, which would be super bright, almost neon).  Other good colors include magenta, cobalt, and mustard. My personal “pop” shoes are teal satin Nine West platforms.

5Animal Print. I know that animal prints can be very polarizing for some people, you either love them or hate them. I personally love them and wear them frequently. If you’re on the fence or not the biggest fan of animal prints then one of the best ways to work them into your wardrobe is on your feet. I prefer snakeskin and giraffe over the expected leopard but appropriate options can be found in all patterns.


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  • Jennifer Gumbel

    I agree on the basic colors, but between hauling a one-year-old around and (more importantly) slogging through the mess that Minnesota winters bring, I’ve learned to shun heels for flats and ballet slippers.

  • I agree with Jennifer about the flats and ballet slippers. Why kill my feet, regardless of the season?

  • I will admit to being the owner of many, many pairs of red shoes, having bought three in one day a few years ago.

    My best recent career-shoe advice comes from observation and conversation with career services staff at a school that I visited recently: Do not wear 7-inch heels to an interview.

    When you walk into the interview room and give your excellent firm-not-dead-fish handshake and look your interviewer right in the eye, he or she will have noticed your stratospheric heels and, perhaps, focused on them more than you might like. Your interviewer might be concerned that you might topple over on her when you get up from your chair. This distraction (Who would be liable? Would this be a Worker’s Comp case?) may take away from your interviewer’s laser-like focus on your candidacy. Not worth the risk.

  • When I did an advocacy class in law school, I wore a pair of heels not 7 inches high, but probably 4 or 5. One of the comments from the volunteer jurors was not to wear such high heels. She in fact said that they were distracting because I didn’t seem comfortable and she was worried if I would keep my balance during the trial. So Susan, your advice is spot on!

  • The Wall Street Journal reminds us that tight ties and high heels can cause both pain and actual damage. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204909104577235313412770808.html