I felt like such a babe in this outfit.
Seriously, the dudes at the grocery store were giving me the eye.
There are a few general rules to follow when attempting to wear an ankle-strap shoe. The Nine West ones pictured above have a special place in my heart. I've owned them for years and I plan to keep them around for at least another decade or so. I bought them at TJ Maxx for around $5- no joke. They were missing the ribbon tie that is designed to hold the two side straps together, so they had been drastically marked down. Fortunately, there was a small arts and crafts store next door to the TJ's, so after I bought the shoes, I popped in there and bought a bunch of ribbon. And by "a bunch of ribbon," I mean a yard in just about every color in these shoes (which is a lot of colors). Honestly, had the shoes not been missing an essential piece, I might never have done that and therefore never owned what is actually a really versatile pair of amazing heels. On this particular day, I chose to wear them with a bright purple organza ribbon:
1.) The ankle strap itself- both the actual shoe ankle strap and the ribbon I've selected- are delicate and light.
2.) The ankle strap hits at the smallest part of my ankle and also has a slight downward direction.
3.) The heels are nice and tall.
These are all key factors in selecting a pair of flattering ankle-strap shoes. Of course, if you are a supermodel with thin, shapely legs, these things might not matter a great deal to you. If, however, you are like the millions of other women around the world with less than super-model-esque legs, these reasons will matter a great deal.
First, the size of the strap- how dainty and delicate it is- makes a difference. It contributes to the overall "weight" of the shoe. A thick, heavy strap will make the shoe (and the wearer) look thick and heavy. A thinner, more delicate strap will have the opposite effect. Keep in mind that thin and delicate are all relative- a 1/4 inch wide strap might be ideal for one person and be entirely too small for someone else. Be objective when you look in the mirror and choose a strap that is in proportion to your body. Also make sure the fit is right, particularly that the straps are not too tight. Even the thinnest person will look sausage-y if the straps are cutting into your skin too tightly.
My next point addresses not only where the ankle strap falls, but the direction it falls as well. A straight-across ankle strap will never be as flattering as one with a bit of a "V" shape or dip in the front. For this reason, T-strap shoes are often much more flattering than just an ankle strap alone. But if you aren't a fan of t-strap, look for an ankle strap that will hit at or below the smallest part of your ankle. If the strap cradles that "sweet spot" of your ankle, it will be more flattering.
Finally, an ankle strap will always- yes always- be more flattering in a high heel than in a flat. This is for the simple reason that high heels cause the muscles in our legs to flex, which makes them appear more toned and shapely. They also help elongate the leg because they are literally adding inches. In short, high heels give us longer, more toned legs, which is why we suffer in them. Beauty hurts.
So now that you understand how to choose the most flattering ankle-strap shoes, let's talk about the best way to wear them as part of an outfit. You can see in the picture above that I've selected a sleek pencil skirt that hits above the knee, and that has a very high waist. This is no accident. The high waistline elongates my leg line even further- this is a wardrobe manipulation I have talked about many times, so if you are a regular S...tNB reader, you should already know about this trick. Second, the slightly shorter hemline allows for more leg to show so that when it is finally cut off at the ankle, there is still quite a bit showing. A longer skirt paired with an ankle strap shoe would make my legs look stumpy, even if they were 5-inch heels. Finally, the shape of the skirt creates a long, thin silhouette- I would not benefit from a full skirt with this type of shoe. When trying to look tall and sleek, volume is not your friend.
So, there you have it- a crash course in pulling off the ankle-strap shoe. It might not be for everyone and that's okay. Honestly, if your legs are not something you like to feature, then the ankle strap shoe might not be a good choice for you. Instead, figure out what part of your body you DO want to showcase and choose clothing and shoes that will bring it out.
As always, comments are welcome!