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Is it OK to match the dress and shoes?

Is it OK to match the dress and shoes?

Matching your dress and shoes used to be considered a major fashion faux pas. However, like many style “rules,” this one has evolved over time. Nowadays, purposefully coordinating your dress and shoes can be an elegant, stylish choice in many circumstances. That said, there are still some considerations to keep in mind before rocking head-to-toe color.

When to Match

Matching dress and shoes can work for a variety of events and outfits, including:

  • Formal occasions: Many gowns and formal dresses are now designed to be worn with matching shoes. A monochromatic dress and shoe combo can look elegant and polished.
  • uniforms: employees in uniforms like nurses, security guards, and more frequently opt for a matching shoe in an effort to pull their look together .
  • Business looks: A matching suit set with matching heels looks professional and confident for work. Just stay away from overly bright colors and focus on darker more neutral shades.
  • Tailored dresses and separates: A coordinated two-piece outfit or sheath dress looks refined with matching footwear. This helps lengthen the leg line.
  • Daytime events and parties: A matching day dress and shoe is a classic choice for events like bridal showers, baby showers, and garden parties.
  • Monochromatic outfits: An all-black, all-red, or other tone on tone outfit can feel bold yet effortless with exact matching shoes.

When to Avoid Matching

While matching dress and shoes can definitely work, there are a few occasions that call for a more contrasting shoe choice:

  • Casual everyday wear: Matching feels a bit too dressy and overdone for jeans and a tee or other laidback looks.
  • Bright colors: Pairing a bright dress with equally bright shoes can risk looking overpowering.
  • Stark whites: An all-white outfit can wash you out. Consider an accent color shoe instead.
  • Very formal events: For black tie and the most formal occasions, black and white are traditional shoe choices.
  • As separates: Be cautious pairing a top and bottom in the same color family. Different shoes can help break up the look.

Tips for Matching Successfully

Match dress and shoes while avoiding a high-school-prom vibe with these tips:

  • Pick shoe styles that complement the dress silhouette, like pumps for a cocktail dress or sandals for a sundress.
  • Choose a heel height that makes sense for the dress length and occasion.
  • Match metals and other small details like buckles for a pulled together appearance.
  • Use matching as an opportunity to showcase special fabrics like satin, lace, or leather.
  • Make shoes one shade lighter or darker than the dress so they aren’t exact.
  • Add a contrasting bag, belt, or jewelry so the look doesn’t feel overly matchy-matchy.

The History of Matching Dress and Shoes

Matching shoes and dresses has gone in and out of vogue throughout modern fashion history. Here’s a look at how the trend has evolved over time:

The 1920s

During the 1920s, the bold Art Deco movement popularized geometrically Art Deco movement popularized geometrically matching separates. Dresses, coats, and shoes in the same graphic black and white patterns exemplified this trend. Color matching also emerged later in the decade, especially pairing luxurious satin gowns with matching dyed heels.

The 1930s and 1940s

After the excess of the 20s, fashion trended more conservative in the 30s and 40s. Matching shoes fell out of style, replaced by more traditional pairings like black or white heels with evening gowns. However, style icons like Audrey Hepburn later brought back the coordinate couple idea. Some of her most famous looks feature fitted dress and jacket sets with matching flats or kitten heels.

The 1950s

Ultra-feminine 50s fashion meant matching shoes made a return. Pristine petticoats and ladylike pencil skirts begged to be paired with heels in the same pastel shades. Glam film stars like Marilyn Monroe popularized the trend.

The 1960s

The 60s marked another period where matchy-matchy fell out of favor. Youth culture and mod style preferred eclectic, contrasting pairings. However, as hemlines rose later in the decade, taller matching boots came into fashion.

The 1970s

The disco era brought back coordinating ensembles in bold colors, metallics, and platform shoes. However, as casual fashion took over, matching lost popularity once again.

The 1980s and 1990s

Power dressing in the 80s relied on tailored matching skirt suits with coordinated pumps or loafers. The 90s then saw a mix of influences that both favored and eschewed matching shoes and dresses. Minimalism and grunge rejected the trend, while retro 40s and 50s pencil skirts and classic pumps remained compatible.

The 2000s

The new millennium brought a mix of casual sneakers and the return of more feminine dresses. When dresses were worn, matching shoes became popular once more. However, the trend coexisted with contrasting brights and bold patterns.


In current fashion, purposeful matching is widely accepted and even encouraged in many circles. Designers regularly release dress and shoe collections meant to be worn together. However, the trend also lives alongside more eclectic mixing and matching as personal style continues to evolve.

Matchy-Matchy Dos and Don’ts

When trying out the coordinated dress and shoes look, keep these dos and don’ts in mind:


  • Do pick colors and textures that flow together seamlessly. Matching matte leather shoes with a silky dress can create an awkward disconnect.
  • Do select shoe styles that mirror the dress silhouette. For example, avoid chunky sneakers with a slinky maxi.
  • Do balance ultra-matchy looks with contrasting jewelry or bags.
  • Do choose a heel height that complements your dress length.
  • Do match metallic details like gold, rose gold, or silver buckles or embellishments.


  • Don’t let matchy shoes feel like an afterthought. They should complement the dress rather than look like random shoes you had on hand.
  • Don’t pair vivid brights together unless you have an eye for color. Similarly, avoid matching stark whites or it can read bridal.
  • Don’t over-match embellishments like bows, buckles, studs, or rhinestones.
  • Don’t assume daytime or casual dress codes give a free pass to match. Gauge the formality of the occasion first.
  • Don’t think monochrome means mandatory matching. Sometimes black shoes still balance a black dress better than true matchy-matchy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions about successfully matching your shoes and dress? Here are answers to some common FAQs:

Does the Handbag Also Need to Match?

No, there’s no rule that your handbag must match as well. In fact, a bag in a contrasting color, metallics like gold or silver, or neutrals like black and tan can provide a nice balance to an otherwise monochrome outfit. Matching the shoes is plenty.

How Do I Make Matching Work for Casual Outfits?

Stick to subtler matching for casual everyday outfits. Try pairing jeggings with flats in the same shade of blue or gray sneakers with a matching knit dress. Just avoid over-the-top colors or embellishments that veer costumey with casual clothes.

Should I Match My Date’s Outfit and Shoes?

It’s fine to coordinate colors with your date, for instance opting for a navy dress to match his navy suit. But matching exactly can feel a bit cheesy. Pick a dress you feel gorgeous in and complement it with shoes in a similar shade. You want to look cohesive but not like tacky prom dates.

What If I Don’t Have the Exact Right Shoes to Match?

Don’t worry about matching ultra-precisely. As long as you’re in the same color family it will give the visual effect you’re after. Alternately, consider buying shoes specifically to match new dresses you love. It opens up lots more stylish possibilities.

Should I Avoid Matching at Work?

Not necessarily – matching can look powerful and professional at work functions. Just opt for traditional colors like black, navy, gray, nude, or deep reds. Stay away from overly bright or showy looks. The safest route is matching your shoes to pants or a skirt suit rather than brighter dresses.

The Final Word

At the end of the day, approach matching your shoes and dress based on your personal taste, comfort level, and the formality of the occasion. If you love accessories and gravitate towards a put-together look, don’t shy away from coordination. But if eclectic mixing is more your vibe, that works too. Like most style “rules” these days, this one comes down to expressing yourself.

Matching shoes and dresses can be a chic choice when done intentionally. But it also remains just as stylish to let your shoes stand out in contrast. Whether going matchy-matchy with your outfit or purposefully pairing complementing colors instead, wear what brings you joy. If you love how you look that will shine through above all else.