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Should nail polish match dress or shoes?

Deciding whether to match nail polish to an outfit can be a tricky choice. The age-old question of whether it’s better to coordinate nail color with the dress or shoes has been debated for decades. While there are no hard and fast rules, here are some tips to help you make the best choice for your particular outfit and style.

Key Considerations

When choosing whether to match nails to your dress or shoes, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Occasion – Formal events may call for more coordinated looks from head to toe, while casual everyday wear grants more flexibility.
  • Dress style & color – Bold, bright dresses often look best with equally bold nail polish that picks up one of the hues. More subdued neutral dresses can be complemented by matching subtle nude or pale nails.
  • Shoe style & color – Shoes that cover more of the foot may warrant nail polish that matches or complements the shoe color. Open-toed shoes put more emphasis on the toes themselves.
  • Skin tone – Lighter skin tones can pull off bolder nail colors, while deeper complexions are often more flattered by nudes and neutrals.
  • Personal style – Consider your own taste and what makes you feel most confident and beautiful when dressing.

Matching Nail Polish to Dress

In many cases, choosing a nail lacquer to match your dress can pull together your entire look for a polished, purposeful aesthetic. Here are some tips on matching nail color to your dress:

  • Look for a shade that exactly matches or is one shade lighter/darker than your dress. Staying within the same color family creates cohesion.
  • For prints or multi-colored dresses, choose a nail color that picks up one of the dominant hues in the pattern.
  • Metallic dress fabrics like gold, silver, or rose gold look great with matching metallic nail polish.
  • Consider trying different nail colors on a few accent nails if you want to match a print with many colors.
  • Sheer nude nails help keep the focus on ornate or very colorful patterned dresses.

Matching bold nail lacquers to brightly colored dresses makes for an eye-catching beauty look. Even pale and neutral dresses can be tied together with analogous nude nails in a slightly deeper or lighter shade.

When to Match Nails to Dress

Occasions where matching your nails to your dress is recommended:

  • Formal events like galas, weddings, and black tie parties
  • Work events where coordination is key, like interviews or presentations
  • Date nights or romantic evenings out
  • Nights out at clubs and bars
  • Concerts or special events where you’ll be photographed

Complementary Nails for Shoes

Rather than matching, you may opt to coordinate your nails to complement or accent your shoes for outfit cohesion that still allows for some contrast. Here are some pointers on pairing nail lacquer with shoes:

  • Metallic shoes like gold, rose gold, or silver look great with nail polish in the same metallic shade.
  • Nude nails complement most neutral colored shoes like black, brown, tan, white, or nude.
  • Brightly colored shoes can be matched with equally bright nails or grounded with nude nails.
  • Open-toed shoes draw attention to your toes – make sure you love the nail color!
  • Heels, especially stilettos, elongate the leg line – keep nails streamlined with neutral colors.

Coordinating your nails to flatter and accent your footwear is a great way to pull off fashion-forward style while still allowing some flexibility in your look.

When to Complement Shoes with Nails

Occasions where complementing shoes with your nail color makes sense:

  • Daytime casual wear like brunch, shopping, or walking around town
  • Low-key dinner dates or happy hours
  • Casual summer events like barbecues, picnics, or outdoor concerts
  • Running errands or casual family gatherings
  • Vacation when you’ll have lots of photos of your feet!

Tips for Deciding Between Dress or Shoes

When trying to choose whether to match your nail color to your dress or your shoes, consider these tips:

  • Take cues from the formality of the event – the more formal, the more cohesion makes sense.
  • Bright, bold patterns and colors tend to look better matched to nails.
  • Sheer or light colored dresses often look best with nude nail polish.
  • Metallic shoes and dresses require matching metallic nails.
  • Open-toed shoes put toes on display – make that color count!
  • Consider trying different combos to see what flatters you and fits your style best.

You know your preferences and what makes you feel most stylish the best. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different nail looks until you find your perfect pairing.


At the end of the day, there are great arguments on both sides of whether nail polish should match the dress or the shoes. The most important factors to consider are the formality of the occasion, the color and style of your outfit, and your own personal taste. For formal events or when wearing bold prints or colors, matching nails to the dress often pulls the whole look together. For more casual outfits or shoes you want to showcase, complementing the shoes with suitable nail lacquer is a great option. Take some inspiration from these tips, try out different combinations, and choose the one that makes you feel most fashionable and confident in your own unique style.