The other night, I was visiting my parents’ apartment and wandered back into my their bedroom to say goodnight. “Your shoes are off, right?”, my mom murmured. I looked down at my patent leather loafers and, for a brief second, contemplated lying. Such is the impact of a childhood spent in a “shoes off” household.
This particular subject of etiquette was dissected at length in the Sex and the City episode “A Woman’s Right to Shoes” that aired in 2003. In it, Carrie is forcibly made to remove her silver Manolo Blahnik peep-toe pumps upon arriving at her friend’s house for a party, which distresses her greatly since she considers them an integral component of her ensemble. Trained though I am in the psychology of indoor shoe removal (despite my recent slip-up), I sympathize with her frustration. When you build a masterpiece of an outfit with shoes that tie the whole thing together, eliminating them can feel like taking scissors to the corner of a painting.
And yet, I understand the impetus behind asking guests to do so. Hygiene is important. White rugs are heaven. Shoe soles are gross. So I got to thinking: What if you could build your masterpiece of an outfit around the intention of ultimately taking off your shoes? What if, instead of coordinating with your footwear, you coordinated with whatever was underneath? To answer these questions, I embarked on a styling expedition featuring three festive holiday outfits, zero pairs of shoes and ten very comfortable toes. Keep scrolling to see what you think.
The Outfit: It is my humble opinion that jeans are the unsung hero of hypothetical holiday party outfits, because what is more delightful than pairing the national emblem of casual-wear with the sparkliest items you own and calling it a contrast sandwich? Your go-to pair of denim combined with a sequined jacket, rhinestone earrings, gem-encrusted belt and metallic brocade bag will make the unveiling of your similarly shiny socks look anything but inadvertent.
The Suggested Occasion: An eggnog sip & see where you will clutch a glass full of the season’s most delicious beverage and pay homage to your aunt’s new Havanese terrier.
The Outfit: Don’t limit your adventures in winter layering to simply putting a coat over a sweater over a long-sleeved thermal. Why not try putting a velvet body-con dress over a plaid blouse over a thick ribbed turtleneck? Sounds weird in theory but looks truly excellent in practice, I guarantee it. I also guarantee that knee-high plaid socks are just as festive and fun to show off as any shoe you might have entertained the notion of wearing because you either a) realized you were attending a shoes-off function or b) forgot that tucking your feet underneath you on a cushioned bench without a germ-related care in the world is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
The Suggested Occasion: A white elephant exchange you have a hunch will turn into a dance party once the last Starbucks gift card gets snagged.
The Outfit: Like lasagna or beef stew, a suit is one of those things that you can easily get a lot out of without having to add a lot of accouterments, which makes it the perfect base for a purposefully shoe-free ensemble. I love this one from Topshop on account of its resemblance to a moonstone, but really any suit in some kind of fun shade or material will do. Wearing your birthday suit under an actual suit is a great holiday party look, but if you want to put something under the blazer, I suggest a half-zip like this one. A velvet bow, earrings that could grow in a winter garden, and red lipstick are the only other garnishes you’ll need besides socks with a slight shimmer. The shoes you wear from your place to wherever you’re going are ancillary but up to you. My vote goes to fuzzy slippers.
The Suggested Occasion: A New Year’s Eve dinner at your closest friend’s apartment that you plan to leave at 12:01 a.m. because you both know you get tired after midnight when you’re drinking champagne.
What do you think? Do you maintain a “shoes off” policy? Are you into the idea of intentional shoes-free outfits? Let’s chat.
Photos by Edith Young. Modeled by Sara Chishti.