The Hunt: Black Mary Jane Heels

Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

Pumps are all well and good, but if you’re like me — particularly while it’s still tights weather — they can be a little hard to walk in. This is why my closet has always contained a lot of Mary Jane heels, as well as other heels with straps. It can be a bit tricky to find some that don’t a) visually cut your leg at the worst possible point, and b) make you look like a little girl — so I thought I’d round up a few. Readers, how often do you wear heels with straps? Any favorite brands, or great steals recently?


I like this wedge-like heel from Franco Sarto. We featured it in the red a few months ago, but the black is too classic not to include. I particularly like the lowish heel (2.5″). It was $85, but is now marked to $47.97 at Endless. (If you like the brand but want more of a heel, check out these Odell pumps at Nordstrom, almost entirely sold out in the black but still very available in the light beige.) Franco Sarto Women’s Eureka Open-Toe Pump
Isola - Cadria (Black Snake/Black Patent) - FootwearI always like the brand Isola (the more fashionable sister to the brands Born and Sofft). These very high heels are the kind of thing I’d wear with an A-line skirt. The black snake/black patent version (pictured) was $185, but is now marked to $57 at  Isola – Cadria (Black Snake/Black Patent) – Footwear (which just started its Warehouse Sale) has this cute “angular” Mary Jane in black, brown, and gray. I like that this one has “adiPRENE” technology from adidas included in the shoe. It was $120, but is marked to $59 (plus free shipping); 6pm and Amazon both have limited sizes as low as $37. Lianna Angular MJ
Kate Spade New York - Kea (Black Patent) - FootwearThese Kate Spade heels are lovely and classic — and marked down! They were $315, but are now marked to $220.99 at Zappos Couture. Kate Spade New York – Kea (Black Patent) – Footwear
I’ve been eyeing these “design your own” shoes from Milk and Honey. I particularly like that you can choose a skinny strap, a thicker strap, or a double strap, and you can make the strap any color you want, including a “nude for you” like a beige, pink or brown. Prices start at $250.
I like these Manolo Blahnik “Mladari” pumps with a very low mary jane strap.  They’re $685 at Nordstrom. Manolo Blahnik ‘Mladari’ Mary Jane Pump

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  1. I bought these a couple months ago and really like them:

    It’s a low heel, so not the hottest shoe out there, but they’re good for days when you’ll be on your feet a lot and I think they’re pretty cute.

  2. Amelia Pond :

    Fashion threadjack right off the bat: I bought a shirt this weekend that looks really cute with the skirt in yellow and a navy cardigan. The problem is it’s a halter top. It is the kind that has a circular band at the base of your throat and the rest of the top flows from the band. When worn with a cardigan it looks appropriate except for the occasional glimpse of a triangle of skin between your shoulder and collar bone (does that make sense?). Since it is shoulder skin is this ok to wear to work? Not ok? On only if I can anchor the cardigan to not shift?

    • Amelia Pond :

      It’s the Hi-lo halter from the Limited to add a visual.

      • I think showing some shoulder would look weird. I would just invest in some fashion tape and stick your cardigan to the blouse to make sure it doesn’t move around too much.

    • I don’t think that is appropriate for the office, so I would keep your sweater on (and use tape if necessary).

      Does anyone know what this kind of halter neckline is called? (As opposed to the kind of halter where the strap ties behind the neck and connects to the blouse above each br@*st?) This is the kind that looks better on me, and I have always wanted to know how to ask for it. Thanks.

    • That would not be appropriate at my office, sorry!

    • I think it’s fine although it would be preferable if you could get the cardigan not to shift. But I wouldn’t be taken aback by a glimpse of shoulder.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      Would be appropriate at my office but I think a weird triangle of skin at your shoulder/armpit area might just look strange, if that makes sense.

    • viclawstudent :

      Can you wear it with a navy blazer instead? I have a halter of the type you describe and find that with a cardigan the chances of the patch of skin (and my bra straps, since if I’m covering it I don’t bother wearing it with a strapless bra) showing is much higher than if I wear it with a blazer of some sort – particularly a blazer with a closely fit neckline.

      • viclawstudent :

        Just wanted to add that when worn like that the circular neckline gives the impression that I’m wearing a turtleneck, not a halter, so it appears to be totally office appropriate. Only downside is that you definitely cannot take off the jacket.

        • Amelia Pond :

          I actually have a navy blazer! It didn’t even occur to me to try it out. And taking it off is not an issue since my office has windows on 2 sides and it is always freezing!

    • I have a quasi-halter that I wear with an open cardigan to work (casual office).

    • it would be okay in my office as long as you have no exposed zippers

    • Not ok.

  3. I wear a lot of mary jane style shoes. I have foot issues and my podiatrist said an oxford or a shoe with a wide strap across the instep would be best for me. I’m not really going to start wearing oxfords with my skirts, so I am always hunting for the right mary jane styles.

    To be a summer/spring no-tights shoe, the strap across my foot needs to be a very light or nude color, otherwise they are stumpifying. For winter, I wear black tights all the time, so a black mary jane strap has no effect.

  4. phillygirlruns :

    i am a big fan of the mary jane or t-strap pump – they are much easier to walk in. i love the “detamble” peep-toe t-strap that aldo has in right now (will link in separate post), though the 5.75-inch heel (!!!) will put them solidly out of the running for officewear. i actually thought they were more like a 4″ heel from seeing them in-store, and i’m a little disappointed at the absurd height – i’d been planning to pick them up in the nude suede to replace my current nude heels.

  5. I loooove mary jane pumps for exactly that reason. I have a pair of Nine West 3″ stacked heels in black, a wonderful design your own 2″ heel in black and white snakeskin. If my pant legs are the right length, you can’t even see the strap much of the time, eliminating much of the stump effect.

  6. I haven’t owned any Mary Janes since I was small, but I would be interested in trying them (a grown-up version). My concern, though, is that I have a very high instep. I’m wondering if the strap would cut into my foot in an uncomfortable way. Any thoughts/suggestions?

    • I also have a very high instep. Most Mary Jane straps have some elastic built in. They definitely don’t bother me.

    • Incredibly high instep and tiny shoe size (5). Can’t wear mary jane pumps at all. Bought several pair in the hopes that they would stretch out. Never did, but they do leave a lovely line across the top of my foot where they cut off the circulation.

  7. Because I have a wide foot and a narrow heel, I tend to wear a lot of Mary Janes. My most comfortable are actually a t-strap Circa Joan & David pump with a reasonable heel and a wider toe box. The leather is pebbled but the strap is polished. Love them!

  8. Skin care novice! :

    The kate spade ones are so cute but me + any sort of heels = inevitable getting heel stuck between sidewalk cracks and looking super graceful falling.
    Threadjack – i need help with skin care issues. I’m 26 years old, and do absolutly jack for my skin. I wash it usually once a day with a mild cleanser, usually neutrogena or somethign like that, and use mosturizer – ive got Kiehls right now, but i have no loyalty – just whatever doesn’t smell bad. I used to tan, but have stopped, a lot, and have had acne as a teen, but have pretty decent skin now, minus an occasional hormonal breakout. i also don’t wear any sort of skin-makeup, just some mascara daily, and i’m gettin greally nervous that my past sins and current laziness are going to catch up with me. Any advice for a skin care novice for a few really basic products? I guess my concerns arn’t so much immediate but down the road, as i’m okay with how my skin looks now…

    • It sounds like you’re fine. I would just continue washing your face daily, making sure you remove all your makeup before bed, and using a good moisturizer with SPF every day. I don’t think you need an eye cream yet, just dot a bit of the moisturizer under your eyes. I think using the simplest products tends to be the most beneficial, so if Neutrogena works for you, stick with it. I think it really comes down to genetics and staying out of the sun. And even that last bit – it’s still mostly genetics.

    • Can I shill for Paula’s Choice once again?

      I love Paula’s Choice and lots of other Corporettes do too. I’d suggest doing a Google site search for previous discussion of Paula’s Choice on this site – you’ll find lots of helpful info.

      I also would say that you need to wear sunscreen! Every day, no exceptions. Get a moisturizer with SPF.

    • It is so annoying that comments go into moderation if you mention the name of this website. Kat, can you do anything about this?

      Reposting my comment to avoid moderation:

      Can I shill for Paula’s Choice once again?

      I love Paula’s Choice and lots of other readers of this site do too. I’d suggest doing a Google site search for previous discussion of Paula’s Choice on this site – you’ll find lots of helpful info.

      I also would say that you need to wear sunscreen! Every day, no exceptions. Get a moisturizer with SPF.

    • What I Wish I Had Done At 26 :

      I would suggest that you start wearing SPF every day. No matter what you are doing and no matter what the weather is. It should be both UVA and UVB protective. I also wish that I had considered Botox a little earlier than I did (I was 40).

      • Not only SPF on your face daily but put it on your neck and (unless you’re wearing a turtleneck) wear SPF on your “decollete” or the v-neck part of your chest. I’ve worn SPF religiously every day since I was 28 but never on my neck or chest. The damage for me was cummulative but not from sun – it’s from indoor office lighting. I don’t have as much damage as some women but it’s too much. I’ve been trying to reverse it with retinol and have been somewhat successful, but it would be good to prevent it in the first place. Plus the dark skin looks stupid when I’m wearing a low cut blouse or swimsuit and the rest of my decollete is pale.

  9. I have these Cole Haans and they are gorgeous and reasonably comfortable (I went up a half size):
    The strap location is really flattering too. I know I saw them on sale somewhere for less than $200 but I can’t seem to find it.

  10. sorry i’m going to be annoying and repost my question from this morning’s thread?

    has anyone ever consigned at second time around? I’m in the middle of a closet sweep and have about 10 higher end new and like new items i’d like to make some cash off of. i made an appointment to go to my local second time around later this week (7th ave location) but i’ve since read negative reviews on yelp for this and other locations. apparently they “lose” consigned items and the consigner gets no credit/cash for them. it also looks like once the items “expire” even if they sell the consigner gets no credit/cash for them. any experiences? I’m thinking about ditching the idea. there’s nothing wrong with my items, they just don’t get enough play in my bursting closet. thoughts? any other consignment shops worth looking into?

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      I would try selling stuff on eBay or visiting a consignment shop where they give you cash up front for your items – you may get a lower up front value, but you save a lot of time in checking the website/claiming unsold things, etc etc. “Losing” items here and there seems like an inherent flaw in the Second Time Around business model.

    • I can’t report on the store you mention, but I have had very good experiences selling things through a consignment shop, Secondi, in DC. You get a receipt for your items, but if the item is shop-lifted out of the store, then, yes, the shop does not assume the loss and you don’t get paid. It is typical that under the consignment terms, the shop will have your item on its floor for a given period of time (like a month). If it does not sell during that time, the price will be reduced and the item will remain on the floor at the reduced price for another given period of time (like another month), and then it will be removed from the floor and donated to charity. If you use a shop that is well-established and selective in the things they sell, the odds of your items selling (assuming the shop agrees to consign them) are better. Every item I’ve consigned has sold, and I’m satisfied I got some money for them without going through the hassle of selling through ebay.

    • metsfan4life :

      check the other thread- I posted a rec for my ebay trading assistant who worked miracles for me when I downsized before a big move :)

    • If you’re in NYC and the clothes are in season, you can see what Beacon’s Closet will give you for them.

      • This is what I do, but you won’t get a lot of money- of course the flip side is that everything there is really attractively priced, so it’s fun to spend the store credit (they give you a higher %age of the item’s sale price if you take credit instead of cash).

      • that’s what i usually do, but because their prices are so attractive, it isn’t the best place to get $ for more pricey items. But that said, if you do a comparison of what that same $ will buy you in the store, it’s not a bad bet. this time around i have a few pricier items that I’d like to get rid of, never used michael kors bag, $300 cocktail dress with tags on, i think i might give consignment a test drive and cross my fingers for the best.

    • If it’s not worth the trouble or risk to sell the clothes through a consignment shop or on eBay, I’d recommend donating work-appropriate attire to Dress for Success. You’ll make some lower-income job seekers really happy by helping them to dress appropriately for job interviews, and the jobs they hopefully will secure. You’ll also get a tax deduction if you itemize.

  11. Woods-comma-Elle :

    I know I’ve recently moaned a bit about my job, but I just need to vent a bit more.

    I don’t mind long hours. I know that happens. What I hate is that I’m twiddling my thumbs all day, thinking I might be able to get out before it’s dark/shops close/the clock strikes midnight and something kicks off at 5.30pm.

    I know this is the nature of the beast but it’s starting to really annoy me!!

    That’s all.

    • so anonymous :

      I realize you’ve probably already tried this, but is there any way that you can you try to head off whoever is sending you this work by approaching/contacting them earlier in the day?

      • Woods-comma-Elle :

        Sadly, no. The client wants what the client wants when the client wants and I am at his mercy.

        • Um…does your team’s specialty involve PE by any chance?

          Only saying that because I’ve been there, done that, and feel your pain.

          • Woods-comma-Elle :

            It doesn’t, it involves a niche area of finance and, in my particular situation, a client many time zones away who apparently does not sleep and a partner from another team requiring ‘specialist advice’ from me in my area and who never goes home…

          • IB was like this at some points, and it sucked.

    • Vent vent :

      I know exactly how you feel. What a waste of time :-/
      Especially if you find out that the person for whom you are waiting went home without letting you know.

    • I was doing this last week and it sucked. The work came through at 6.30am Saturday morning. Just wish I could have left at midday on Friday and gotten some semblance of a weekend.

    • Do you have to be at the office if you have nothing to do in the morning? In my office it would be fine to come in at noon or 2pm so long as you’re checking email – that way you get some free time.

    • Former MidLevel :

      That is annoying – sorry! But you’re definitely not alone. The corporate people at my old firm used to say their days “started at 6 p.m.”

      • I knew a litigation partner who routinely would assemble his team at 6 p.m. and give them assignments that he wanted delivered to his apartment by 7 a.m. the next morning before he came. All-nighters were also routine.

        He simply didn’t give a sh__. Of course, there was no one to complain to, because nobody cared.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Can you take a long lunch or a random 3pm errand run, and come back later?

  12. um yes. yes yes yes. feel your pain. apparently, i work sunday nights, saturday mornings, overnight, vacations, and holidays, but not monday-friday during regular business hours.

  13. Disappointment :

    Any other government workers here used to dealing with the frustration of seeing other departments around them hiring and promoting tons of people while their position keeps on losing people and is unable to either fill the vacant positions or give raises to the remaining people? I think it’s to the point in my department where a lot of people are starting to look as the workload is getting to be unrealistic. There’s not much that can be done since the process of getting promotions/raises is really time consuming and has to go through several layers of review. I am currently looking, but am not sure how long it will take me to find anything new.

  14. Diana Barry :

    I love mary janes, but I haven’t found a good pair since my Franco Sartos that I had in the 90s. They had a square toe and kind of a chunky heel, about 2.5″, and I lurved them and had them for a loooooong time. Now everything is a platform and/or has a super skinny heel. Not comfy for me!

  15. I like Beautifeel shoes. They’re comfortable and relatively inexpensive.

  16. Probably too late for anyone to see this, but these are my favorite party shoes with straps. I can walk in these for miles around NYC and am totally comfortable. I have the fawn color. I’d be careful with the black- they have an extra bit of platform on the sole, but the fawn is perfect.

  17. Thanks for this post – I never knew about Isola. Their shoes are made and lined with real leather and they actually make the sole something besides slippery plastic. And they look like normal heels, not … frump shoes. And even though they’re pricey, they’re not outrageously overpriced considering their quality. Does anyone know of any similar brands?

  18. I have those Rockport mary janes and they are super comfy. I ordered a few different pairs of MJs and these were both the cutest on my feet and the most comfortable. The strap is just low enough not to stumpify your legs, but still high enough to be useful / functional. They are suede, so (for me) they are a fall & winter shoe.

    I also have a pair of open-toe Nine West MJs that have been my faves for warmer weather for seven years, but, sadly, they are showing their age and should be retired.

  19. Most black Mary Janes remind me of character shoes, which always leads me to browsing ballroom shoes on Discount Dancewear, which always leads me to wonder whether I can get away with $20 Capezios in the office.

    Hint: I think I can’t.

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