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Are Patent Leather Shoes an Option for a Conservative Office?

Stylish Work Outfit: Patent Leather Heels? | CorporetteAre patent leather pumps appropriate for the office? Can they be the basis of a stylish work outfit? Reader M wonders:

I always thought patent leather pumps were an office no-no, but I’ve seen quite a few pairs posted on your site. Under what circumstances are patent leather heels okay to wear in a fairly conservative workplace? Is it all about the style of the shoe? Is color a deal breaker? I think the pairs I own are pretty innocuous (nude, black, deep red, dark-dark purple croc), but I could be horribly, horribly wrong. My work wardrobe is very safe (for lack of a better word) and I’m not the kind of girl who wears lots of accessories, so I tend to rely on shoes to wake up an outfit. I want my pretty patents to come out and play during the week! Can they, pleeeease?!

Interesting question — my theory has always been that patent leather, in the abstract, is fine. After all, black patent leather shoes are part of the military dress uniform — how could they not be conservative enough?  (Pictured: Pretty Woman, available at Amazon.)

There are some caveats to this theory, however.

First — patent leather can be more susceptible to what I’ll call “eau de hooker.” If a particular shoe has suspect color and styling, then — combined with the shine of the patent — there may be a whiff of a “working girl” about the shoes. Avoid that at all costs. Five-inch lipstick red platform stilettos aren’t going to get you very far, for example; I would also avoid any patent-leather over-the-knee boots like the ones in Pretty Woman. (But honestly: I know the over-the-knee boots are trendy right now, and I have seen some outfits with them look almost preppy, but still: Proceed. With. Caution at the office, even on the weekends, whether patent leather or not.)  That said, I think your collection of patent leather sounds perfect — including the dark wine and the dark purple.

Second — maintenance is key!
Scuffs are far more noticeable on patent leather, as are nicks. Keep those puppies well buffed.

For example, these are some great patent shoes that I think would be fine, just fine, for the office (from L-R): Kate Spade – Kylie (Black Patent) – Footwear (love the sweet bow; they come in black, camel, purple, and red for $298 at Zappos), Butter Women’s Shy Peep Toe Pump (a bit daring with the peep toe; they come in black, camel, and a magenta for $145-$171 at Endless (were $265)), and Calvin Klein Carrie (Women’s) – Black Pearlized Patent Leather (love the substantial heel; Shoebuy has them for $108 in black, an ivory “lychee”;  Zappos also has ’em in red).

professional patent leather heels patent heels for work appropriate patent leather heel for work

That’s my $.02 — readers, what are your thoughts?

patent leather heels for work

Comments

  1. Totally fine in my office, but of course depends on the office. I have faux patent shoes in a few colours, and only some are ok for the office, but essentially you have to know your audience. If in doubt, I would stick with black.

  2. As long as the shoe itself is appropriate for the office, I don’t see any issues with a patent leather shoe. I have seen it on the most conservative of women, at all levels, at the office in which I work – myself included!

    • Agreed.

      “They’re fine (in any color) so long as there’s no “eau de hooker” to them, either in color or style.” seems to go for all shoes, regardless of whether they are patent leather or spun in gold!

    • This. If you’d wear a shoe in non patent leather to work, then a patent leather variant of the same style is equally appropriate.

      Colour – again, if you’d wear a red non patent shoe to YOUR office, a red patent show is ok too. I have patent closed toe pumps in wine red, fuchsia, grey, black, navy – and they are all 100% professional (I only wear the fuchsia pair with ultra sombre clothing:)

      I don’t see why patent on its own should have a “hooker” connection.

  3. I would think of patent leather as an additional style element or embellishment. Shoes often become inappropriate when there’s too much going on – straps and platforms and colors and patterns and bows. So in a conservative environment, nude and black are ok, purple croc is probably not, regardless of the style of the rest of the shoe. It becomes too many elements to distract.

    The reader’s comment that she doesn’t wear a lot of other accessories and allows the shoes to be the focal point is also important – patent leather looks much different when worn with, say, bangle bracelets and big hoop earrings than with conservative jewelry.

    • I agree. Patent affixed with eleventy-seven other gewgaws like straps, ribbons, ruffles, beads, patterns etc. becomes a problem. Or bright colors (although I did see a woman wearing yellow patent leather pumps the other day that were so fabulous I would have snatched them off her feet). I don’t think of a conservative pair of shoes in patent leather as being any different than a conservative pair of shoes made out of any other material (and Kat found some great examples for the post). But if someone wants to wear an ultrahigh slingback with a ribbon on the front and a peep toe, it might be better to go with something other than patent.

    • anon - chi :

      This. I think of patent leather as, for lack of a better term, a “risk factor.” Super-high heels (over 4″ or higher) are another factor, as is bright color, open toes, etc. Just don’t combine too many “risk factors” on the same pair of shoes, and you should be fine. For example, I would wear a peep-toe patent heel in a sedate color (which IMHO includes very very dark purple or wine), but I would not combine peep-toe and patent with, say, bright red.

      I am a little surprised at Kat’s suggestion that over-the-knee boots could *possibly* be ok at work, even on the weekend. Speaking of eau de hooker … I am not an ultra-conservative dresser but I would absolutely gawk at an attorney (or staffer, for that matter) in the office wearing OTK boots! It doesn’t matter how sedate the styling and/or color – that’s just not an office-appropriate item of clothing to me.

      • Also, if you are wearing over the knee boots, then you are likely wearing a way-above-the-knee skirt … just a little too much.

        And if you are wearing them with a longer skirt, it would just look odd (not necessarily inappropriate, just…odd).

      • I will say that I once went to a seminar with a woman who is the head of a department in her (conservative) field of business and she was rocking over-the-knee boots and an (almost) knee length dress – there was like, maybe a 1/2 inch of tight/hosiery showing between the end of the boot and the dress (it also probably helped that the dress was a dark charcoal gray, she had on black tights/hosiery, and the boots were black, and her jewelry was very minimal/understated – so what I’m saying is that the boots were the wow factor, obviously). Anyway, I thought she looked great, and did not get a whiff of eau de hooker from this outfit at all … however, this is DEFINITELY something that must be deployed with utmost caution.

    • I have very narrow feet so if I don’t wear an ankle strap of some sort, the shoe become a torture device by constantly coming off and rubbing my heel. I have my amazing pair of Bandolino black patent Mary Janes. They are my absolute favorite and I get complimented almost every time I wear them. Sadly, they are discontinued.

  4. Black patent is completely fine. Good, even. Stay away from 4-inch stilettos with a deep vamp, but still. Navy, brown, aubergine, all fine. Bright patent, not so much unless it’s a flat. And I am too old for the recent nude heels craze, so will keep my opinions there in the space reserved for irrelevance.

  5. anonymous :

    This thought has never even crossed my mind. In fact, coincidentally, I was just thinking this morning about how nice I think patent leather looks. It just looks a lot sharper and more expensive to me. I happen to be wearing some beautiful red Stuart Weitzman pumps today, and I always get tons of compliments on them. On that note, referring back to the goth post, funky shoes are my thing that I always wear, so they have less of an impact. In fact, people tell me they look at my feet to see what shoes I’m wearing every day!

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Might your pumps be the Muse pumps in red quasar? I have those and adore them. I always get compliments when I wear them.

    • I think REAL, well-made (and maintained) patent leather is beautiful. I hate most of the cheapo imitation patents out there, however. There’s just something off about them (and it’s not “eau de hooker” either), and they never fit very well. I also have size 11 paddleboats for feet and feel like patent just makes them look even larger.

    • AnneCatherine :

      I agree that patent, done appropriately, looks sharper and more luxe/formal. To me.

  6. Also, this is when the rest of the outfit comes in to play. A patent in a daring color, mixed with a shorter skirt could get you into the danger zone; with wide leg trousers that they peak out of you could be a-ok.

    I tend to only put one daring thing on at a time — I would wear the dark purple croc with a very basic outfit, letting those be the only frill (sounds like you do). Also, as others have said — watch the other embellishments, and I would avoid going too high with too much of a platform.

    I am like a magpie though, and love shiny things, so a patent shoe can brighten up my day.

  7. There’s some old-school snobbery about the appropriateness of patent leather shoes that arose when I wore them for sorority rush way back in the 1980s. I can’t remember the exact “rule,” but it was based on tradition rather than practicality. I think we can move past that now, can’t we?

    I particularly like my patent leather shoes for rainy days. Tell me that doesn’t look more professional than wellies!

    • The rule is that it’s for summer only. Memorial day through Labor.
      Seriously! I think it’s super outdated but a woman at work told me this in a very judgy way.
      So just FYI — if you work with people who are “strict” like that, they may be thinking you inappropriate.

      • Thank you! In fact, the condescending comment from sorority rush was this (after I got into the house, by the way): “Oh, you were that rushee wearing patent leather shoes! So funny.”

        Rush was indeed after Labor Day.

        • Oy. This is why I never joined a sorority :)

          • Anonymous :

            It’s the opposite. It’s a winter material, so not to be worn *before* Labor Day and after Memorial Day.

  8. I saw this linked on Twitter and feel compelled to respond. This advice seems a bit dated to me. As a 20-something young woman who works in a corporate public relations setting, I think it’s silly to say that a certain color or fabric of shoe is “unprofessional.” I think bold, funky shoes are the one thing that we can always “get away with” in the office, no caveats. And I certainly wouldn’t call patent leather bold or unusual. I’ve done very well in my career despite wearing colorful/printed/patent shoes and booties (including purple snakeskin), flat suede over-the-knee boots, patterned dresses, colorful tights, and harem pants. I’m always dressed appropriately –no cleavage or short skirts–and I’ve never, ever been told (nor has it been insinuated to me) that my clothing is unprofessional. In fact, my unique, stylish clothes and accessories make me stand out in the office and I think have actually helped me. (In my first job, I was sent to report on Fashion Week due to my well-known love of fashion.) I frequently get sincere compliments and other employees–even conservative or more senior ones–often will ask about my shoes or a piece of jewelry or ask me for shopping tips.

    To tell women that they should only wear dark, solid shoes without any personality just perpetuates the idea that we need to hide our personality to succeed in the workplace. Yes, some jobs require women and men to wear suits or other specific attire, but if you work hard and do well at your job, I don’t think any employer will think less of you for wearing purple croc pumps with your business suit.

    Women should wear what makes them comfortable. If a woman feels more confident and comfortable in her workplace in plain black pumps, she should wear them. But if a woman wants to add a bit of pizazz to her outfit, she should not be discouraged from doing so.

    • Note: you work in PR, which is less conservative than many of the other fields in which other commenters work. In a business formal office, patent may not fly.

      I agree with Kat! No eau de hooker. :)

    • I respect that what you describe as your work outfits are appropriate for the arena you work in, but you can’t generalize it to everyone else’s work place, and then further accuse some of us of stifling our personalities.

      My clients are often in their 60s, 70s, 80s. I am a young looking female in my early 30s in a male dominated field (20% female in my profession). I need my clients to see past my appearance and put their trust (and sometimes their lives) in my hands. I cannot wear over the knee suede boots without chancing my reputation and my livelihood.

      Please respect that some of us are working with a few strikes against us already as we make our way in our careers, and that the stakes are actually higher than your post implies.

      • anonymous :

        You can also give her credit for what she said: “Yes, some jobs require women and men to wear suits or other specific attire, but if you work hard and do well at your job, I don’t think any employer will think less of you for wearing purple croc pumps with your business suit. ” I agree with that statement. Wear a black, conservative suit, and you’re good with almost any shoe choice, as long as it isn’t a sandal.

      • Yes, but many posters here seem to think that all of the women who follow this blog are attorneys and/or work in ultra-conservative settings, and make sweeping generalizations as well.

        • If you don’t work in an ultra-conservative setting, I’m happy for you (and a teensy bit jealous) – but understand that what you say simply doesn’t apply to the majority of the readers here. I think we’re just protective of one of the few spaces on the web that seems to actually be geared towards our offices, where you can really be hurt professionally by breaking some of the rules some posters like to sneer at.

          • Hear, hear!!!

            The web is full of sites proposing that I wear a chic shirtdress with “classy” sandals to work and boiling down Casual Friday into “don’t wear sleeveless!”

            None of that advice is useful to me. I think of Corporette as the one place where I can find advice geared to an environment where suits are standard dress at least half of the time. The vibe I get – and I could be wrong – is that a lot of other readers feel the same way. That might be why so many people are advocating more conservative and “stifling” footwear here than, say, is recommended by Glamour magazine. If I wore “what made me comfortable” I would (a) be mistaken for a visiting client, first of all, not even a paralegal or secretary, and (b) rapidly demoted/ignored/laidoff.

    • Samantha: “To tell women that they should only wear dark, solid shoes without any personality” …That was not the advice… Kat was showing us how to wear patent well in a conservative office setting.

      I agree with L. PR is a whole other world than a conservative law office. For example, over the knee boots are in all likely hood not appropriate in most law offices. Despite being a “fashion risk taker” I could NEVER wear those to court (unless of course they were hidden under suit pants) and would feel self-conscious wearing those to the office even on a friday (we are business cas.).

    • This whole blog is devoted to being fashionable in areas where you can’t wear over the knee suede boots to work. I agree with Samantha that most of us here are trying to let our personalities shine through, but this comment came through as a though it was written by someone who doesn’t really appreciate that there are intricacies of corporate/BigLaw/Accounting dress.

      • Exactly. If not constricted by my law firm’s dress code and expectations, my wardrobe would look very different and I’d have very little difficult 1. having fun getting dressed each morning and 2. finding places (magazines, etc.) to give advice. This site cropped up precisely because Samantha’s advice (along with most of the advice and clothing in magazines) just does not apply to a conservative work environment. That’s why we’re here.

    • News flash: dressing however you want at work is not “empowering.” Women’s magazines love to say this so they can encourage you to spend lots of money on things and they can get more advertising dollars. Then women wear things to work that are not appropriate, they experience negative consequences and career stagnation, and they can’t figure out why. Why can’t I wear my bright-red platform patent-leather peep-toe stilettos and still be taken seriously? I have seen many, many commenters on this blog put forth the idea that as long as your work is great, even as a lower-level employee, you can wear more or less anything you want to work. That is really, really incorrect.
      You know what is really “empowering” at work? Actually having power. Having not only a voice, but having people listen to you and do what you’re suggesting. Having a say into important decisions. Being able to run your own show. Directing, managing and encouraging people who will move up in their careers. Providing people with jobs so they can make a living and support their families. That is empowering. Being able to wear whatever shoes you want to work? Who cares? That kind of fake empowerment has been sold to women over and over by the media. I don’t know whether I’m more disgusted that the media keeps doing it, or that women keep falling for it.
      I would wear a chicken costume to work if I thought it would get me promoted faster. I don’t give a rat’s ass about what some editor from Vogue thinks about my shoes; I care what my boss thinks, because she’s the one who has power over my career. Not my friends, not my husband, not the salesgirl in Nordstrom’s. I am really discouraged when I see young women equating “wearing what I want to work” with being empowered and successful. They. Are. Not. The. Same. Thing. At all. Want to do something that makes a difference? If patent leather or peep toes are not appropriate for your office, put them away. Get some acceptable shoes, work your ass off, and get promoted. Move into management. From there you will be able to influence corporate culture a lot more than if you remain a junior-level employee, slaving away at dead-end assignments, albeit with super-cute shoes. I’d rather sit in the C-suite in “boring” shoes that don’t “show my personality” than wear the cutest shoes ever and go to work every day pushing paper in a cubicle, where no one pays attention to my shoes because I don’t matter.

      • Blonde Lawyer :

        Love this post.

      • *Stands up and cheers* – Well said!!!!

      • Do you accept standing ovations?
        Maybe a bit harder than necessary, but then again the tone of the first comment was a bit more snarky than necessary.

        Also at 20-something Samantha may not be privy to the upper-level decisions yet.

      • YES!!!!

      • That was inspiring! So inspiring that I think I will go back to working my butt off instead of reading a blog! Very well-said, and thanks!

      • NClawstudent :

        Woohoo! Thanks for saying this! As a young 20-something law student, this is the kind of haul-ass attitude I like being reminded of! Plenty of time to wear jeans to work when I’m partner – till then, suits it is :)

      • I disagree; I think that wearing what you want to work can be empowering. I am not talking about the red patent leather stiletto peep-toe wearing woman, but rather the girl who wears a yellow jacket instead of a black one because she likes yellow, or wears a purple dress to work because purple is her favorite color. To dress like that, which is appropriate but still shows some personality, is, to me, empowering because I like what I’m wearing, feel great in it, and will therefore project more confidence. It also conveys personality, which can be hard to do in a corporate setting. People like people who have personalities. Not everyone wants their employees to be worker bees droning away at their desks – in some offices (like mine) it’s also important that everyone gets along and is interesting and has a sense of humor. Obviously there are limits, but I wouldn’t agree with the general blanket statement that the way we dress cannot be empowering.

        • Do I feel better wearing my favourite deep purple patent pumps? Of course. But do they make me more empowered in my job? No.
          I think what Amy was getting at is that at the end of the day it is you and your boss. Cosmo, Vogue, InStyle… None of them are in that board room discussing your potential raise/promotion/hiring.

        • “To dress like that, which is appropriate but still shows some personality, is, to me, empowering because I like what I’m wearing, feel great in it, and will therefore project more confidence.”

          If confidence was all it took to get promoted, I have a 21-year-old B-school intern this year who would have been promoted to president of our company by now. Unfortunately, his work sucks and he keeps wearing sandals to work despite being counseled about them. Fortunately in about two weeks I get to cut him loose and wish him well in the job market, because he sure as heck isn’t getting a job offer from us.
          Wearing things that make you feel good is awesome, unless those things make you stand out in a bad way to your higher-ups. It won’t feel so great when you get dinged on your performance evaluation for “professionalism” and lose out on raise or bonus percentage points, or a promotion, because of what you wore to work. You are confusing “feeling good” with “power.” I know that all Gen-Y kids were taught that those things are equivalent from the time they were knee-high to a grasshopper, but they are not the same thing.

          “It also conveys personality, which can be hard to do in a corporate setting. People like people who have personalities.”

          Undoubtedly. But there are lots of ways to show your personality other than what you wear. I like hiring interesting people with varied interests. That has nothing to do with how they’re dressed. Someone can be very interesting and dress in a way you consider to be boring, or dress in an “interesting” way that shows “personality” and actually be a completely shallow, uninteresting individual. Surely you knew that – right?

          “Not everyone wants their employees to be worker bees droning away at their desks – in some offices (like mine) it’s also important that everyone gets along and is interesting and has a sense of humor.”

          What does that have to do with what they’re wearing?

          “Obviously there are limits, but I wouldn’t agree with the general blanket statement that the way we dress cannot be empowering.”

          Sigh. I think it’s pretty obvious you read maybe the first two lines of what I posted and then ran off to draft your response. I hope you aren’t doing that with work emails or documents, because it will come back to bite you. Let me reiterate. What you are defining as “empowering” is actually equivalent to “feeling good about yourself.” “Empower” actually means “to give or delegate power or authority to.” Are your clothes inspiring people to give or delegate you power or authority? If not, then they’re not “empowering.” I implore you to learn the difference on your own, before someone with power over your career has to deliver the message, which I can assure you will not come gently.

          • Spoken like one who has learned, and profited from her lessons. Look, it’s not just women, as you point out, who have to fall in line when they join a formal institution. It’s men too. However, for them, dressing up isn’t as much of a mate-attracting, self-expressing tool as it is traditionally for women. So they don’t mind as much as we do.

            Maybe over time formal institutions will change, even more than they already have. But for now, express yourself with evident aptitude and hard work. And a little bit of personality in how you dress. A little bit.

          • A male intern in sandals? Really? Seriously? I feel like men have it so easy with work clothes that there is just no excuse. Are you going to work or the beach? I’m still too afraid to wear peep-toes or sandals even though they are allowed. Some of it is just common sense. Also, I really don’t care if my superiors notice my personality in my clothes. Please notice my personality in what I say. I would wear (almost) whatever my boss wants me to wear.

          • You are my hero, Amy. I printed out your comment and will be sending it (with full credit to you!) to friends, family, and few women I mentor. I’ve read it over and over and there isn’t one thing that I disagree with (although wearing a chicken suit would be difficult in this heat and humidity!)

            You know the “wearing a chicken suit” comment really made me laugh. Disney is probably the only company where you actually could wear a costume and end up in corporate. I’m not sure if it is still there policy, but if you work for Disney for 6 months even if it’s in retail or wearing a costume, you can transfer within the company and move up the ladder. I know someone who did it.

          • Amy, I remember reading this back when it was first posted, the summer before I started law school. More than any other piece of fashion advice, this is what I’ve carried with me on my day to day. It took a little internet trolling to find this comment again, but I’m glad I did.

      • anon for this one :

        L-O-V-E!!!!!!! A generation of young women are being fed this BS and it takes them years to find out that it’s advertising, if they ever find out. It’s a false sense of empowerment. Put on the right heels and you magically transform into a corporate goddess. Please! When will we learn that real self-esteem and empowerment, can’t be taught in a class or from a magazine or book. It’s a life long process of stiving, putting forth your best effort, failing, and ultimately achieving.

        I again will put in a plug for this video by Sunoco CEO Lynn Elsenhans talking about women and leadership!

        http://www.leadingwomen.biz/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=303

      • This. A million times this.

      • Well said.

      • Chicago S :

        Well said!

      • BRAVA! Standing O!

      • Thanks Amy! Agree 100%.

      • I have a *slight* girl crush on you right now Amy. LOVE this post.

      • I, too, love this post. Very, very well said.

      • Bravo and Amen!

      • Best. Corporette comment. Evar.

        You, ma’am, have just defined this website. I hope I can rise to your level of passion and eloquence.

      • Absolutely love your post. You should write a main post about this. Or Kat should at least feature this topic more prominently on a post. You are so right, thanks for the reminder!

      • I’m about to weep. I think I’m in love. Thank you for making my week. This post is printed out and on my office corkboard at home (and just emailed to all of my close female friends).

        You are awesome.

      • This. 100%. Perfect.

      • I will add to the chorus: brava!

      • girl in the stix :

        Amen, sister. I work at a university in public affairs, as a publications writer. I don’t have a dress code per se. But I do see myself as an example to the students who work in and around our office. So, even though I’m not in suits every day, I don’t wear jeans, seldom sandals (only in the deadest days of summer) and try to be otherwise professional in grooming and accessories. When I worked in a more conservative setting, I did my “rebel yell” by wearing shocking underwear–completely covered by charcoal grey or black suits.

      • LexCaritas :

        awesome.

      • Amazing response. Thanks for inspiring the rest of us.

    • madmartha :

      Samantha, you’re in PR. PR is a very very very different field than the ones in which most of the readers of this blog work. My husband’s in PR, and he wears jeans to work every single day. That is most definitely not acceptable where I work. Scroll back through the archives: the point here is what you can wear in a corporate culture that requires a high degree of conservatism and yet not look like a corporate drone. My field is rife with dress codes. My own office is far less traditional than some recounted here, but I can assure you that harem pants would NOT fly.

  9. always looking for work shoes :

    I am happy to say that “appropriate” patent shoes are work appropriate. It’s really difficult now to get a pump which is NOT a peep toe, NOT a sling back, and NOT a platform without ruling out the dominance of patent selections. I do like to have shoes in a variety of colors, despite the dominance of black on my shoe shelves. It’s always hard to find navy, grey that are lovely, not “sturdy” and I am starting to find that with other colors as well. We have to be reasonable here, although I would like to see more appropriate and slightly fun pumps to come back in leather and without open toes/heels. Fashion is cyclical, for those of us who are “hard” on shoes, it can be a problem. Definately happy for patent shoes on the rainy days!

  10. North Shore :

    The judge I clerked for in the mid-90s was a very formal and proper woman — no pant suits in court and all that. One nice summer day, I wore black patent leather shoes to work. They had low heels and a t-strap. The judge noticed my shoes, and said, “Oh, how I love patent leather shoes, IN THE SUMMER.” She repeated it, “IN THE SUMMER.” Given that I was the frequent recipient of fashion advice from her (and grateful for it, in the pre-Corporette world), I have wondered if there is something wrong with patent leather shoes in other seasons. I’ve asked my friends from time to time, but nobody else has heard of patent leather being restricted to the summer. Maybe it was a regional thing.

    • I’ve never heard of a general rule against patent leather in the winter either, but after destroying several pairs of patent leather shoes by walking through de-icing salt and general winter muck, I only wear them outside in the summer as well.

      • I mentioned this above, but there is definitely a rule (old fashioned though it may be) that patent leather is ONLY FOR SUMMER. That’s memorial day through labor.
        I never heard of it until someone pointed it out to me at work (along with velvet is only thanksgiving to valentine’s). It sounds incredibly outdated given the sheer number of winter items that are made in patent leather, but ever since hearing it, I am very cognizant of the fact that in some people’s eyes (esp. older, “in charge” people) I am totally breaking a “rule” when I wear P.L. anything in the Winter/Fall/Spring. So just take that for it is worth. Your judge was warning you to only rock the P.L. when its warm out.

    • Anonymous :

      I’ve heard of this rule and I was really surprised by it. From an instinctively aesthetic point of view, I always felt like patent leather felt more appropriate in the winter. (I have a deep love of black patent leather shoes paired with opaque black tights). I’m pretty on board with most other rules – no seersucker, predominantly white attire, or Lilly Pulitzer between Labor Day and Easter (I stick to this in Florida even! (okay, i sometimes push it to the end of September because of the heat and just how much I love Lilly and seersucker…)), no opaque hosiery in the summer, no velvet between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, etc. – but I don’t see what’s wrong with patent in the winter time. Caveat that I live in Florida, so no slushy streets to deal with here :)

      • Based on the sheer number of patent leather boots & how great patent leather looks in fall colors (purple, forest green, etc.), I am inclined to agree. But a rule is a rule & now that I know it, it totally stick in my mind whenever I wear P.L. shoes “out of season,” so to speak, and I catch someone looking at them (esp. an older person) I wonder if they’re thinking “she’s not supposed to wear those!”

        • AnneCatherine :

          My mom, who is southern, told me this rule a long time ago and I can’t move past it either, LOL

          • so, to beat a dead horse, what about the very conservative and classic ferragamo or chanel flats with the patent leather toe? summer only?

            Maybe AnneCatherine can ask her Mama. :)

          • I wear patent closed toe/peep toe (no slingbacks) pumps from Ferragamo daily to work and they are appropriate, conservative, classy & COMFY (size 9 flat footed person here).

            Now if only I could take the “costly” out of them…..sigh.

      • “no velvet between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day” – No velvet during the Christmas holidays? I’ve never heard of that rule, that’s just crazy, lol. That’s the only time I wear velvet. Oh, well, one more rule I’ve broken.

        • Anonymous :

          I think she meant between Valentine’s and Thanksgiving (meaning late nov through mid Feb is the only acceptable time)

          • Anonymous :

            Oops! OP here – that’s exactly what I meant. Velvet ONLY between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. Serves me right for posting during the mid-afternoon, post-lunch slump :)

          • That’s what I thought too….that makes sense. Who wants to wear velvet in the hot summer months?

  11. Patent leather used to be regarded as a spring-summer accessory and followed many of the same “rules” as wearing white shoes. Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) was generally regarded as the earliest one could wear either patent leather or white shoes and they had to be put back into the closet after Labor Day. I still only wear white shoes during the spring and summer but I do wear patent leather all year.

    I also wear black pants in the summer, black and white to weddings, something other than solid black to a funeral, and find it quite acceptable to mix and match patterns. I am such a rule breaker, lol.

  12. I have wine-colored patent flats that have a silver buckle on them. I like to wear them with my charcol wide-leg dress pants and a black top, accessoriezed with my silver bracelet watch and silver earrings. I think it looks professional for a day I don’t have a client meeting or court appearance.

  13. NClawstudent :

    re: nicks and scuffs.

    How do you ladies fix patent shoes when they get scuffed? I tripped the other day (not because of heel height) and scuffed my beautiful, beige, almond-toed heels. Now there are weird marks on them and I can’t figure out how to get them off. Any suggestions? They’re the perfect shoes for skirts, and given my ghostly complexion the only shoes I’ve found that work with my skintone!

    • Anonymous :

      No help, but please share what type of shoes they are! I’ve been looking for something just like that for weeks and striking out- Anne Taylor’s perfect pumps were great, but the color was more grey than beige. Stuart Weitzman heels were too high. Louboutins are too expensive. The list goes on. . . sigh.

      • Anonymous :

        Happy to share some newfound wisdom! Get a q-tip and some nail polish remover and rub the scuff with the Q-tip dipped in the remover. I discovered it while reading a review on Zappos or the ilk and tried it on a pair of pale gray patent wedges. It worked beautifully and didn’t damage the shoe like I was a little afraid it would. I would test it out on a less noticeable portion of the shoe first in the interest of “belts and suspenders.”

      • NClawstudent :

        Wish I could help, but I bought them two years ago – Nine West. They’ve held up amazingly well and are super comfy. I know the brand doesn’t work for everyone, but they fit my feet perfectly. Good luck with your hunting!

      • anonymous :

        Cole Haan!

      • I just found some GREAT beige patent leather Steve Maddens: http://www.zappos.com/steve-madden-ulltra-blush

        • I had just bought these! I had been looking for nude heels for AGES and I finally saw these and they fit. Love.

        • I just bought those! they are supposed to arrive today!

      • I have the same Ann Taylor pumps and love them, but I can’t wear them every day (heel is too high). Shoes are the only aspect of Ann Taylor that hasn’t suffered from declining quality, from what I can tell.

      • I have shoes that fit this description and they’re Coach.

    • use a pencil eraser!

    • Hand sanitizer or anything with alcohol should rub off scuff marks.

    • academicsocialite :

      Sounds weird, but I use a little Windex on a clean cloth.

  14. I grew up with the Easter to Mem’l Day white rule and the knowledge that patent leather was for summer….very conservative upbringing, very North-East preppy, a lot like LPC’s….like kjf, I don’t break the white rule, I just can’t, but I have slacked on the patent leather for summer rule….I’ll wear it into the fall, through Tksgvg.

  15. s in Chicago :

    I have the black Calvin Kleins that were posted. I just want to make a plug for them. They are my all-time FAVORITE shoes. They’re super comfortable and they’ve got a rubber section built into the bottom beneath the pad of the foot that keeps you from slipping (what I thought was great for those rainy days…)

    The wide heel is wonderful, too. It’s not too clunky while still being pefect for when I attend conferences or other days that might involve lots of walking. I never have to worry about them getting caught in sidewalk grates or breaks in pavement. I also like wearing them with cuffed pants since they never seem to catch the cuff.

    I’m sad that I shouldn’t have been wearing them year round. I see PL as an accent with suede and velvet on handbags and such so frequently, I’m absolutely shocked. I guess I’ll have to find something similar in a different finish soon. :(

    • AnneCatherine :

      I have the Calvin Klein Carrie (the shoe pictured) in black, as well. It’s comfy and it’s about a 2.5 or 3” inch heel maybe? I also have it in brown (patent) and the heel is higher, maybe 3 to 3.25” It’s okay to walk in, but very hard to stand in for long periods of time at, say, a conference (the higher heel). I love both of them, love the rubber (non-skid) bottom, because I fall a lot of slippery floors. For that reason, as well, I like the wider heel. Also, I think the shoes just look nice with suits.

      • Thanks to both of you for posting — I was going to ask whether anyone had tried the CK Carrie shoe. They look great but I don’t usually do well in heels over 2″ high. This heel looks chunky enough that it might work!

  16. Aerosoles Wise Guy is a nice tan patent pump working well for me.

    Don’t see a problem with patent assuming rest is appropriate. Don’t understand why it’s summer only historically, as they are HOTTER on your feet than regular shoes- had to take them off in DC last month despite peep toe. Feet on fire.

    • I have to say, I’ve never heard of patent as summer-only. White patent, maybe, but definitely nothing else.

  17. Start with your most conservative patent pair, and wear them with pants so that only a flash shows through … see if you feel comfortable, if you get any “wow, how daring” passive-agressive comments, etc., and then work your way up from there.

    My office is fairly conservative (suits only), but women take a lot of liberty with shoes and necklaces as a way to make everything else pop. Patent, peep toes are fine – “eau de hooker” is basically where people draw the line (a term I love, by the way!).

  18. Re: over-the-knee boots – aren’t these generally worn with super-short skirts? Or else what’s the point of wearing the over-the-knee style if no one sees it? (Maybe this is because I’ve just recently come around to even knee-high boots, but I really don’t get the appeal of having a boot come that high up on your leg anyway.)

    In that case, I feel like the short skirt is what would be inappropriate for the office, more than the boot itself.

    • I wear knee-high boots under my pants all winter long. They keep my legs nice and warm during the north east winters, and are more stable than pumps. I can’t imagine that working with over the knee boots though.

    • The only attorney I’ve ever known who wore knee-high or over the knee boots to the office (with her skirt-cardigan combo) looked very cute and pulled together in them. However, she also liked to die her hair purple, told the world that she and her spouse were swingers and in an open marriage (sure, whatever floats your boat, but keep that private, please), she used to be a stripper, preferred girls, threw up on the managing partner at her first Christmas party (2 months after being hired), and slept with 2 associates and 3 partners within her first year, and worked flex-time to accommodate her cocaine binges, according to the paralegals who she met up with for pot parties on occasion. As I’m sure you can imagine, no one really even registered the quality of her work, but she was rather infamous. So…while cute, I can’t even wear boots with skirts outside the office without feeling a bit eau de hooker, thanks to her. For what its worth.

  19. Hydrangea :

    Kat – I dislike your poll categories. When is “eau de hooker” ever OK in the office? I suspect most readers would also say regular leather with “eau de hooker” was not OK in the office either. I think the real winner of the poll should be “patent leather is a-ok” as we corporette readers are assuming someone would not be wearing eau de hooker shoes to the office

    • Another Sarah :

      Eau de hooker shoes were probably perfectly appropriate in Heidi Fleiss’ office. :-D

  20. always looking for work shoes :

    OK if there is so much about the rules for patent leather, then can we have postings about great closed toe/closed heel pumps that are leather or fabric in the fall and winter months? Seriously. It is hard to find things that are of a reasonable price and not patent leather. Seems like the PL Police are outnumbering the LOL at rules crew for shoe composition. What say you all?

  21. I think that patent is perfectly acceptable. Other styling features may make a shoe inappropriate. Many of my more conservative shoes are patent.

    As for the season, patent has been big in fall for the last several years. I think the fashion industry has thrown that rule out the door. I have a few pairs of patent shoes that scream “fall” and I wouldn’t dare wear in the summer.

    I am enjoying the dialogue between Samantha and Amy. Thanks to both of you for your posts. I think that both points of view are valid, although I fall more on the Amy side of the fence.

    The whole point of this blog, however, is allowing yourself to feel good about your fashion choices while dressing for success. You don’t have to wear a chicken suit, or a corporate uniform to succeed. Yet, it’s not going to matter how good you look in that outfit if the rest of the world thinks you look like a da** fool. Appearance does matter. Sadly, it still matters more for women than men.

  22. My compromise for my fairly conservative government office — or at least, as a 2L intern, I’m dressing pretty conservatively! — is this:
    http://www.naturalizer.com/Shopping/ProductDetails.aspx?p=EC0218356
    I think it’s been posted here before, but… a bit of shine, less scuff-able than full-on patent leather, still cute. These have a non-clunky but still substantial heel, which is good for walking.

  23. One word: PLASTIC-Y. Patent leather in a non-conservative style can look like you’re wearing plastic shoes. That’s just my opinion.

  24. These are mine, which I fully intend to wear almost year-round

    http://www.colehaan.com/colehaan/catalog/product.jsp?catId=100&productId=298289&productGroup=298358

    http://www.endless.com/dp/B002HJ3TCS/ref=ef_em/?fromPage=email&realColor=Black%2FBlack+synthetic&realSize=9.5&realWidth=B

  25. shopaholic :

    I’ve never heard of patent being hooker-ish at all. Fishnets, yes, but patent?

  26. I love patent leather shoes! They make an otherwise boring pair of black or brown pumps just a little more interesting.

  27. Anonymous :

    Honestly, I think most of my shoes are or have some patent leather! I’ve found that tips, especially pointed toes (my preference) actually hold up longer in patent leather than regular. Since I’m from OH, patent leather definitely holds up in the rain and snow as well. As for colors I have a pair of brown slingbacks, black high heels and even my favorite red open toe patent leathers (the ones I’ve been most complimented on by people at the office). In some ways I think of shoes as setting off an outfit rather than a purse or another accessory. If you would wear a red bag or a red necklace, why not red patent leathers. No longer do you need to have a Red power suit, instead you can have your Red power shoes! I feel that as long as the shoe doesn’t dress down an outfit or look hookerish (like 6 in. stilettos or 5-6 in. chunky sandals), I think you’re pretty save.

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