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Are Open Toe Heels Business Casual

The Dos and Dont’s of Heels in the Office

White Collar Glam
White Collar Glam

When I originally wrote this article, I was working as a civil litigation attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina. Obviously, the legal industry is a pretty conservative one and it limited some of my outfit choices. Now, I’m an entertainment news correspondent in New York City with much more freedom in my wardrobe. These two careers have given me a unique perspective, having been on nearly opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to dress code for the workplace.

My rule of thumb for heels in the office used to be to dress so that when I told someone I was an attorney, they were not surprised. Clearly that meant there were certain clothes and shoes I never wore, specifically sexy, strappy, colorful, or platform shoes. Nowadays, my outfits are business inspired but not nearly as conservative or limiting as they used to be.

Obviously, every workplace is different. The Devil Wears Prada is my favorite movie and one of the scenes I love the most is when the main character gets a makeover and struts into the office wearing thigh-high Chanel boots. I would never wear thigh-high boots to my law firm job, but I’ve worn them plenty of times to shoot segments about new celebrity relationships or to discuss awards show results. And they certainly were appropriate to wear to work at a fashion magazine like the one in the movie.

Think of the following dos and don’ts for heels in the office as guidelines. You’ll have to use your own experience and knowledge of your office culture and how conservative or liberal the dress code is when deciding on footwear. Some heels work no matter what office you’re in and others are less versatile. Use this advice when making decisions about the grey area between these two and understanding the lines you should never cross.

BOOTS

  • Do – Ankle Boots

These are especially desirable when it’s cold outside. In a business-professional setting, I’d only wear ankle boots with pants. The ankle boot and skirt look is hard to pull off, especially if you’re wearing a work dress or skirt, so I’d save that combination for a more casual-leaning setting.

  • Don’t — Anything that Stretches To or Over the Knee
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Unless your workplace is super casual, when you’re thinking about heels in the office, stay away from thigh-high boots like the two pair I’m wearing here.

Calf-height boots fit in the grey area between a do and a don’t. Be judicious about wearing these to the office. Like ankle boots, I would only wear them if your dress code is business casual and I’d be careful about styling options with them.

For example, the outfit in this article is great for a business-casual setting and I’m wearing calf-height boots with a midi-length a-line skirt. I wouldn’t, however, wear this outfit in a business-professional setting.

PUMPS

  • Do – Keep the Height Around Two to Three Inches

I usually push it to four inch heels, like the ones in this article, but when I worked as an attorney and my heels were on the taller end, I shied away from loud patterns or bright colors. For example, the only four inch heels I wore to my law firm were pretty nondescript, didn’t have patterns, and were basic beige or black.

In my current job as an entertainment news correspondent, I wear heels of any height. Most of them are four inches or higher. Use your best judgment here, but basically heel height matters most in business professional workplaces. Anywhere else, as long as you can walk in them, wear them.

  • Do – Experiment with Patterns More Than Colors

I’m obsessed with the tweed pumps I’m wearing in the photos at the bottom of this article. Even though the pattern is a little busy, these are appropriate for work because they’re black and white. These same shoes in a bright yellow or neon pink would not be appropriate for my law firm job. The bold pattern combined with a risky color would be overwhelming.

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On the other hand, both patterns and colors work for when I’m on set or doing interviews in my current, more flexible workplace.

  • Do – Wear Chunky Heels

They are so comfortable and easy to walk in! You’re missing out if you don’t have a pair already.

  • Do – Try Heels with a Bit of Embellishment on Them

Try a pair with a small tassle or a buckle on them. (I said a buckle, not seven buckles).

  • Don’t – Wear Shoes with a Platform

Aside from the shoe being pretty clunky, these Jessica Simpson heels aren’t appropriate because of the large platform. I typically encourage women not to wear a shoe with a platform to work at all, but definitely stay away from any platform higher than half an inch unless your workplace is pretty casual.

  • Don’t – Wear Anything with Any Sparkle on It

This means no sequins or rhinestones. Also, no matter how small and dainty they are, don’t wear spike embellishment on heels for work. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear shoes with any added detail. It just means that, when there is some additional design element, make sure it is subtle and doesn’t make you think of Halloween or horror movies.

  • (Maybe) Don’t – Wear Bright Colors

Beige/brown, black, grey, and navy are always safe colors for heels in the office. You can branch outside of these, just proceed with caution if your workplace leans more conservative. A good rule of thumb if you want to play with color in a conservative office is to opt for darker colors . If you want to try orange, make sure it’s a burnt orange. If you choose green, stick with an olive green or something close to it (like the ones here). The same goes for red (burgundy is safe) and other colors.

If you’re working with a more flexible dress code like the one I have now, feel free to play with color. Just be careful with neons. Few workplaces other than super casual ones are safe for neons.

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OPEN TOE HEELS

  • Do – Wear Peep Toe Shoes

There is nothing wrong with a little peep toe. A small one. If we can see too many toes, it may start to feel like you’re wearing flip flops.

  • Don’t – Wear Strappy Shoes, Including the Popular Two-Strap Shoes

Unless your office dress code is casual (not business casual, but casual), I would not wear the popular two-strap shoes, here. The two-strap is generally too casual to wear with business casual or business formal clothes.

A good rule of thumb is whether you can wear sandals (flat or heeled) to work. If you can, your workplace is pretty casual and you can do the two-strap or other scrappy shoes. If you can’t, stray away. In case you’re on the fence, play it safe and stick with a peep toe or closed toe shoe.

OTHER

  • Do — Try Slingbacks (here), Heeled Loafers (here), D’Orsay, and Mary Janes

Just make sure they aren’t in loud colors like bright pink or bright red (a deep, rich burgundy would be acceptable, though)

  • Do — Check out the White Collar Glam Pinterest Board on Work Shoes, here

If you need some inspiration for work shoes, you can find over 100 different work-appropriate shoes on the WCG Pinterest Board – “Work Shoes.” This includes both heels and flats!

  • Do — Visit the White Collar Glam shop for accessories to pair with your work-appropriate shoes!

We’re constantly getting in new necklaces, earrings, and bracelets that are perfect for the office and beyond.

Have questions about a specific shoe? Message me here and I’ll address any inquiries you have!

Pictured below: dress (Calvin Klein, old), jacket (H&M, old), pumps (Ann Taylor Jolie Tweed Bow Pumps, here).