A Woman walking down the street in autumn wearing black cap toe derbies

The Ultimate Women’s Dress Shoe Guide

IlaydaBy IlaydaFebruary 17, 2020

When you hear dress shoes, you automatically think of a well-dressed man in a suit and accurate black cap toe oxfords. But what is with all the women rocking their beautiful lace-ups? We all know fashion has its own rules, and that’s why we see more and more women breaking these outdated stereotypes. I love dress shoes because they are versatile, universal, and you can combine them with almost any kind of style. In this blog post, I will share six stunning looks, proving that dress shoes perfectly match with a modern women’s wardrobe.

Cap toe oxford

In History, it is not entirely clear who exactly invented the oxford shoe, but we know for sure that it gained popularity at Oxford University during the beginning of the 19th century. Since then, this type of dress shoe is considered as a synonym for classic elegance. The main characteristic of an oxford shoe is the lacing system. Unlike a Derby, the Oxford shoe has a closed lacing system, which makes the shoe fit less flexible but more formal.

There are many ways to wear an oxford shoe. To inspire you on how to style your dress shoes, I chose two looks I really like with the same black cap toe oxford. This is the most widespread oxford shoe style and owes name from the additional piece of leather stitched over the toe box. Because of the simplicity of this shoe, you can also feel free to combine it with a bolder and more colorful outfit.

Ready for a city trip? We know dress shoes originally belong to men’s wardrobe. So let’s get this look men’s fashion inspired and keep it a little bit simple by choosing classy black cap toe oxfords. Go along with black pants, a basic top, and round it up with a leather jacket. Ready is your edgy style, and you can explore the streets of Berlin.

Your partner’s parents are in town and want to go to dinner with you. And you are stressed out because you don’t know what to wear? Okay, don’t panic. For me, it is easier if I start creating my look with the shoes. So, take some flats (less risk of embarrassing yourself by stumbling) and build your outfit around your shoes. Again, we choose the black cap toe oxfords. They are comfortable yet classic and elegant. Round it up with your Norwegian sweater and combine it with black jeans and a grey coat. The whole outfit takes up the minimalistic look of the simple yet special shoes. Now, you can enjoy dinner!

Spectator derby

Let’s move to another dress shoe style: Back in the 19th century, the derby shoe was the shoe choice for leisure activities like sporting or hunting. The key difference between them is the open lacing system. These allow for a more flexible fit of the derby. In the 20th century, the derby became accepted as a “town-shoe” and was appropriate for wear by gentlemen. But, as I mentioned before, fashion has its own rules: Let’s get these shoes in a women’s wardrobe!

I personally love spectator derbies. Spectator describes a shoe with two different colors, regardless of whether it’s an Oxford, a Derby, or a Loafer. They combine a casual, yet chic style for businesswomen.

Imagine it’s a warm fall day, and you want to go on a shopping trip with your girls. Afterward, you have a date, but you don’t have time to go home to change. Dilemma: You need an outfit that is comfy enough for your shopping trip but still elegant enough for your date. Of course, you need some flats. But which ones? Choose your spectator cap toe derbies. The special feature of the shoes is that the cap toe is in a different color, which makes the shoe an eyecatcher! Combine them with a wooled midi-skirt and a black turtleneck to take up the black color of the cap toe and create a smooth transition in your whole outfit.

The second look is one of my favorites: the spectator plain toe derby, which is the perfect shoe for weekend outfits. The key is to keep all other pieces simple so that the shoe can shine—for example, a dark green velvet suit with a simple black clutch. For adding eyecatcher on your shoes, you can wear black ankle socks. And you are ready for a night out on the weekend!

Full brogue oxford

The last dress shoe model I want to present is the full brogue oxford. Initially, brogues were designed as a shoe suitable for rough outdoor work. Their key feature was a series of perforations of each piece of leather to allow water to drain from the shoes. Over time, they were adopted as an outdoor walking shoe. Today, the broguing is used for decorative purposes. That means, every shoe with perforation is a brogue.

I know it’s going to be Monday again, and we need to go back to work. So put on your business outfit, maybe a basic black pants, a blazer, and a matching coat, and round it up with a nice pair of brogues. Always bear in mind that a shoe is less formal the more broguing it has and vice versa. If your dress code is business casual then go for brown leather full brogues. They have a perforated toe cap with wing-like extensions that run along both sides of the shoe, shaped like an “M” or “W” depending on the viewpoint, extensions along both sides ending near the ball of the foot, and can have decorative broguing in the center of the toe cap (called medallion). In these shoes, you’ll probably survive the doomed Monday.

If you are looking for a more casual look with the full brogues, go with these eye-catching black oxford wingtips with silver details. With all the perforations, these shoes give your outfit a wild and special look. Besides black pants, an oversized white shirt, and a black leather jacket. Keep your look simple to not steal your shoes the show. This look is perfect for a concert because your shoes will be comfy enough to dance but still round up your look at a perfect edgy street style.

What is your favorite look and which dress shoes do you have in your wardrobe? Share it with us in the comments below.