Style Panel: How do you wear flats without completely dressing down an outfit?

Next up in Style Panel, we’ve challenged our experts to one of the most existential questions in fashionland: to wear flats, or not to wear flats? And more importantly, if you’re going to wear flats, is it possible to dress them up? To answer, we’ve welcomed three new style allstars into the group: To Vogue or Bust’s (and our intern for the summer!) Alex Grant, Curvy Geekery’s Mo Handahu and Dentelle et FleursGabrielle Lacasse!

Question 3: The question: How do you wear flats without completely dressing down an outfit. Can you still look dressed up? Read the answers now! »

Or jump to: ALEX GRANT, TORONTO | ALYSSA LAU, EDMONTON | GABRIELLE LACASSE, MONTREAL | GRACIE CARROLL, TORONTO | LOLITTA DANDOY, MONTREAL | MO HANDAHU, HALIFAX | VICKIE LALIOTIS

Got a question for the gals? Send ‘em through to stylepanel@fashionmagazine.com and watch as your most irritating styling problems are solved.


Alex Grant, 25
Toronto via Vancouver | To Vogue or Bust

Despite having had a height complex since as far back as I can remember, I still sometimes opt for the functionality of flats over the height advantage of heels, especially when the temperatures begin to soar and comfort becomes paramount.

As I’ve found with so many other fashion-related conundrums, finding a balance is key. In the case of flats, if you choose to opt for functionality over height, then some sort of special attention needs to be paid to some other aspect of your outfit.

Being a colour person myself (I swear I’ve only got three black dresses in my closet), I tend to opt for bright tones or high-impact accessories to give what would otherwise be a pretty basic outfit some extra allure. Whether it’s a punchy colour, statement piece or unexpected detail, adding something special elevates flats to a new level of pulled-together chic.

Alex’s wearing: Dress, Forever 21. Clutch, H&M. Sandals, H&M. Belt, vintage. Necklace, H&M.

Gabrielle Lacasse, 23
Montreal | Dentelle et Fleurs

I love to wear high heels when I can, but most of the time I have to walk to reach my destination. In this case, flats are more appropriate. There are different kinds of flat shoes you can try to keep your outfit chic and feminine. Personally, I like to pair them with my favourite dresses so that I still look put together. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that your clothes need to work with your shoes. For this outfit, I just kept the vintage spirit into the whole ensemble by wearing second-hand leather shoes.Gracie

Mo Handahu, 29
Halifax | Curvy Geekery

Truth be told, I have a love/hate relationship with flats. Yes, they are comfortable but as a curvy girl, my wide feet don’t look that great in flats. As far as not completely dressing down an outfit, I would opt for pants with a straight/skinny cut that show some skin between the flats and the pants. I always opt for the pointed toe and slightly raised flat because I rely on these two features to give me a better silhouette and to create the illusion of a minimized shoe width. Flats with detail also help with keeping your outfit
somewhat fancy. Pro tip: I wore a pair of flats I snagged from a vintage store and embellished them with gold clip-on earrings to give them a little bit more character.

Mo’s wearing: Pants, blazer, earrings, necklace and shoes thrifted. T-shirt, H&M.

Photography by Steven Lee/SilhouettedSkyline.com

Gracie Carroll, 24
Toronto | Gracie Carroll

It might be because I never reached the height required to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a supermodel, but I hate wearing flats. That doesn’t mean I don’t wear flats, I just try to avoid them at all times. Unless last night’s party has left me unable to walk properly, or I’ve got all-day errands to do by foot, I’m in heels. What I’m saying is, if you want style advice from Gracie Carroll, she would tell you to never try to go fancy in flats. My outfit issues usually stem from the opposite problem, most often: “How can I pull off my ‘just-rolled-out-of-bed-and-into-whatever-was-lying-on-the-floor’ look as more fancy?” The answer? Add heels. Better yet, add “heels” that come in the form of platform sandals that are basically elevated flat shoes. Technically, this magical shape of a shoe solves both types of fancy outfit problems discussed here. Yay!

Gracie’s wearing: Vintage army jacket, Pretty Freedom. T-shirt, Marc by Marc Jacobs. Skirt, Diepo. Shoes, Tory Burch. Sunglasses, Buffalo Exchange.

Alyssa Lau, 20
Edmonton | The Ordinary Peoples

As a hearty advocate for flats and all things that represent summer, I wear flats almost every day that I’m not wearing heeled somethings. I’ll even wear them in the winter if I’m sick enough of boots. I don’t think there’s anything better than having a pair of black flats at one’s disposal. You can wear black flats with virtually anything and everything, especially if “anything and everything” consists of a rather busy outfit. For a more formal look, maybe even add a bow or pointed toe to the shoe.  But if you’re like me, you’ll somehow force a pair of plain black flats to become less casual than they really are. Really, the key is to wear something eye-catching so that nobody notices what you’re wearing on your feet. Jokes aside, if I had to wear one pair of shoes for the rest of my life, it’d probably be black flats.

Alyssa’s wearing: Tank, iAnyWear. Skirt, Elie Tahari. Belt, vintage. Selected jewellery, Vanessa Mooney. Flats, Brooks Brothers.

Vickie Laliotis, 28
Edmonton | Adventures in Fashion

Nothing has the ability to dress down an outfit quite like flats, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. That’s right my friends, with so many polished options at our disposal, there’s no reason not to look put together AND keep those toes comfy when you’re at an event or out on the town. Cue the applause. So when choosing a flat to finish your look, just take a page from Marissa Cooper’s book (you know you loved The O.C., don’t deny it) and choose a pointed or almond-toed little number with decorative bits, unexpected colours or a patent finishing. And why not try a slingback? Nothing instantly dresses up a shoe quite like it. There’s really no reason why your dressed up duds can’t jive with the almighty flat, so get creative and try different styles… Your feet will thank you.

Vickie’s wearing: Striped blazer, H&M. Sequined tank and navy trouser, Forever 21. Patent flats, Sam Edelman. Necklace, craft fair find.

Lolitta Dandoy, 32
Montreal | Fashion Is Everywhere

I’m not going to lie, heels do make us look chicer (and skinnier, and taller), but that doesn’t mean we can’t resort to flats for a dressed-up look. The first thing we can do is actually choose shoes that have an interesting detail. That’s why I like these t-strap flat sandals with a cool metallic ankle wrap.

Instead of an ankle-length dress which will shorten you, show a little bit of leg with a wrap skirt like this one.

Lolitta’s wearing: Tube top, La Vie en Rose. Skirt, Joe Fresh. Necklace, Expressions at the Bay. Flats, Aldo.