Step into spring spirit in pointy-toe shoes
If you are looking to take a fashionable step into spring, let your shoes lead the way.
Sleek, sophisticated and ladylike, the pointy-toe shoe is coming back strong, pushing several seasons' worth of chunky platforms toward the back of the closet.
The narrowed point, part of the retro-feminine trend drawing on the 1960s, has trickled down from the designer world to the mainstream market, said Gregg Andrews, fashion creative director at Nordstrom, and will be a silhouette to wear to look well-dressed and on-trend for spring.
"It looks so fresh," he said. "It feels right with everything that's going on in fashion."
The classic, versatile style, last a must-have in the "Sex and the City" era, is enjoying an updated return to the spotlight in a burst of colors and with decorations such as pretty bows and tougher-looking studs.
"When you think of the pointed-toe shoe, you think of Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy," Andrews said. "You think of those very famous fashion icons from the 1960s, but then you tweak it and you make it very 21st century."
Decades ago, women stepped out in black or white patent leather, he said. "Now we're seeing it in a whole myriad of colors and seeing everything from nude all the way into bright highlighter colors, and of course, black is still there," he said.
If you are a newcomer to the silhouette, stylist and shoe fanatic Stacy London believes there is no better place to start than the classic pointy-toe stiletto.
"It's the basic shoe for any woman's wardrobe," said London, who says that a line-lengthening pointy toe punctuates at least one-quarter of her shoe collection, now approaching 500 pairs.
"There's nothing it can't go with, and it does literally add a little bit of height and class to any outfit," she said. "It makes you look taller, longer, leaner and more graceful."
At Narciso Rodriguez's New York Fashion Week show last month, pointy-toe heels, including ankle-strap and bootie versions, walked the runway. To him, the style is sexy, sensual and no-nonsense. Of all of the shoe silhouettes he has designed, the pointed toe is the most flattering on a woman's foot, he said.
"It's great when you want to look sleek and pulled together," Rodriguez said.
He added: "There is something about it that naturally looks correct."
The shoes that Rodriguez has turned out for the last several seasons also have single soles, which are more delicate that the thicker ones popular with platforms. He was inspired not by Jackie O but by looks worn by 1990s' style stars Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, for whom he crafted her wedding look, and Kate Moss.
"Now it's really become more the thing that you will see on everyone's runways," he said. "It's great to see it again. It looks so smart."
One of the best attributes of the shoe, which can also be fashioned with a kitten, mid-height or flat heel, is that you can wear it with just about anything. Michelle Obama worked in several medium-heel pointy-toe pumps plus a pair of sharp-point boots in her inaugural wardrobe this year.
London favors a higher stiletto paired with cropped pants or midi skirt, and said the shoes also work well with a pantsuit, a full or pencil skirt, a sheath dress and even the boyfriend jean. For a trendy outfit, dress up a look of skinny jeans, T-shirt and lightweight leather jacket with a pair of pointed stilettos, Andrews suggested. "The whole idea of juxtaposing the feminine with the more tough is a huge trend," he said.
A casual look could combine a pair of feminine shorts with a pointy toe flat, Andrews said, or add a mid-height heel to careerwear or an embellished stiletto beneath a cocktail dress. "It's a great shoe because its silhouette is so clean and neutral, you can really do a lot with it," he said.
Rodriguez sees the versatility as well.
"I like it with pants, and I think it can look quite chic if you're wearing something that's quite relaxed," he said. "You can wear it with something that's quite body-con. It works in pretty much any situation."
Just as the shoes can befit both first ladies and fashionistas (or first lady fashionistas), they can also be naughty or nice.
"I don't think that it's just a proper-girl look," Rodriguez said. "It can be an extremely sexy look depending on the shoe."
Subtle bondage references are found in shoes topped with ankle straps, London said. "If you want powerful and a little bit more dom than fem, go for a shackle," she said.
While "anyone and everyone" can slip into the style, said London, there still are things to consider: A skinny heel, for example, can make heavy calves or ankles look heavier, so women might want to consider a wedge or stacked heel instead. Also, an elongated toe box can look "a little witchy" on shorter women, she said, urging wearers to "keep the point in proportion with your height."
And don't fall for the misconception that a pointed toe will be uncomfortable. According to Andrews, the width of a shoe at the foot's widest part remains the same as in shoes without the narrowed toe.
The pointy toe will make everything in your closet look new again, Andrews said, and perhaps even give your psyche a boost.
"A pointed-toe shoe is unquestionably a sign of good taste," he said, "And that makes a woman feel empowered."