how to style flat shoes when youre petite and curvy

Ask Allie: Flat Shoes with Femininity and Polish

Fashion Advice How to Wear Fashion Trends Plus Size Fashion shopping tips

I've just had my ankle fused which means no more high heels for me EVER. I don't have to stick to flat flats but a 1 inch heels is about the highest I can go. I'm finding this particularly tough because as a short (5ft 2) round person, I've relied on heels to elongate my frame (I love how my legs look in heels!) and finish off outfits my entire life. I feel like I can't quite get the “polish” I need with the flats that I'm now forced to wear. I almost feel like I need to modulate my wardrobe toward a more masculine style of dress that goes with the oxfords and loafers that are available currently. I really like this on other people, but as someone who is very definitely an hourglass, find difficult to wear myself. If you were in this position, how would you tackle it? I feel so lost just right now!

I love the look of flat shoes like oxfords and loafers. I drool over those who make them look so chic with menswear, or pair them unexpectedly but so well with pleated midi skirts and floaty frocks. When I try to recreate the mix of the masculine shoe with the feminine look, it doesn’t look the same on my short, round frame.  However, that doesn't mean women shaped like us can't wear such shoes or any type of flat shoes and not maintain our current personal style.  Below I'll share how to style different on trend styles of flat shoes in a way that is feminine, has polish, and flatters a curvy figure.

how to style oxfords brogues and loafers with polish and a feminine touchShop the Look:
blazer | pink shell | boyfriend jeans | gold necklace | gold oxfords
silk tee | camel pant | necklace | bracelet | leopard oxfords


When you’re short and curvy, proportion matters a lot. I’ve found a cropped pant or jean cropped or rolled to show the ankle adds that bit of slenderness and femininity to make an oxford or loafer look right on my frame. A crisp flat front trouser or a pair of jeans works with the oxford as it has masculine elements, but the garment isn’t too masculine to fit in with the rest of my wardrobe. On top, I try to incorporate a more feminine or polished look to balance it out. I’m a big fan of silk and metallic tees, which have better drape and more polish than a standard knit. Wear under a blazer to get the polish you desire, or wear on its own, possibly doing a half-tuck to show the figure better, with a statement necklace to amp up the femininity.

stylish loafers brogues and oxfords for fall winter 2016silver tassel loafer | leopard smoking loafer | blue suede loafer | gold snakeskin loafer | blush pink oxfords | pewter tassel loafer |  black glitter oxfords | mirror loafer | leopard tassel loafer | red loafer | leopard oxfords | gold camo loafers


Your choice of loafer or oxford also matters. I recommend getting crazy with them; leopard calfhair, shiny mirror finish, croco-embossed or another finish or in your signature color. Also check the silhouette; some have more streamlined of cuts than others (though I adore them and wore them to death in the ‘90s, Doc Martens aren’t the best for short curvy frames because of the bulk). Leather soles, almond or tapered toes, very low heel, not a lot of hardware, less contrast between shoe and laces or shoe and sole. Details matter, and going sleek, slim, and trendy will reduce the masculine feel and better work with your personal style.

how to style flat shoes for curvy figuresShop the Look:
gray midi skirt | pink cashmere tee | necklace | clutch | silver flats
black dress | tights | necklace | bag | fox flats

With traditional flats, there’s more than ballet styles out there. While a rounded ballet flat can make a short curvy person feel even shorter and squatter, a structured flat with a pointed or almond toe and low vamp can provide leg-lengthening benefits like their heeled counterparts. Not only that, structured flats with elongated toes look more polished and dressy and better pair with skirts, dresses, and trousers.

stylish flats for curvy or plus size women for fall winter 2015 2016plaid flat | leopard calfhair flat | soft gold mirror flat | black and gold flat | burgundy patent flat | pink glitter bow flat | rainbow stripe flat | rose gold flat | cheetah print flat | pink, leopard, and gold flatblack glitter flat | red cross-front flat 

A color close to your leg (tights, trousers, or bare skin) will better elongate the leg and make you feel taller. Again as with the oxfords and loafers, showing a bit of skin at the ankle can add a feminine touch; be sure the trouser or jeans are slim so it doesn’t make you look shorter. And as with the oxfords and loafers, this is a great time to incorporate a fun color, print or finish to put your personality on the look and reduce the frumpy feel. Kate Spade is a perfect example of a brand that is feminine, polished, yet regularly shows their looks with flats.  I’m personally a fan of metallic which immediately add polish to a look and have people notice the shoe more than how the shoe flatters your figure.  Also a metallic better blends with bare legs, elongating your figure.

Boots are also a great option.  From shoeties (lower vamp more like shoes) to ankle boots, this season's higher shaft boot that hits up on the ankle and low shin, to knee-high and over the knee boots; boots this season are sleek, modern, polished, and very many of them are flat.  Keep the same ideas as with the other types of flat shoes – choose ones that are trim and streamlined, preferably with an almond or longer toebox, have the color match your trousers or tights.  However with boots, polish comes from the quality of the material and an elegant boot is less likely to have adornment.  Steer clear of too much hardware, unique finished, mixes of materials, or funky soles.  Keep it classic, clean, and lean.

how to style flat shoes when youre petite and curvy

15 Comments

15 Comments

  • Alison February 3, 2018

    I know this is old post but as someone who has plantar fascitis since my 20’s I have spent the past 20 years in search if comfortable shoes, so I thought I’d share a few thinga I’ve learned. 1) don’t confuse padding and support. i.e. Aerosoles are padded but Vionics have support. 2) Slip-ons or backless shoes generally offer less support than anything that laces, buckles or zips up, because the foot slides around more. Slip-ons with a,high vamp are generally better than low vamp such as ballet slippers. Bac

  • The Adored Life January 27, 2016

    I am admittedly the worst about wearing flats because I just don’t like my vibe in them, but I know that at some point I’m going to have to give in. I just wish flash made my legs look longer and leaner!
    The Adored Life

  • deaconessd October 23, 2015

    A nice drapey trouser leg pant looks great with a loafer and a feminine blouse tucked in to show your shape. A 1 inch wedge is also quite feminine and looks great with anything.

  • MJ October 16, 2015

    I love smoking loafers! Favorite shoes this year. I have a pair of gray ones that I wear entirely too often. As much as I am on my feet, they are still comfortable. Like you, I like to roll my skinny pants for that “pop” of ankle. As Franish would say, I’m an ankle hussy! I like the overall look of the skinny pant and loafer.

  • Michelle... October 15, 2015

    Thank you for answering my question Allie! And to all the commenters too. There’s so much info here to digest but I’m feeling so much more hopeful. Thank you all <3

  • Eleanorjane October 15, 2015

    Ooh! Shoe love! I would have pretty much every one of those in my wardrobe!

  • AndaluZwing October 15, 2015

    I have incredibly wide feet and squashing them into pointy-toed anything doesn’t make for comfort. However, I am a swing dancer and wear loads of oxford wingtips and brogues, often two-tone, and love them as they are so supportive and you don’t have to cling with your toes if you’re a striding about kind of person, which with ballet flats seems to always end up being the case.

    A useful tip for feminising these more masculine shoes – especially if the shoe colour isn’t girly – is to exchange the laces for ribbons: maybe not pale pink satin(!), but a classy grosgrain ribbon (which creates a flat bow), even of the same colour as the shoe, automatically reads ‘not male’.

  • Sewing Faille October 14, 2015

    I am also petite and have an hourglass figure (5’5″, big hips but not a big bust), and I have chronic foot problems which limit me to flats– actually, not just flats, but flats with arch/ankle support. The only shoes I can generally wear are athletic shoes, Birkenstocks, and cowboy boots. I also tend to dress to accentuate my hourglass figure, with full skirts and a narrow waist. I’ve adopted two basic strategies when it comes to shoes.

    The first is to wear plain shoes with dresses in bright colors and interesting prints, which draws the eye to the dress, not the shoes. Examples here ( http://sewingfaille.blogspot.com/2015/08/eva-dress-u30-7202-1932-slip-turned.html ) and here ( http://sewingfaille.blogspot.com/2015/08/pattern-review-vogue-8488-with-pleated.html ) for Birkenstocks, and here ( http://sewingfaille.blogspot.com/2015/04/take-better-photos-with-off-camera.html ) for cowboy boots. The boots draw less attention to themselves because they match my tights.

    The second strategy is, like Wardrobe Oxygen said, to go all-out with the color. I mostly use this for cowboy boots, for instance here ( http://sewingfaille.blogspot.com/2015/08/vogue-2902-sort-of-super-hexagon-dress.html ) or here ( http://sewingfaille.blogspot.com/2015/04/advance-7753-1950s-apron-dress-apron.html ).

    You also mentioned polish, which is not really my thing, but I when I wear formalwear, I go for floor-length evening gowns and shoes that don’t draw attention to themselves, like this for Birkenstocks ( http://sewingfaille.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-1935-vionnet-dress-goes-to-hollywood.html ) and this ( http://sewingfaille.blogspot.com/2015/06/self-drafted-pattern-1930s-style-bias.html ) for cowboy boots. In most circumstances, bright red cowboy boots are really not subtle, but here they don’t stand out against the long red dress.

    I’m guessing my style in general is not your thing, but…mutatis mutandis.

    Hope that helps!

  • Julie October 14, 2015

    Some good sources for sophisticated flat and almost-flat shoes are Boden, Zara, Dolce Vita, Stuart Weitzman, Butter, Simply Soles, AGL, Prada, Manolo Blahnik, and Jimmy Choo. Ghillie shoes seem to be popular this year, and those look great with skirts and cropped pants.

    • Liz October 14, 2015

      Thank you so much for these suggestions. Let the shopping begin!

  • Liz October 14, 2015

    I have a difficult time finding flat shoes that are supportive/stylish. Shoe departments are flooded with shoes that are cute/have no substance – I might as well be walking on the concrete. More substance seems to = less style. I can pay more, am happy to pay more to make my feet happy – but can’t seem to find this happy combination, especially in a width that is more than the standard B width. Boots are the exception here, I have a great boot wardrobe. Can’t wear boots all year in Texas, though!

  • EvaNadine October 14, 2015

    this is perfect timing for me, as well, because i sprained my ankle pretty badly about 2 months ago. healing is a slow process, and i havent been able to wear heels since my injury! ::eyes amaze-balls nine west heels i thrifted + have yet to be able to wear:: ::sighs:: i havent invested much into my wardrobe of flats…it’s all either sneakers or cheap ballet slippers (which are WELL past their sell-by date), for the most part, so i think it’s time to spend a little more on some good quality, long-lasting flats!

  • Ginger October 14, 2015

    I think the low-vamp with a tapered toe is most flattering. Oxfords are alright but many are of stiff leather and you’ve got to wear a sock with them so you’re lose some of the slim ankle effect. It’s probably my foot, but I have yet to find a pair of no-show socks heavy enough to prevent blisters that stayed put and didn’t slip off my heels.

    • k-t October 14, 2015

      I have found two no-show socks that work for me with loafers and such. Smartwool Secret Sleuth and the Old Navy ones. Both have a little strip of no-slip silicone at the heel and are about the weight of trouser socks (heavier than hose). Very different price points, but both stay on and are low enough to wear with my Chucks, boat shoes, penny loafers, driving loafers, etc. They don’t quite work with ballet flats for me, unfortunately.

  • Kinsey October 14, 2015

    Thanks for this! I still love a good heel, but there are days when I have to walk a lot for work that I wish I had a better way to style flats.

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