What colour shoes should I wear with a navy dress?

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Choosing shoes to accessorise a dress was once easy. Manufacturers stuck to the same strict rules that fashion designers did. Black pumps went with nearly all suits and definitely with black dresses. Brown went with beige and brown, and the bag matched as well.

These days, women encounter a plethora of choices -- sometimes a confusing excess -- and, at the end of the day, women still have to get dressed. Answering the question of what colour shoes to wear with a navy dress can provide some basic guidelines for choosing shoes to go with other clothes as well.

Defining the dress

Navy blue, once reserved only for workwear, now appears in sundresses, resortwear, evening wear and even as bridesmaids' dresses. The cut of the dress, more than any other element, defines your shoe choice. Tailored navy suits for work requires navy pumps with a low or moderate heel to pull you together visually. When shoes match a dress, the single colour line has a slimming and lengthening effect on your overall look. Further, a single colour line directs the eye to your face, which is the area at which most effective business communication takes place. You look polished, businesslike and attentive when shoes do not distract from your overall appearance. Varying the cut, heel-height and trim of shoes gives you the feeling you're not a cookie cutter clone, without taking away from the business at hand. Matching bags are no longer de rigeur, but keep them simple as well.

Expanding the possibilities

Wearing the same navy dress out for drinks or dinner after work encourages a little latitude. Just as you are likely to add accessories like a scarf, jewellery, wrap or jacket, let your shoes have a little more fun as well. Stick with navy, but in a peep-toe, sling-back or even a sandal. Reflect the sparkle of the occasion with navy or black patent. If you're adding lots of gold chains, consider gold sandals. Keep everything else navy and step out in bright pink, acid green or bright red pumps. There's only one caution -- keep your touches of colour on the cautious side. Your red sandals may be a perfect match for your red scarf, but remember the colour line. Red at the top and red at the bottom means less of that long slim line; complicate it with a red belt, and you'll look like a stack of blocks instead of a Grecian column. Look over coloured shoes with an eye to your other accessories.

Making a statement

Navy can now be found in dresses with a low neckline and flowing fabric for an evening of fun. It's time to enjoy your navy dress as the background for party shoes. Navy serves as a foil for all strong, clear colours and gleam and glitz as well. Fabric prints on shoes with a touch of navy work well, as do multicolour leathers. The only shoe colours less likely to complement navy evening wear are beige, cream and white. Those shades still suggest nautical themes so save the whites for casual occasions.

Taking navy casual

Wear light shoe colours to set off your navy shift or sundress. Nothing adds crispness and sunshine to navy like white, cream or yellow. Since your overall look is casual, you can pick up the colour of trim or add a punchy colour that complements coloured accessories. Emphasise navy's nautical history with navy and white spectator pumps or red, white and blue sandals. Use it as a canvas for floral colours, the brighter the better. Forget the workday colour line, and enjoy the overall effect.