Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fashion on a Budget: Stylish flats for under $50

It's been rainy and a bit cooler in D.C. the last couple of days, which might mean that Fall is finally here to many in the region. To me, though, it means it's time to go shoe shopping for the new season!

As a self-professed shoe addict -- yes, I awoke in the middle of night recently in a cold sweat, with visions of Burberry's latest kitten heel gnawing at my exhausted psyche -- I will take any excuse I can to purchase a new pair of lovelies. These excuses can include a get-together I've been invited to, any trip I take via airplane (I always feel I must dress as an international spy or Bond girl when jetsetting, Love thinks I'm crazy), or an extravagant ball replete with baccarat tables in an exotic locale like Monte Carlo (okay, that's just a fantasy ... sigh).

But in this tryptophanic haze of footwear that I get so wrapped up in, rarely do I ever daydream of flats. Like, ever. Can you imagine a Bond girl boarding a flight to San Francisco dressed in flats? I can't. Same goes with stepping into a Monte Carlo casino in ... flats. Out of the 50+ pairs of shoes I own, the vast majority are heels (pointy toe, mostly), and only two pairs are flats. But alas, it seems like most out there love heels as much as me in theory only, because even I'll admit that they aren't the most comfortable things in the world, though I do think they're the most fashionable.

So, to evade the risk of our feet morphing into bunion- and calloused-covered stumps (gross!), with an added bonus of mangled toes from years of excessive stiletto wear, I guess we must venture to the dark side of zapatos ("shoes"), and consider investing more heavily in this flat footwear phenomenon. Personally, I don't like spending more than $50 on a pair (they're flats, after all). After searching high and low, here are the most-fashionable, bang-for-your-buck shoes in the non-heel category:
Target, Merona "Maggie" ballet flats, $24.99 (above). (Also available in black, linen and zebra print!) The charming gold buckle detail gives this basic peep-toe flat a nice classic twist. The embellishment, paired with the deep, rich color of the shoe is reminiscent of Coach footwear.
Target, Mossimo "Davina" bucklet ballet flats, on clearance right now for $17.49. (Also available in tan for $12.49.) Again, the large buckle kicks these otherwise boring black flats up a notch, while the shape of the toe gives your foot a nice silhouette paired with casual jeans or slacks at work., Nine West "Gain" flat in brown croc, $49.95. (Also comes in four other textures and colors.) Remember those two pairs of flats I said I owned? This pair is one of the two. (The other is a gray linen, black capped-toe pair from Banana Republic). As far as flats go, I admit that I love these Nine West ones. They're stylish, comfortable and stand out in a chic and sophisticated way. The buckle on the toe has a dark wood surface, which is an interesting contrast against the brown croc. I bought these at Nordstroms on sale for $35 almost exactly one year ago, but $49 on Amazon is still a great deal!, Steve Madden "Kobraa" ballerina flat, $64.95. (Comes in tons of different colors.) I know I said I don't like spending more than $50 on flats, but this pair might be an exception. I'm not a huge patent leather fan (in fact, I think it can be downright tacky if not done right), but I do think it's done right in this case because of the subtle snake-skin texture that compliments it. These scream Audrey Hepburn circa Funny Face, when she paired them with a black turtleneck and black cropped pants and danced manically around that beatnik coffee shop in Paris. What's better than a pair of flats that make you want to dance?, Gabriella Rocha "Fabia" pointy-toe flats in cappuccino, $55. (Also in two other colors.) Just a smidge above my $50 mark, I love these flats because of the stiff pointy toe, slight buckle accent, and deep, rich cappuccino brown color. These would pair perfectly with a dark, distressed bootcut jean and khaki trench coat. They're also dressy enough to wear to work, perhaps with a pair of light brown herringbone or tweed slacks, an off-creme sweater and a supple buttery-tan leather handbag. Again these, like the first pair, are reminscent of a classic Coach pump.
Urban Outfitters, "Fairy Tales are True" leather skimmers, $34. (In three different colors). You can't beat $34 for leather shoes -- flats or otherwise. Unlike the Gabriella Rocha pair before this, these flats are more soft and casual ... perfect, for say, grocery shopping or perusing art at a local museum. The soft pointed toe still dresses up even the most casual of looks.
Urban Outfitters, leather knot ballet flat, $34. A step up from the casual "Fairy Tales are True" flat, the modern twist of leather on the toe updates this pair of basic black flats.

Old Navy, color-block croc-print flats, $10. (Also available in a myriad of other color combinations.) Ah, the capped-toe flat, one of the only flats I've ever had a love affair with. I first fell for the capped-toe flat when I was a little girl and spotted Chanel's classic creme flat with black capped toe on a stranger. I've coveted a pair ever since, but with the $400 price tag on the Chanel ones, I have yet to purchase some. Enter this Old Navy pair for $10, yes, you read that right. You can't even buy lunch for $10, much less a pair of shoes, and the fact that they come in Fall's "It" color (dark plum) and are fabulous knockoffs of the $300 Kate Spade capped-toe reptile skin flat that's currently in fashion, makes them all the more coveted., "Bejeweled" flat, $29. Adorned with riveted "jewels" on the toe, these pewter-colored flats harken back to the popular riveted embellisments Gucci used on shoes, purses and belts that were all the rage a few months ago. If you insist on wearing flats out at night, this bold pair will definitely stand out in a crowd, perhaps paired with dark denim jeans (slim through the knee), a black slouchy top with riveted belt and a metal-tinged clutch. The delicate pointy toe, peeking out from under the hint of black grosgrain bow, gives these edgy flats a demure, ladylike look.

Lastly, I found an adorable pair of red flats for $24.95 at, but since they redid their site to video views instead of pictures ones, you'll have to click on over there to check them out.

These are my picks of the litter. The most important thing for me when flats-shopping is that the pairs include something different -- be it a knot, peep toe, buckle or other embellisment. Plain flats can be, well, plain boring, so kick it into a high gear with ones that stand out a little more than their understated brethren.

Also, the shape and silhouette of your flat is as equally important. As you can see, most of the flats I've picked out start higher-cut behind the heel, slope downward to skim lower around the ball area of your foot and swoop back up to cover your toes. Since flats have a tendency to make even the daintiest of our feet look garishly stumpy and man-like, finding footwear that adheres to the aforementioned shape will make your feet look like the feminine and ladylike ones they are!

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