Outfit Formula: Fit & Flare Dress and Flat Mules

This outfit formula showcases strategy #8 for lengthening the leg line with flats, which is to wear dresses with waist definition. This styling strategy is especially effective with knee-length and midi dresses, where the hemlines are longer and the tendency to feel short-legged is greater. 

The narrowing of the silhouette at the natural waist visually raises the length of the leg line from the hips upward making your legs go on for miles in flats. The definition at the waist creates outfit structure, adding a streamlined effect.

Fit-and-flare dresses are frocks with fitted torsos that flare out on the lower half of the body. The volume of the flare varies from gentle to extreme. Here are four fit-and-flare dresses worn with a very specific style of flat called a mule (a slip-on shoe with a closed front and open back).

1. Low-Contrast Mules

Here’s a Modern Classic and Retro fit-and-flare frock in a bright, high-contrasting colour. Its midi length is elegant. You might think it’s begging for heels, but I think it’s begging for dressy flats, and was thrilled to see it styled that way. A flat mule is dressier than a flat sandal which suits the vibe of the dress, AND is the more fashionable and trendy choice. Here it’s been styled with flat white mules which are low contrast to the model’s skin tone thereby making her lower leg look longer. I LOVE how the classic dress has been made to look very 2018 with this choice of footwear. The white mules can be complemented with a white bag, jewellery, or eyewear.

1901 Midi Shirtdress

2. High-Contrast Mules

The lovely gothic and boho midi fit-and-flare has a harder edge to it because of all the black. Here it has been combined with black mules, which are high contrast to the model’s skin tone. Waist definition draws the eye upward from the hips thereby lengthening the leg line, which offsets the high-contrast effect of the flat mules.

Generally high-contrast mules shorten the leg line, but in this case it works because there is a lot of black in the dress. The black is further complemented by the bag. 

Anthropologie Tempest Laced Dress

3. Column of Colour

This is an example where the dress and mules are a similar colour and BOTH are low contrast to the model’s skin tone. The tonal effect creates an elongating column of colour where the leg line is lengthened by default.

LOQ Carmen Suede Mules

4. Raised Hemline and High-Contrast Mules

Raising the hemline of the dress — even just a couple of inches — increases the length of the lower leg. The definition at the waist of the dress increases the length of the legs from the thighs upward. Both lengthening strategies temper the shortening effect of the high-contrast snakeskin mules. The dark bits in the pattern of the mules have the added advantage of bookending the hair of the model, which pulls the look together.

Banana Republic Wrap Effect Wool-Blend Midi Dress

Fit-and-flare dresses are my favourite and I love wearing them at a midi length. The waist definition panders to my need for structure, while the voluminous bottom panders to my need for fun swoosh, elegance and practical movement. I’ve so enjoyed wearing them with flat white and patterned lemon mules this Summer. Here are my Summer fit-and-flares and the two pairs of mules I’ve paired with them. I finished off the outfits with white pearls, eyewear and either a matched or mismatched bag.

You might need a moment to adjust to the combination, so my suggestion is to just walk out the door and wear it. You’ll probably come back home a convert, because it’s easy, comfortable and fresh.

Anyone else enjoying fit-and-flare frocks worn with flat mules?

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ICYMI: How to Wear Mules, Backless Dresses for Spring & Tour Cara Delevingne’s London Flat

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How to Find Mules That Fit

I’m calling mules the shoe of the season. They are a closed-toe shoe with an open back that exposes the heels and ankles. The slip-on style had its heyday in the ‘90s, and is back with a vengeance, transitioning from fringe to mainstream this year. 

Mules tend to work best on high-volume feet with high insteps, high arches, shorter toes and a wide foot print. They are just about the worst type of footwear style for low-volume feet. They tend to fall off when you have low insteps, low arches, long toes, bony feet, and a narrow foot print. I have low-volume feet, and developed foot cramp trying to keep mules on my feet when I wore them two decades ago. Walking up and down stairs was the worst. So I was the first to say no thank you to the recent resurgence of mules.

I do like the look of mules because of the closed-toe and the modern retro vibe. I prefer the way they look to most open-toed sandals. So earlier this year I started looking for a style that would work for my feet. I found the Simonette Mule (in narrow), which had an enclosed silhouette, narrow fit and thick sole. These features made the style work for me. No cramping, and no “clacking” when I walk. I couldn’t be happier with them.

Simonette Mule

The lesson is to consider the following variables when looking for mules that feel stable, supportive and stay on your feet:

  • Width: Mules must create a snug fit to feel secure, which means getting the right width for your feet. For low-volume feet, choose a NARROW width. If you have wider feet, try a regular or wide size because mules will also fall off your feet when they’re too narrow.
  • Coverage: Choose styles with extra vamp coverage across the top and sides of the feet. Those that skimp on the coverage tend to slip off. My mules have good coverage on top but its the side coverage of the vamp that does the trick.
  • Sole: If you’re looking for flat mules, choose a thick and substantial sole — something more substantial than a flip-flop or bedroom slipper. You don’t want to feel the ground as you stride. The Naturalizers that I bought have the added advantage of soft leather and a cushioning footbed that make my unpadded feet very happy.

Wearing socks and hosiery with mules is treacherous because they make your feet slippery. Mules also aren’t orthotic-friendly. If you’re after more arch support, choose a heeled version instead of flats.

I’m eating my words because I found mules that work for me. The styles in the collection below tend to tick off the boxes when it comes to the variables discussed up top. It’s a visual starting point if you fancy the idea of wearing mules, but think they will be hard to fit.

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Outfit Formula : Business Casual & Black Mules

This outfit formula was inspired by looks I’ve been helping some clients put together for Spring business casual. Sandals are usually not part of the work dress code, but dressier mules are a fun and trendy way to do “sandals-lite”. Mules are generally okay with work dress codes because the toes are covered. 

Black mules come in a variety of silhouettes. Heeled, flat, casual, dressy, sueded, with hardware, and in all sorts of vamp lengths and toe shapes. Take your pick.

Black mules are a slam dunk for those who like to wear black bottoms and black footwear to work. The good news is that the two look great together, and are a good way to refresh your style for the office. The point is to show some ankle and leg when wearing mules. Covering up the back of the mule hides the main feature of the style. If you get the right shape and size for your feet, mules fit extremely well and feel secure and comfortable. They can look polished and pulled together if you choose a dressier version.

The outfit formula:

Black Bottoms + Business Casual Top + Business Casual Topper + Black Mules

Here are four renditions to get you started. I’ve chosen a black, white and grey palette with a pop of colour. Feel free to choose any colour palette, although the point here is to keep the bottoms and footwear black.

1. Cropped Pants, Mules & Blazer

Combine black cropped straights or flares with a layering top and non-black blazer. Cropped pants can hover between two to six inches above the ankle bone. Ankle pants that finish two to three inches above the ankle bone are usually best for the office. Finish off the look with black heeled or flat mules and a structured bag.

Mango Cropped Button Pants

2. Skirt, Mules & Jacket

Combine a black skirt with a layering top and a jacket that works with the length of the skirt. Tuck or semi-tuck the top. Or leave it out. A flared skirt is shown here, but a pencil skirt will work just fine. Finish off the look with black heeled or flat mules and a structured bag. You can absolutely wear flat mules with a skirt or dress, so please don’t think that you have to wear heels — that’s a dated style concept. Pointy toes will elongate the leg line, as will tucking or semi-tucking the top to showcase or hint at the waist.

TOD'S Embellished Leather Mules

3. Slim Ankle Pants, Mules & Long Topper

Combine slim black ankle pants with a layering top and a solid or patterned long topper like a cocoon jacket, duster coat, long blazer or maxi cardigan. Leave it open in front to create an elongating vertical line down the centre front of the body. Finish off the look with black heeled or flat mules and a structured bag.

CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN Octavian 35 Studded Fringed Patent-leather Mules

4. Roomy Pants, Mules & Statement Blouse

Combine black culottes, wide crops or cropped flares with a dressy statement top that looks professional and dressy without a jacket. It does not need to be tucked or semi-tucked unless you want to lengthen the leg line from the hips upwards. A wrap top is a great idea. Create a low contrast between the top and bottom if you don’t wont a horizontally cutting line across the body. Finish off the look with black heeled or flat mules and a structured bag. Add jewellery, eyewear and watch as desired.

ANN DEMEULEMEESTER Leather Mules

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