Mary Jane style shoes are iconic. They found their start with schoolchildren, and the name is rumored to have been inspired by a popular comic strip character of that era. Apparently, she wore these shoes in every comic scene, easily identifiable by their distinctive strap across the instep of the foot and rounded toe. In the decades since, these children's shoes have become a fashionable footwear piece thanks to a few pioneering designers.
The original Mary Janes were black in color and made of leather, but there have been several variations since. Now, you can find them in vibrant hues and decorated with eye-catching patterns. Shoe designers have even adopted the design for heels & wedges, though it's traditionally been viewed as "just" a flat. Today, women's Mary Jane shoes are a testament to timeless design, holding their own in the ever-changing world of fashion.
Modern Variations to the Original Mary Jane Design
While the classic Mary Jane design is instantly recognizable, modern variations have elevated this iconic shoe to new heights. One of the most pronounced shifts has been in the choice of materials. Beyond the traditional leather, today's Mary Janes are made of lush suede, shiny patent leather, and even breathable textiles, like cotton.
The evolution doesn't stop at materials. Mary Janes have undergone a significant transformation in terms of color palettes and patterns. No longer confined to the conventional black, they now parade in a spectrum of shades, from muted pastels to vibrant, statement-making colors. This burst of colors goes hand in hand with the introduction of myriad patterns. Be it floral designs for spring, metallic finishes for a more avant-garde look, or plaid for a retro vibe, the Mary Jane has embraced them all.
These modern twists ensure that the shoe, while rooted in its classic design, continues to evolve. By embracing contemporary materials, colors, and patterns, it constantly reinvents itself, proving its timeless appeal and versatility in the ever-adapting world of footwear.
Thanks to all these new options, ladies Mary Jane shoes can be worn with almost anything. Whether you are looking to be a bit more formal or more laid back, Mary Jane style shoes are versatile and stylish enough to fit with any occasion – and give any outfit that extra pop it needs. Here’s how to wear Mary Jane shoes with every type of outfit.
How to Match Mary Jane Shoes with Different Outfits
Before we explain which outfits you can wear with Mary Janes, we first need to differentiate between the types of shoes:
Classic - Traditional design featuring a rounded toe and a single strap across the instep, typically made of black leather.
Flats - A variation without a raised heel, offering a comfortable and level sole, perfect for everyday wear.
Platform - These feature a thick sole under the front part of the foot in addition to a heel, giving both height and a bold, chunky appearance.
Pumps - Combining the aesthetics of classic Mary Janes with the elegance of heeled pumps, these have a raised heel and are a more formal look. We'll talk more about how to style these later on.
- Wedges - Instead of a traditional, separate heel, these have a sole that rises from the back of the shoe to the middle or front, offering a wedge-shaped heel.
Now onto the styling options.
With Jeans, Pants, and Trousers
Women’s Mary Jane shoes can go great with jeans or trousers, but the pants need to help the shoes stand out, not the other way around. In other words, the pants can’t be too long or flared. Instead, they need to be tailored, fitted, or ankle-length to give your ladies Mary Jane shoes some room to shine.
The Ta Dah is a Mary Jane dress shoe that has a heel for a perfect look with a fitted trouser that hits above the ankle. The buckle design and Curves & Pods® footbed are the perfect combination of chic style and long-lasting comfort.
With Skirts & Dresses
It’s no surprise Mary Jane shoes for women look great with skirts. While you may be tempted to pair your Mary Janes with a flirty skirt that hits above the knee, consider matching them with a longer pencil skirt.
Leather Mary Jane shoes with a heel will look chic and also help to elongate your silhouette when paired with a sleek and sophisticated narrow, knee-length skirt.
Shorts can be tricky with heels of any kind. They can work with Mary Jane dress shoes, but you need to be very conscious of the types of shorts you’re wearing. If you’re looking for how to wear Mary Jane shoes with shorts, the shorts can’t be too short.
While this may bring back memories of your school dress code, try to make sure the shorts fall below your fingers when you have your hands by your side. Also, try to avoid denim shorts; fitted shorts will work best.
If you don’t want to put too much thought into how to wear Mary Jane shoes with shorts, consider simply wearing a pair of flat leather Mary Jane shoes. Stylish design details, like perforations in the leather and metal hardware, give these a modern twist.
How to Style Mary Jane's for Certain Occasions
Heeled Mary Jane's bring an air of sophistication to formal events, elongating your silhouette and adding poise to every step. In dressy settings, it's best to choose a patent leather shoe, where the glossy finish will shine on the dance floor or under the spotlight. They'll be the focal point of the evening in either case.
Fashion accessories are just as important to tie the whole outfit together. Pair them with sheer tights or stockings to force viewers eye lines down to your feet. A delicate anklet can draw attention to the shoes, while earrings or neckpieces in complementary tones can harmonize the entire look. Clutches or handbags in matching or contrasting patent leather can also tie the outfit together.
In essence, for formal events, high-heeled Mary Janes crafted from luxe materials, complemented thoughtfully with accessories, ensure that you step out not just in comfort, but in undeniable style.
Mary Janes fit into all kinds of casual settings, making them a go-to for everyday wear. Flats, or even designs with a modest heel, are comfortable enough to wear for an entire day, perfect for strolls in the park, coffee dates, or a day of shopping.
The casual setting is also a great place to experiment with colors and patterns. Strut bold reds or calming blues depending on your mood, or even play around with polka dots, stripes, and quirky designs that invoke your childlike spirit. Regardless of the color or design you choose, you can pair them with casual outfits like jeans, sundresses, and any other pieces that are made with breezy fabrics and feminine designs.
Athletic & Active Wear
The world of athletic footwear witnessed a surprising entrant with the Mary Jane-inspired designs. Prioritizing comfort, these shoes come with enhanced grip, breathable material, and often, a more flexible sole suitable for various activities.
While traditionalists might raise an eyebrow, Mary Jane athletic shoes are becoming increasingly popular for activities like yoga, dance, or even light jogging. Their design ensures the foot remains secure, thanks to the signature adjustable strap, while also allowing ease of movement.
Paired with leggings or active wear pants, they strike a balance between functionality and style. For those engaging in indoor activities, these shoes offer an alternative to conventional athletic footwear, all the while carrying the charm of the Mary Jane design. Whether you're hitting the gym or attending a dance class, Mary Jane athletic shoes ensure you do so with a distinct flair.
It’s clear to see that the classic leather Mary Jane shoes of your schoolgirl days have gotten a stylish update. When it comes to how to wear Mary Jane shoes, there are plenty of chic options available, no matter what the dress code is.
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