How to wear white shoes is a classic fashion conundrum. Rules abound for when and where this look is appropriate. But done correctly, white shoes are fashion-forward and can look both smart and playful at the same time. Of course even once you master the look, keeping white shoes clean can be a challenge. Invest in good leather cleaner, shoe brushes and some shoe polish to keep your white footwear looking sharp.

The Seasons for White

White flats and sandals are a classic summertime look. The effect is a breezy, beach-side panache that looks great at summer parties or around town when the heat is high. But the old rule that you can't wear white after Labor Day no longer applies. Once the weather cools, pairing white shoes with black or gray tights makes shoes pop for a fun, retro look. Shiny white heels look great with jeans and a dressy top at cocktail parties year-round. Just make sure your white shoes won't be drenched in winter snow or rain, as the color is very unforgiving.

Whites for Occasions

One steadfast rule is to never wear white to a wedding unless you're the bride. If pastels are in your wedding outfit's color scheme, try tan, silver, or gray shoes instead of white. No matter what the season, it's never appropriate to wear white shoes to a somber event such as a funeral. The look is mostly a casual one, and will work most easily for parties and informal events. White shoes will rarely work at the office unless there is a nontraditional dress code.

White Shoes in Outfits

Some white shoes will also have other colors as part of the shoe, and will be easier to pull off. Wedge heels are often made largely of stacked wood or woven material that will offset the starkness of the white. Colored details such as bows and trim can be coordinated to other colors in your outfit to integrate the white of the shoe. Even metallic embellishments will make a white shoe feel more wearable.

Wearing white garments as part of an outfit doesn't always mean white shoes will be appropriate. For instance, white shoes with white skirts or pants can look too matched and stiff. Wear white bottoms with red shoes for a classic nautical look. Black dresses and white shoes are hard to pull off without the look appearing outdated. White shoes can be matched with darker colors for a dramatic winter look. For a traditional outfit with white shoes, go for softer shapes and subtle colors. A pretty pastel dress and white shoes can make you look ready for a Sunday school pageant, so lean toward muted colors and more neutral patterns when wearing white footwear. Exact matching of white shoes to a white handbag is unnecessary and can look old-fashioned. Keep purses light-colored enough to complement the shoes, but avoid matching the pieces too precisely.