By Janet Kelly
“THE PAST is not dead. It is not even past,” said William Faulkner. With all due deference to the great novelist, I think his quote applies to fashion. Take today’s obsession with Mary Janes, a beloved shoe for the kindergarten set that was originally named after a character in the 1902 comic strip “Buster Brown.” It was popular for flappers in the 1920s, Twiggy wore them in the ‘60s; Jane Birkin in the ‘70s and Alexa Chung in the mid-2000s. On TikTok the shoes have 228.7 million views.
But their appeal goes beyond being a celebrity or Instagram fashion favorite. In the past few years, we’ve been appreciating comfort much more. Think sneakers, loafers and loose-fitting clothing. In addition to being feet friendly—the strap(s) holds you in—Mary Janes also flatter the foot, striking a fine balance between an easy fit and aesthetics.
Today’s Mary Janes have come a long way from the playground: Versions now come with double or triple straps—some with an additional strap around the ankle—and with pointed, square or round toes. Besides the traditional black patent leather, we’re also seeing shoes in metallic shades, satin, denim and in lush velvets with bejeweled buckled straps, well suited for upcoming Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
Here are 14 styles calling our credit cards:
The beauty of Mary Janes, like these suede Gemini Ballet Flats, is you can slip them on and loosen or tighten to fit your foot. Classic shoes with a practical rubber outsole in an unexpected animal print, they sell for $98 at Free People.
Sandy Laing who began her fashion career designing much-loved fleeces has now expanded her reach to girly dresses—and shoes, too. Her satin ballet flats, such as this MJ Double Strap, have been so popular she’s now taking pre-orders. The icy blue shoe shown above is expected to ship in late December. But whenever they arrive, with thanks to a padded leather footbed and about a one-inch stacked heel, you’ll want to dance the nights away. The shoes sell for $550.
Give your feet the royal treatment (Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton both wear Sarah Flint shoes). In these navy croc-embossed patent leather flats, quality construction —the lining and insole are stitched together for a flexible fit— meets comfort—extra foot padding—with a soupçon of toe cleavage for sex appeal. They sell for $396 now, reduced from $495.
A chic shoe that won’t cram your toes, the Goldfinch Jeweled Mary Jane Ballet Flat is made from a silky velvet embossed with a paisley print. But it’s the tiara-inspired jeweled strap that makes it a good choice for turning a simple black dress or any outfit at all into something festive. It sells for $122, reduced from $175 at Birdies. It’s available in several other sparkly variations, along with one in black leather, adorned with a green-and-blue jeweled snake!
‘Tis the season for celebrating. Even if you’re not feeling it, slip your footsies into Larroudé’s wine-colored velvet flat with its bright jeweled buckle—on an adjustable strap—and you’ll look festive. And because the rules of fashion have loosened up so much, it’s more than okay to pair these lush shoes with your jeans. They sell for $330.
Boden’s double-strap Mary Janes, a modern take on the classic like Miu Miu’s below, will flatter thin ankles. Although these flats in bronze crinkle leather are all but sold out (Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales promotions), they’re also available in black or hot pepper patent leather for $96—in limited sizes.
In place of leather and suede, a dark-wash denim updates the classic, girly Mary Jane. Also amping up the cool factor is the contrast between the crystal-embellished buckle strap and the sturdy familiar fabric. Larroude’s chic flat sells for $315 at Shopbop.
In glossy metallic leather with a double-buckled vamp and low block heel, Christian Louboutin’s rose-gold Sweet Jane Flats sells for $895 at Moda Operandi.
I have my reservations about the mesh shoe trend. What I like about Manolo Blahnik’s Mary Jane point toe flat is the reinforced toe and heel, so those parts of the foot are not laid so bare. The flocked polka dots and grosgrain trim are also welcome additions. Sadly, though, these shoes are practically sold out. For something similar—and less expensive—see Margaux’s The Pointe.
Keep your ankles secure with the rhinestone buckled straps on Reformation’s shiny silver Mimi Buckle Pumps (mid-block, 2-inch- high heel). Already sold out in some popular sizes, they sell for $150 at Farfetch.
Have a slew of places to go, people to see this December and in the foreseeable future? Then you can amortize (rationalize) the wear of these spendy but adorable Miu Miu kitten heels (1 inch high) in silver patent with a slick black toe cap. They sell for $1,200.
French brand Carel has been around since the early ’50s, “preventing women from walking sadly.” Practical (a low—1.5-inch—block heel) and elegant in patent leather that’s so shiny, it looks almost varnished, these burgundy Mary Jane pumps will cover your sartorial needs from day to night. Think Catherine Deneuve or Inès de la Fressange. They sell for $535 and come in several other colors.
One-two, you can buckle these MJ Double Strap satin shoes. They’ve been so popular that designer Sandy Liang has started to take pre-orders (the website says they’re expected to ship in late December). Late for the holidays maybe, but you can dance the nights away the rest of the year. A padded footbed will cushion your footsies. Also available in black leather and red satin, they sell for $55o.
Reduced from $150 to $109.95 at Anthropologie, these Angel Alarcon flats may go a strap too far for comfort for some of you. On the plus side, they have rubber soles. Note: they’re no longer available in red—only in black or beige leather or black patent leather.
And more for those who prefer to go strap-less:
Zara’s sparkly ballet flats sell for $59.90.
Aquazurra’s crystal flats are discounted to $477 from $795 at Shopbop.
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