There is no part of my closet I’ve missed more over the last two years than my shoes. Not to get all Carrie Bradshaw on you, but it’s truly the obsessive type of love that I usually reserve for truffle pasta and Sphynx cats. But as I combed through my wardrobe recently, wondering how on earth I have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear — the typical wintertime activity for New Yorkers — I realized it had been over a year since I bought new shoes. The horror! Even more surprising was how much I wanted my next purchase to be a pair of Mary Jane shoes, a trend I predict will be everywhere once spring rolls around.
For context, my footwear collection consists mainly of platform derbies, black and white sneakers, the occasional gorp-core boot, and lots and lots of loafers. Ultra girly I am not — give me an oversized menswear silhouette and some Tevas sandals any day of the week. Still, I kept thinking about how cool the Mary Jane looks on style mavens like Zoë Kravitz and Camille Rowe when worn with a pair of wide leg trousers and a button down shirt, or even a ‘90s style slip dress under a boxy t-shirt. It didn’t read girly or dainty — it actually looked quite modern when styled this way (meaning without a full midi skirt and pussy-bow blouse). The balance of femme and masculine appealed to my sartorial senses.
Plus, there’s something decidedly unfussy about the shape of the shoe. In a fashion climate currently obsessed with embellishments and frills, a simple silhouette (closed tone, little to no heel, and an ankle strap) feels like a breath of fresh air. Maybe it’s that I’m craving fewer extraneous outfit details in my 30s, but a Mary Jane just feels like a design that will, quite literally, stand the test of time (it exploded in popularity in the ‘60s) and is therefore a closet staple. It just took me a little longer to come around to it — like swapping vodka for gin in your martini.
So, like any fashion detective worth her salt, I discovered the pair that my forever muse, Kravitz, wears on repeat: A buttery soft goatskin style from The Row. Is this an insanely luxe option for the Mary Jane? Indeed, it is. But the beauty of this footwear classic is that you can find it in any number of materials, from velvet to canvas, which means you don’t have to break the bank to take part in the trend.
Trust me, even if you’ve never given much thought to the humble Mary Jane before, it might just be the wardrobe refresh your ankles are craving for spring. Here are a few of my favorite options — plus how to style them for upcoming season.
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I love The Row’s Ava style — the Olsens make a beautiful shoe — so if you’re looking to invest in the Mary Jane trend, this is a comfortable, classic option. A red or burgundy pair is also a fabulous way to inject some color into an otherwise monochrome or minimalist outfit. Vibi Venizia has been a fashion girl favorite for years, and at just under $100, the brand is a super affordable way to test out the look.
Wide Leg Trousers
It’s a never-ending quest to find the perfect pair of trousers — high waisted, slim cut, pleated, with a nice hug in the tush region. Your new Mary Janes will give the masculine style a lovely contrast, without having to resort to a heel (I’ve heard rumors of stilettos coming back, but I’ll believe it when I see it). Whether you prefer a timeless neutral or a maximalist print, the silhouette will pair perfectly with the feminine shoe.
Slip Dress + Layers
Take a page out of Kravitz’s fashion playbook and try pairing your Mary Janes with a slinky slip dress. There’s something about the decidedly sexy silk style worn with a girlish shoe — an ode to your past self but with a much more womanly presentation. Until the weather warms up, try adding in an oversized blazer or a slouchy sweater on top and a pair of thin cashmere socks on the bottom.