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Does Your Bag Really Need to Match Your Shoes?

Fashion can be a tricky thing to master and learning how to match is quite a good start for most people. Learn more about matching bags, shoes and others.

A close look at a woman wearing a pair of shoes that matches her bag.

There are a few well-known, strict rules of fashion out there. You can’t wear white shoes after a certain day on the calendar, you shouldn’t mix black and blue, no one should ever put on a tube top.

But should you even be following rules when it comes to fashion? One rule that seems to be as old as fashion itself is that you must always match your purse to your shoes. Is this actually true…and even if it is, should you really be following this rule at all?

A Look at Fashion History

Before you start pairing up all the purses and shoes in your closet, let’s take a look at where this idea of matching perfectly comes from in the first place. When did everyone suddenly decide that purses and shoes have to be a perfect pairing?

Actually, this idea dates to the 1950s. But it wasn’t the fashionistas of the day, the style magazines or even the movie stars who made the idea of matching your purse to your shoes popular. Like lots of other things, this fashion rule was invented by advertisers and retailers.

The sale of accessories, like purses, was on the decline in the early 1950s. America was emerging from the post-war boom and the economy was balancing out. Retailers needed the next big idea. That idea became super matching fashion. Advertisers began to publish pictures of women with perfectly matched purses, shoes and other accessories. Suddenly, the accessory market enjoyed a huge boom.

And suddenly, women were running around everywhere with handbags and shoes in exactly matching shades. Stores started displaying purses and shoes together in matched sets. To this day, many department stores have the shoe department right next to the area where you can buy purses. This was not done by accident.

The Case for Matching

A pair of leather high-heeled shoes that matches the handbag.

Knowing this little bit of trivia may actually get you a little hot under the collar. It’s manipulative of retailers to try to push women into spending more money. However, that is kind of their whole thing. The only reason retail fashion exists is that people buy it, and you certainly wouldn’t want it any other way.

There was once a time when everyone made their own clothes. They were also cooking over an open flame and plucking their salads right out of the ground, so do you want to do that kind of stuff, too? No, of course not. So forgive advertisers and retailers and start thinking about wearing matching accessories.

Those who strictly adhere to the rules of fashion will say that you must always match your purse to your shoes. You can look at some of the world’s top trendsetters and see how beautiful this can look. Kate Middleton, for instance, always matches her purse with her shoes. She’s a princess and a fashion icon, so it’s hard to argue against matching when it’s good enough for Kate.

There are ways to play around with matching your shoes and your purse. The rules aren’t necessarily as strict as they may seem. Have fun with the rule by wearing shoes in a solid color and pairing them with a purse that’s multicolored. As long as you match one color from the purse to the shoes, you can sort of bend this rule a little. You can do the same thing in reverse and wear shoes that are patterned or multi-colored and match then to a purse in a solid color that matches some piece of the pattern.

Matching your accessories in this way gives you a cohesive, put-together look that’s hard to ignore. It’s also considered to be such a backbone of fashion, simply matching your purse to your shoes will make you look stylish and well-dressed even if you aren’t wearing all the trendiest pieces. You will always look elegant and stylish if you make the effort to play the match game. However, for some people, you may also look a little too traditional. Matching is great…but what if you want to break the rules a little?

The Case Against Matching

A woman wearing matching items like her bag and jacket as well as her skirt and beret.

If you want your look to be a little more out of the box, a little more daring, and a little more interesting, you won’t ever match your purse and your shoes. This is what Amal Clooney does. She’s not exactly a princess but she’s definitely style royalty. Amal matches her shoes and her purse not to each other but to whatever she’s wearing individually. For example, she’ll wear heels that perfectly match her blouse and then carry a handbag that matches a different color in her skirt.

You can use your purse or your shoes to add a single, bold pop of color to your look and create a great focal point to set off your style. If you’re dressed mostly in neutral tones or in black and white, carrying a vivid yellow purse will really stand out.

Who says your purse or your shoes have to match anything else in your outfit? There’s nothing wrong with wearing multicolor looks or with creating a great contrast. Playing with color has always been a part of fashion and there are lots of ways to create stunning looks by breaking the traditional fashion rules and being bold with your color shades.

The Rules You Shouldn’t Break

Of course, you should have fun with your fashion. However, try not to get too wild. There are some basic rules you should try to follow. For example, you could end up creating a messy look if you’re mixing a bunch of different colors and patterns together. It may be difficult to justify carrying a red and white polka dot purse while wearing a pair of pink and black zebra striped heels, for example. Even if you aren’t playing the match game, you still want to create cohesive looks with items that seem to go together in some way.

Stick to the same basic style when you’re picking your shoes and purse, too. You probably will get some sideways looks if you’re carrying a sequined silver clutch bag while wearing a pair of bright yellow tennis shoes. By the same token, you may not want to grab your denim messenger bag when you’re wearing an evening gown and your fierce strappy heels in bright gold.

Clever Ways to Cheat

A woman sitting on a couch with her bags and shoes on display.

Even if you don’t want to be super matching, you can still find clever ways to pull a look together and match some pieces to your purse or your shoes. If you’ve got a pink purse but you’re wearing black shoes, add a pink scarf to introduce more of the color into your outfit. You can pull color from your purse or your shoes and slip on some jewelry or add a clip or flower to your hair that matches. It’s an easy way to create a more complete look and a more cohesive color scheme without getting super matchy with your shoes and purse.

You can also cheat a little bit to make your purse and your shoes match through sheer creativity. Jewelry isn’t just for you. There’s shoe jewelry and purse jewelry, too. Shoe jewelry can be clipped right on to your shoes so you can make your shoes match your purse, and vise versa. There are many little clips and doodads you can add to a purse to add your shoe color to your bag.

Fashion is all about being creative, experimenting, and having fun. So find new ways to match or mismatch your looks and play around a bit. That’s what creating your own style is all about: finding the fashion rules that actually work for you, breaking the ones that don’t, and creating some of your own along the way.