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These shoes have their origins in antiquity and were extremely fashionable for men and women at the court of the 'Sun King' Louis XIV, who once issued a decree that only red court shoes could be worn in his presence. They were favoured by members of the aristocracy as they were advantageous for horse riding - the high heel meant that the feet could easily stay in the stirrups even when galloping at full pelt.
Today, court shoes aren't quite as glamorous. They are usually worn as smart office workwear or for formal occasions, such as a funeral or a graduation ceremony. There is a vast array of court shoes; you can buy court shoes of suede, patent or matt leather, with toe ornaments or without. Court shoes can be rather uncomfortable, however, especially if you are standing on your feet all day long.
If you want to wear stylish court shoes without breaking out in blisters and bunions it is very important to buy shoes that fit correctly across the length and breadth of your foot, and also to choose good quality shoes.
Here are some things you might want to consider when buying womens court shoes:
Styles from which to choose are toes that are pointy, boxy or rounded. Pointy toes are pretty for a night in a restaurant or cinema when you will be mostly sitting down, but should be avoided if you plan on standing for any length of time as your toes will feel cramped and uncomfortable incredibly quickly. Boxy toed court shoes are not currently in fashion and have a rather frumpy feel about them, although they are more pleasurable to wear. Round toed court shoes are the best choice for most everyday situations as they look smart and have more room for your toes to wriggle.
Court shoes traditionally have heels that are about two inches. Any more is venturing into high-heeled territory. Wide heels are easier to walk in but can look a bit matronly. Most people have personal preferences about the width and height of heels; it is worth trying on different styles and walking about in them to see which suits you the best.
Some court shoes are adorned with bows or buckles across the toes. There is a school of thought that says that such embellishments are unnecessary and even tacky and that they should be avoided by those wishing to appear ladylike. However, some styles of toe ornament can add to the overall look of the shoe and outfit. A court shoe made out of a navy gingham fabric would look cute with a narrow navy bow across the toe and the look would work well with a navy skirt. Classic court shoes do not have toe ornaments.
Buying a court shoe with a rubberised sole with some degree of grip to it could pay you dividends if you work in an environment with polished marble or wooden floors. Court shoes can be tricky to walk in at the best of times, and slipping and sliding about in court shoes could make you look ungainly and undignified. Look out for non-skid style soles.
Leather is the classic material from which court shoes are made and is the most expensive. Good quality hand tooled leather court shoes will cost more than shoes made from other materials, but they will last you a lifetime if they are properly looked after. Keep them clean and dry and polish them every week in an appropriately coloured polish.
Patent leather is shiny, glossy and bright, and is also easy to keep clean, requiring nothing more than a wipe with a damp cloth every now and then. Patent leather can dominate an outfit so keep an eye on the overall look of your appearance. Black patent leather pointy-toed court shoes can look striking with a smart trouser suit.
Suede court shoes have a more muted appearance and can be bought in a wider variety of colours than traditional leather, to coordinate with the rest of your outfit.
Court shoes with fabric uppers allow great versatility. They are perfect for wearing with a party dress or to complement a summer outfit.