At a business lunch recently, I was sitting next to a lady who was returning to her career after spending ten years at home with her children. We chatted about how it was going as you do, bemoaning the perpetual juggle of the work life balance. After a while our conversation turned to our sense of identity and how much clothes matter. At this point I mentioned that I write a blog about such things and her eyes lit up.

She asked me all of the usual questions that people usually do but there was one that threw me. “When you are starting again from scratch, how many pairs of shoes do you actually need?” I rambled, because as you know for me, shoes are increasingly the thing that I hang my whole outfit on. I tried bluffing by saying that I thought she should have a few simple clothes in her wardrobe and weight the rest of her budget towards shoes. However she wasn’t going to let me off with that. She needed to manage her budget and was determined to have a number to work towards.

So, I told her I would think about it and give her a definitive list. And of course it gave me the perfect topic for a blog post. In fact I was thinking about it last night when Mr MC came home and asked me why I was looking so serious. Of course telling him that I was trying to define how many pairs of shoes you actually need was a mistake. “How many pairs of feet do you have?” was his reply. I swear he grows more like my dad every single day.

Anyway, he’s right of course. You do only need one pair and in fact I was always quite proud of my limited but hard working collection until I started this blog. Because of my ‘keep it real’ mantra, my shoe collection is still a tiny compared with the shoe mountains of most of my blogger friends – but it is growing.

However, in true Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy style I have settled on a number – and my answer is six. Not everyone will agree with me but I think you can work a good wardrobe for AW17 with the following as a base:

  1. 1 pair of accent flats
  2. 1 pair of practical flats
  3. 1 pair of heels
  4. 1 pair of practical ankle boots
  5. 1 pair of statement ankle boots
  6. 1 pair of knee high boots

If you wanted to reduce it further, the heels and the statement ankle boots could be an either/or option. Alternatively, if you’re swerving the midi trend, you could manage without the knee high boots. But with six styles in mind, here’s a selection for each category for AW17.

Shoes for Autumn/Winter 2017

I should actually publish a correction to my AW17 trends post here. A few weeks ago I said that shoes were playing second fiddle to boots this season. The reason for this is that as I was researching the marketplace, I found plenty of party shoes but very few practical shoes. Now I realise that all shoes are party shoes this season and practical shoes are out in the cold.

Shoes are, in fact, a huge focus and they are mostly embellished or exaggerated in some way. I suspect this stems from the trend for modest dressing with its high necklines, long sleeves and low hemlines. We’re almost back to an Edwardian concept where the focus is on the ankle and foot. So footwear really is everything. Let me show you.

Accent flats

By accent flats I mean shoes that are comfortable to wear when you’re rushing around all day whilst still adding va va voom to your outfit.

Loafers Autumn 2017

  1. Pointed black flats but not as you know them! These have sequins arrayed on the front and are very affordable.
  2. Slipper style suede in this season’s red – at a great price. If you don’t feel confident wearing red clothes, red shoes are a really easy way to be on trend. Don’t worry too much about about what they will go with – they work easily with black, navy, camel and grey. The high street stores are also pairing reds with berry colours.
  3. Textured fabrics are everywhere this Autumn: velvets, suede, damask and jacquards. I have high anxiety about wearing fabric shoes because of the incessant rain that we live with. However, this combination of dark colours and metallics should survive puddles as long as they aren’t too muddy. Plus these jacquard shoes are amazing value.
  4. I’ve been careful not to include too many very flat flats because at some point after 40, most people start to have problems with the arches of their feet and you need to protect them. These ballerinas have insolia soles so they will be better than most and the pink is a neutral for people who prefer a softer palette (also available in black).
  5. You saw me wearing peacock shoes in my last post but they definitely weren’t flats. These swan shoes tick the same trend box though and are a soft burgundy colour.

Best statement flat shoes for women over 40

6. These ruffled red shoes were my fancy flat purchase of the season and I’ve been wearing them a lot. The d’Orsay styling helps your feet to look dainty and yet the vamp at the front is sufficiently high for them to stay on your foot comfortably. The slightly higher block heel means that your feet don’t ache.

7. If you have budget for only one pair of accent flats, I would recommend leopard. I won’t gas on about it being a neutral but it does seem to lift whatever you put with it. This is another ballet shoe with a difference because it has triple density cushioning in the sole.

8. Alternatively you could opt for a metallic loafer – metallics in my book are definitely neutrals.

9. These are for anybody who just wants simple black shoes. The ruffled grosgrain bow will still reference the trend for embellishment.

10. Tasselled loafers – these come in different colourways. This navy suede option is great for someone who wants to feel fashionable but isn’t looking for a very fussy shoe.

Practical flats

By practical flats I mean footwear that you can either walk fast or far in. I know lots of people love trainers but I have to admit that they are my least favourite type of shoe. I see them as a necessary evil. Why? Because I am long bodied so my legs look short in proportion and trainers do me absolutely no favours. I feel stumpy and dumpy in them but I so wish I didn’t because if you have a better leg:body ratio, I think they look great.

Anyway, we all need a pair in our collection for city breaks, running after children, camping holidays, gallery visits and so on. You would think that trainers might have escaped the trend for high embellishment but no. Look at these… actually I confess I am strangely drawn to them!

How many pairs of shoes do you actually need

Velvet and marabou trainers 

These less so…

How many pairs of shoes do you actually need

Bow slip on trainers

I’m going to start with trainers that come directly from fashion brands and so have a more glamorous element and then move onto sports based styles.

Glam trainers

best fashion trainers for women over 40

  1. Beaten up trainers and metallics featured heavily on the catwalks of New York’s fashion week.
  2. Easy blue slip on flatforms with a pared down satin shimmer.
  3. Blush continues to be a strong neutral for Autumn, the grosgrain laces add a touch of luxury to the functionality of these trainers.
  4. Stars are a big part of the space theme that has been around for a couple of seasons and the glitter on these trainers lifts the box fresh look.
  5. These luxe trainers are made from simple grey suede with touches of silver sparkle on the tongue and heel.
Iconic trainers

As athleisure continues in the mainstream, the sports brands have their heritage looks along with some newer classics.

Best sporty trainers for women over 40

  1. Supergas are an instant shortcut to European panache. They also have inbuilt arch support so they’re good for walking city streets in. These are a limited edition grey flannel and I really like them.
  2. Of course if retro is your thing, there is always the Cortez to consider too. You can personalise every single element of these trainers and have them monogrammed too – all for a reasonable price. I warn you, you’ll lose hours playing with the trainer builder on the website but it’s a lot of fun.
  3. The new classic Roshe One; the slim, minimalist trainer. These are completely customisable too – there goes your weekend.
  4. Stan Smiths continue to be refreshed in endless ways like this version which stands apart from the traditional green.
  5. Gazelles are controversial. Apparently if you’re a teen, they say a lot about you. If you’re over 40 though, I think you just look as though you’ve always known your onions.


So, if we’re only going to have one pair of heels in our capsule, these need to work hard. I’ve tried to choose something for all tastes – high / low/ block heel / stiletto. Here goes…

Best high heels for women over 40 Autumn 2017


  1. I suppose these loafers are almost flats but the fact that the heel is embellished with pearls puts them in the ‘heels’ category in my view. Because they are low, the metallic sheen doesn’t feel too nightclubby and yet you could wear them in one and dance all night long.
  2. The block heel works well for this season, even more so if it has a V vamp. For versatility think beyond black, sometimes a khaki shoe like this one – or burgundy looks a little more sassy.
  3. I’ve added these red velvet slingbacks just because I love them. They’re also available in black velvet. The slanted heel makes them look like a much more expensive designer shoe and also works to make them easier to balance in. I know they wouldn’t be very practical for work but they’re great weekend shoes. If you wore them with cropped jeans on a Saturday afternoon you would look every inch the street styler.
  4. Yes these black stilettos look very high but I tried them on in store and bought them immediately in red. The leather is so soft that they feel like a designer shoe and the vamp is high so they cradle your foot. They’re also available in red or white (white shoes are another burgeoning trend). It’s a small thing I know but I like the fact that they have a metal part to the heel – great for people who tread cobbled streets as much as I do.
  5. A lower stiletto in leopard but with a contrasting toe cap. Lined with comfortable insolia these would be multi-purpose shoes that would work equally well for a meeting or an evening out.

Ankle boots

I’ve divided these into two categories – easy to wear essentials and then the party versions that might take the place of heels. It all depends on your lifestyle.

Easy to wear essentials

Best ankle boots for women over 40 Autumn 2017


  1. I like to colourblock my navy outfits so that I can use bags for accent colours. I have just ordered these beautiful navy leather and suede ankle boots with a cylindrical heel. They’re new in this week.
  2. Now these are the absolute workhorse of every Parisian wardrobe but they’re hard to find in the UK – the black suede, low kitten heel ankle boot. Even when kitten heels are not in fashion, these transport your outfit straight to the Rive Gauche.
  3. I have these simple leopard ankle boots and I love them. They have a beautiful sheen and they’re a great way to add a bit of pzazz to a jeans outfit.
  4. Every Autumn people ask me where my oxblood Chelsea boots are from. I haven’t been able to find a similar pair until I spotted these. Don’t forget that oxblood works as a neutral and is more interesting than black.
High heeled ankle boots

Now these are a real ‘thing’ this season, especially the fabric sock boots. Wear them with cropped straight leg jeans or midi dresses.

Best high heeled ankle boots for women over 40 Autumn 2017


  1. Metallics work with everything and this style of ankle boot, with it’s low vamp at the front, is leg lengthening – which makes me wonder why I don’t have a pair. Sadly my budget is gone for this year.
  2. Beautifully formed black sock boots – architecturally elegant and simple.
  3. The red sock boots from Zara have been all over Instagram – I wanted to try them so when a pair that was a size too small came into stock, I ordered them. And then I saw this pair which looked very similar but were £20 cheaper and available in my size so I ordered them to compare. They are identical so if you missed out on the Zara ones order these. They’re a bargain for something that will probably be a one season wonder.
  4. These blue velvet sock boots have just arrived and I love them – they are so comfortable. They are probably a stupid buy for someone who lives in the wettest part of the UK but I will wear them in the office and for nights out (keeping an emergency pair of wellies to hand at all times). Of course now I wish I had bought the Inès at Uniqlo blue velvet jacket…

By the way – did you know you can preview the first ever JW Anderson collaboration at Uniqlo here? It launches next Tuesday and will probably sell out as fast as the Inès collection.

Knee high boots

If you’re planning on embracing the midi length, you probably need a pair of knee high boots. There are a few different styles coming through. On the whole, knee high boots are looser than they have been for a while – unless you go for fabric. Here are the key looks.

Best knee high boots Autumn 2017


  1. I’ve ordered these oxblood boots to try but they haven’t arrived yet. I’m planning on wearing them with asymmetric skirts and midi dresses.
  2. These tan suede boots slouch beautifully around the ankle when on – perfect for wearing with longer hemlines.
  3. If you like knee high sock boots, these are half the price of Boden’s. It feels like yesterday that they were last in but they’re on the way back.
  4. Please somebody buy these. Perfect for wearing with tunics or leggings or skirts that stop above the knee. None of those things suit me but I love these navy over the knee boots. I’ve seen them in real life and they’re made from lovely soft leather.

And so that brings me to the end of the “how many pairs of shoes do you actually need?” quandary. I suppose I’ve cheated a bit because I haven’t included slippers or wellies which are both essential in the frozen North. However if you were starting from scratch, I do think this shortlist would see you through the season.

Midlife lately

We’re getting back into the swing of our routine. It’s slightly depressing to be receiving mountains of emails about GCSEs – as one boy finishes, another boy enters the fray. It’s even more depressing to find that for the third time, Jekyll and Hyde is our main English set text. I am so sick of that book! Oh and it seems that I spoke too soon about rugby being over. The youngest has been ‘persuaded’ by his rugby masters to stay in the team. Goodbye Saturdays.

The eldest is working unbelievably long hours on a huge new launch. I feel quite worried about him because his days seem to run from 7am until 10pm, seven days a week. We’ve told him he can either choose to feel exploited or believe that he is being given a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fortunately he is taking the latter approach but he’s going to need to take a break soon.

In the meantime the middle son is flourishing in Sixth Form. Out of the blue he told us that he wanted to change one of his subject choices – from Sociology to Agriculture (his school has its own farm). As we were discussing it frantically on Sixth Form enrolment day, I suggested that it might be more useful to study people than animals. “Mum,” he replied, “I think animals generally make more sense than people – at least they do when it comes to girls anyway.”

His dad suggested that he had a point(!) and so in the end, Agriculture won. After his first day back at school, I called him quickly from Kensington Palace. “Agriculture was great,” he told me “we went straight in with a practical. We learned the best way to hold a sheep so that you can clean its bum.” As I sipped champagne with a string quartet playing softly besides me, I wondered as I so often do, at the many disparities that my life unveils.

My new venture

Thank you for supporting the Spotlight posts that I have done recently. They have helped me to invest in my new venture which as you may have gathered, will be the gradual development of a retail line. I’ll tell you more about the whys and hows next Friday when I open my shop and release the first products for sale. I have bought a small collection of beautiful and unusual bags – you’ve seen some of them in the last few posts.

Anyway I’m not going to say any more about it until next week. I have a lot of photographs to take and work to do if I’m going to get the shop ready in time. In the meantime though, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has left a comment on the Spotlight posts. When you give brands this kind of direct feedback, it makes them take more notice of us as a group of intelligent women.

Have a great weekend and I’ll be back next week. Thank you, as always, for reading Midlifechic.

Disclosure “How many pairs of shoes do you actually need” is not a sponsored post.

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