Palm trees on pumps. Fresh fruit on flats. Silk stripes on sling-backs and other unlikely sights. It's the latest word in shoes for spring.
Ask Gianni Versace. He helped start the trend when he wrapped silk-print fabric around high-heel sandals to match a silk-print skirt in his spring collection. In Paris, Karl Lagerfeld showed certain of his styles with graffiti-covered canvas pumps.
And in California, shoe designer Paul Mayer chose striped silk for his Chanel-style sling-backs to complement classic summer clothes.
Shoe designers and shop owners say you should wear the new print shoes with care, for several reasons. Because they are made of fabric, they aren't particularly sturdy. They need to be protected from the elements with a silicone spray that shoe shops and shoe-repair shops carry.
And they don't go with everything because most of the styles are casual sandals with wedge heels or versions of little flats. They look best with sporty clothes. (Obvious exceptions are dressy designs like Lagerfeld's classic-though-graffiti-covered pumps and Versace's silk-wrapped sandals.)
Larger feet don't need to sidestep the style. Patterned shoes can make a foot look smaller than a solid white shoe, for example. And age isn't an object. The look is playful, and as long as the person is playful too, print and person should do all right together.
The real challenge is mixing print shoes with print clothes. To do it well, follow the lead of designers who are mixing fabrics in their spring fashion collections. Kenzo shows big, chintz-like floral prints with small, Oriental-inspired geometric prints for an ethnic look. It's an idea that extends to the tips of toes.
Giorgio Armani mixes subtle stripes in buff colors with muted plaids in the same color range for an urban outfit. Plaid shoes can go with a striped dress.
And Ralph Lauren shows small floral prints with larger floral prints for a weekend in the country. Imagine small-flowered espadrilles with big-flowered skirts.
Solid-color clothes are easy to match with busybody shoes. For a conservative effect, wear black or white. For more fashion when deciding what to wear, keep in mind two or three colors from the fabric of the shoe. And count your belt as one color unless it's a neutral shade and a quiet shape.
Handbags can be of a complementary print fabric as long as you don't mix more than three prints on any one occasion.
The color of a solid bag ought to be found in the fabric of the shoe. The last word on print shoes has to do with hosiery. Any shade from the shoe will do.