How to Pair Shoes and Handbags That Go Together Without Being Matchy-Matchy

This was one of my most popular posts from last summer, so I decided to republish it today. The outfits are all old, and most items are no longer available, so I rounded up some of my favorite shoe and handbag combos at the end of the post.

I admit, it took me some time to get used to wearing neutrals together that don’t exactly match, but after studying how other bloggers and fashion experts pair their bags and shoes, I realized their trick!

It’s actually far more sophisticated to wear neutrals that don’t match exactly, but there is an art to it. It’s all about keeping the neutrals in the same general tone.

Every color has cool tones and warm tones, and the same with neutrals. I rarely pair a warm neutral bag with a cool neutral shoe (i.e. a cognac bag with grey shoes.) But I will pair a taupe bag with grey shoes. Let me know you some examples.

In the picture below, my sandals are a dove grey leather, and my bag is sort of a blush/beige combo. They aren’t the same color, but they share the same pink/grey undertones.

In this next picture, my shoes are a blush and my bag is off-white.

I feel like that ivory bag can go either way. Here’s a time I wore it with cognac sandals.

And here’s another ivory bag with beige shoes.

I wear a lot of cool tones, so most of my neutrals are greys and taupes — or blush, black, white, etc., so they work together well.

Here I did a cognac bag with gold sandals.

Speaking of gold… whether or not it’s important to match your metals is another question I get a lot. I try to match them if they are bossy — meaning, if they stand out or a big part of the design. If it’s just a ring or a snap or a zipper, no, I don’t worry about it. But if the bag has a big gold logo, or silver links in the straps, I will give it consideration. It all depends on what other options I have that work with the outfit.

Sometimes I will change out my jewelry after I’ve picked a bag because that’s easier than finding anther bag that works. But oftentimes, I will choose a bag based on my jewelry and/or the metal in the shoes.

White shoes are another question mark. They really go with any color bag, but I often wear mine with an oyster or another light neutral unless I’m going for a stark contrast.

Below is an example of a combination I did NOT care for. The bag is warm, and the shoes are cool. I knew when I put them together that I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I didn’t have a lot of options with me at the time. The combination is okay, but it’s not my favorite.

I much prefer that bag with these chestnut color booties. See? Warm and warm. They don’t match, but they go. (Thank you, Clinton and Stacy.)

Nude shoes are tough. They’re usually a warmer tone, but not always. I usually carry my cognac bag or a metallic clutch, or I just go with a contrasting color from the outfit.

A black bag with nude shoes works well if you’re wearing black in your outfit.

It’s also perfectly appropriate to match your bag and shoes. I often do that with black.

Here I did that with blush. The two shades of blush don’t have to be a perfect match — here, the bag is leather and the shoes are suede, but they go together well.

It’s also fun to create a striking contrast sometimes, as I did here with red shoes and a black bag.

And the opposite — black shoes and a red bag. Can’t go wrong with black and red!

But when pairing neutrals, just try to stick to the same undertone (cool vs. warm) and you should be good to go!

Here are some neutral pairings I like that are currently in stock.

ONE // bag, shoes

TWO // bag, shoes

THREE // bag, shoes

FOUR // bag, shoes

FIVE // bag, shoes

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45 Responses

  1. Safe travels heading home!  Very good info, as I can be the queen of matchy-matchy in my family!  I would like to get a birch or gray handbag for the fall, that’s one color I seem to see a lot & I don’t have. We had a family “Purse Purge Party” last month, and no one had one that color to purge or exchange!  It was a fun gathering of us 5 gals, all bringing handbags we were ready to move out!  I had a charcuterie board, some refreshments & we had a grand ole time!  We exchanged some handbags, with the rest going to a local consignment shop I use. Fun times!  Next month, costume jewelry!  

  2. Loved! this post. It was extremely helpful to read/ think about warm vs cool undertones when coordinating shoes and bags. Thank you !

  3. My favorite bag is longchamp they come in many colors and sizes and the strap size you can pick. Have you ever looked at these?

    1. I have. They’re supposedly great for travel. I personally like more structure, and I usually avoid zip closures, although I make exceptions at times. I hear it’s a great bag, tho!

  4. Stupid question: What colors are cool and which are warm? I tend to choose a purse for the season, and I don’t change until the next season. I also go with dark colors in the fall/winter, light for spring/summer. I don’t think of how my purse goes with my shoes. My closet is a work in progress (I never found the time over the summer to do a real overhaul.) Purses should be an easy item to purge since I don’t have strong feelings about purses like I do with shoes. Haha! All your ideas are great! Thanks!

    1. There are no stupid questions. 🙂

      Typically, grey is cool and brown is warm. But most colors can lean one way or the other. There can be warm greys and cool greys, and warm browns and cool browns. Just like with red or green. That’s why I was talking about looking at the undertone.

      If you’re a one purse per season kind of gal, then I’d look at your wardrobe and see what do you generally wear the most — warm or cool tones.

      For me, it’s cool tones – greys, black, red, burgundy, pink, etc. So if I had to choose one go-to bag, I’d go with a cool grey or taupe. (Rather than a warm cognac or beige. I just don’t find myself reaching for those as much.)

      I hope that helps!

  5. I would love a suggestion for a great neutral handbag for fall. I have a fun shoe/ boot wardrobe and I’d like to find a purse that would work with everything because I am more of a shoe girl than a purse girl. #pleasedon’thateme 🙄
    Any recommendations would be appreciated.

  6. Praying y’all are having a very safe trip home!!  This post was a very helpful reminder.  Because the rules or thoughts on what is acceptable has evolved, I find myself having to adjust my mindset on what works and what doesn’t.  Just like it’s okay to wear white after Labor Day, our handbags and shoes don’t have to be the same color.  Have a great day!

  7. Girl, you have a lot of shoes and bags! Nice post! I’m not much of a handbag girl, so I don’t have many to work with. For summer I’ve been using a black faux leather back pack that’s been going with anything dark. And then I use a blush Kate Spade bag (that’s actually quite pink, but was advertised more neutral on the website,) with anything light. 

    For fall/winter I have a violet leather bag that serves as my neutral for all but very dressy occasions…and a super cool brown messenger bag. I like #5 (grey) and may add it in to my mix! 

  8. Glad your weekend was fun.  Great informational post. Examples are helpful, including your non-fav. When I find my purse/shoe combo too matchy-matchy, I switch out my shoes since it’s easier than unloading my purse contents. Definitely something I stop and take a look at before heading out the door – time permitting. You’ve put this accessory challenge on my radar for sure. 

  9. There is an art to dressing well. I haven’t quite mastered it yet but I’m learning. I’ll be checking for warm versus cool when I pair footwear to purses. 

    Safe travels! 

  10. Great post! I am on the hunt for some great neutral handbags (I know you have done a post on that too!) 🙂 I actually tend to carry a lot of colored bags (I have a Miche-so I can swap out the outside depending on what I am wearing). I really like the cognac color, I think it will be great for the fall.
    Safe travels!

  11. Great post.. thanks… I hope this gets easier lol.. the pics at the end with the shoes and purses is a great go to…  safe travels 😀❤️

  12. Good morning! I prayed for safe travels home for you guys! It really helps me seeing the visuals of the bag and shoes together.. What a difference… I guess I never thought about it. Lol now I will…. I only have 2 bags one is a satchel in silver, the other is a crossbody in pewter. I been wearing black or white shoes.. I think I need more bags 🛍 Hee Hee.

    Blessings Cindy

  13. I really enjoyed your post about bags and shoes. I have a question about what shoes and bag to wear with a short black lace cocktail dress. I have a pair of black suede pumps and a leopard clutch or a pair of snake sandals I could wear. If I paired the snake sandals with the lace dress, would that be too much texture? And what bag would I carry with that combo?

    1. I’d have to see them, I think, to tell you for sure. It sounds like it should work, but it could be busy. As long as the styles mesh, it should be ok tho. I think with snake sandals and a black lace dress, I’d carry a black bag – patent or leather, something smooth without much texture.

  14. Love this post, I am a shoe and handbag fanatic. I used to try and match my shoes and bags, but now that is too much effort. I try to pull out of the clothes I am wearing a specific color and match the shoes and use a neutral bag. I wore navy blue dress shorts, a light blue blouse with various shades of blue and some hints of orange and yellow. I ended up wearing my light orange sandals by Vera Wang and my Sole Society purse in beige.

  15. I loved the post but I just can’t get into changing my purse every time I change my outfit or shoes. I carried a golden yellow purse most of the summer and in my opinion (which I tread carefully here) I thought of it as a neutral and went with everything. Now I do the same for fall – find a neutral that goes – last year it was a deep cranberry color. I live a simple life haha.

    1. That is perfectly fine! 🙂 I totally get it that not everyone wants to change out their bag with their outfits. This post was more geared for those who ask about how I pair neutrals that don’t really match but don’t contrast either. I sometimes get asked if it’s okay if they don’t match exactly, or how I make it look okay.

      If you’re a one purse a season kind of gal, you can definitely choose a neutral that will work with just about everything and be fine. And I think choosing a color (like the golden yellow) that makes a pretty contrast with so many colors, is a great option as well.

  16. Glad you’re home safe and sound, Jo-Lynne. Great post. I change my bag less often than I used to so I have a “neutral” that’s my everyday bag each season and then switch out if I feel like it. Often if I’m getting dressed up. My summer bag right now is an orange leather crossbody and I carry it most of the time– I don’t wear orange so it never clashes, looks great with all my summer colors and adds a fun pop of color. Thank you for discussing mixing neutrals. I have struggled with nude sandals/heels– I love them but they can be hard to match if you want to carry a light bag. I like the gray nudes and had never thought of a blush bag. I love gray and pink together, though I can’t wear it. I think I may be in the market for a blush-colored dressy bag!

  17. You mention, from time to time, the Adore Your Wardrobe online course and how it has influenced you for the better.  The ideas surrounding warm and cool colors, with lots of examples, are an important part of this online course.  These ideas appears effectively and well in your post here.  

    I took the course earlier this year.  I now understand what you are describing and recommending.  You are definitely right.  These concepts and others that appear in AYW have really taken my wardrobe and my understanding up several levels.  

    The course is a little costly for my clothes budget but it paid for itself already in better understanding and in better clothes and accessories choices.  I do not buy as many things as I did before but those that I do buy rarely hang unworn in my closet.  I am now saving up my money to take the second course in the sequence.  

  18. I really have a hankering for a Navy or Light Blue crossbody bag, but I am having a devil of a time finding one.  Is blue not a popular color this year?  I was thinking it would be a good casual everyday bag with jeans, since I rarely go anywhere other than the store and church.  I do get tired of neutrals, Could blue be a neutral?  Your thoughts are appreciated, love your blog.

  19. I love your posts, Instagram etc.  You’ve really helped me so much. The confusion has been lifted!! 
    I’ve spent a lot a Nordstrom’s but their free shipping/returns are a life saver & time saver. 
    I’m So glad I found you.  I appreciate you & your style. Thanks so much 

  20. Hi,
    Love your post. Great advice. After years of no problem pairing bags and shoes I now find myself with a huge dilemma. My husband just bought me a beautiful medium brown Brahmin bag. I have no brown shoes of any kind. I have no idea what to wear with an embossed croc leather brown bag. Can you help? I would like to pair it with a classic pump and also maybe a casual flat. I want to be able to use the bag to wear with a dress for church and also a more casual skirt or slacks. Thank you so much

    1. Hey Sherrie. Congrats! Brahmin makes a beautiful bag. I would carry it with lighter neutrals – camel, beige, taupe, etc. Usually Brahmins have a lot of colors to pull from, and it may not be cool or warm – it may go with both, if it has a lot of variation of color in it.

      I did a quick search on Pinterest for Brahmin outfit, and there are some ideas – https://bit.ly/30yBWt9

      She wears a brown one with an all neutral outfit which is stunning, and again with a denim and white outfit below but unfortunately doesn’t show her shoes. I’m going to guess they’re a light neutral – https://damselindior.com/campaign-with-brahmin/

      I wouldn’t overthink it. Because it’s such a statement piece, it can kind of stand alone and the shoes just need to go with the rest of the look.

  21. I am usually very good at pairing shoes and handbags but I am stumped this year with a pair of boots I bought and finding a handbag that pairs well with them. The boots are a neutral color with a slight touch of a golden hue. The color is called stone but it looks more like a straw or hay color. They are beautiful. I just can’t seem to find a good color in a handbag for them. Any advice?

    1. Hey Holly, I’d have to see a picture, I guess. It can also depends on what else you’re wearing, but’s probably any similar neutral will work. Or black, if you are wearing black elsewhere in your outfit.

  22. The other day I met my fashion conscious sister for lunch. She has impeccable style we all wish we had! I wanted to wear my new cool tone beige wedge sandals and a cool blue print linen dress, but wasn’t sure what bag I had that would go with the outfit. I only had black (no), dark cognac (no), warm red (no), turquoise (no) so ended up choosing a cool light grey bag as my best option. As we were getting ready to leave the restaurant she picked up.my bag to check it out and said “Is this beige or grey?” I said grey. She mused out loud, “Beige shoes with a grey purse.”. She doesn’t miss a thing!! Lol! I just said, “I do what I can.” with a laugh! She later told me I looked really good that day. So I’m wondering, faux pas or ok choice? And what would be the ideal color bag to go with my gorgeous cool beige shoes?

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