Naked sandals, floss heels, bare sandals, strappy sandals – call them what you will, but barely there sandals are having a big moment right now.
They’re skimpy, delicate and undeniably feminine. So long as you have the right feet of course. Bunion sufferers need not apply. Sorry.
Given all this hype about something so well, almost non-existant, I thought it was worth a closer look (no pun intended).
This post will cover:
What exactly are barely there sandals?
Current trends in barely there sandals
The best styles to choose for leg lengthening (which is kinda the point of them)
Styles to buy right now
What exactly are barely there sandals?
The conception of the barely there sandal was a result of every woman’s eternal quest to make their legs look longer. If you stand on tiptoes in bare feet your legs automatically look longer – because there’s an extra six inches or so of flesh for the eye to travel down. And we all know how much difference six inches can make!
In a nutshell that’s why barely there sandals are so damn great – they create the illusion of longer legs.
In 2018 there was a predominance of nude coloured styles and vinyl sandals, which were hardly discernible to the eye at first glance. But they certainly give you the barbie look. In a good way.
So far 2019 has seen a slightly different iteration of the barely there sandal – one with more colour but spaghetti thin straps.
Barely there sandals current trends
So what shape and form are barely there sandals currently taking? Here’s some of the latest trends I’ve observed in the world of barely there sandals:
Spaghetti thin straps – The more super skinny the better. This is definitely a more is less sort of trend.
- Square toes – There are a lot of square toes muscling in with the round ones we’re so used to.
- Mules – The combination of impossibly thin straps and a mule does immediately beg the question “will I be able to walk in them?”, but they certainly look beautiful. I for one will be trying.
- Unusual heels – There are lots of sculptural, textured, accessorised and truly fabulous heels out there right now. I’m hoping the high street can match the designers when it comes to this trend.
- Kitten heels – A lovely practical height for every day wear, this gets a big tick from me.
- Ankle wraps – Jimmy Choo, Gianvito Rossi, Jacquemus and Yves Saint have all got some lengthy straps that extend up the leg in their collections for SS19. I’m a bit wary of these and I’ll go into why in a minute.
- Between the toe and toe loop – those skinny little straps are making their way between and round our toes too.
Bag yourself the most flattering styles
Barely there sandals are a trend you can’t go that far wrong with. But as with everything, there are degrees of fabulousness.
Think about colour
The closer to your skin colour, the more invisible the shoe becomes, and the more leg lengthening. That’s not to say you should always stick to nude, beige, white and vinyl, but it’s just something to be aware of.
2. Watch out for dissecting lines
The lines your sandal straps make either down or across your foot create powerful visual effects.
Vertical lines are lengthening, drawing the eye down your foot. Horizontal straps do the opposite, halting the eye and essentially amputating your leg at that point.
That’s why ankle straps can look less than flattering. The good news is that the smaller the strap the less potent the effect, so a tiny nude spaghetti strap across your ankle is way more flattering than a big black cuff.
3. Aim for uninterrupted skin
The longer the visible piece of leg showing without a strap crossing it, the longer your legs will look. That’s why I’m wary of ankle/leg straps. Just compare these two styles currently available on Net-a-Porter – both beautiful, but which makes the model’s legs look longer?
Not the ones with the leg straps.
Behind vinyl versions, barely there sandals where the spaghetti straps converge to a nice V down near your toes are the most leg lengthening of all. Like the Gucci ones above (on the left).
It’s worth mentioning colour again, because a black strap cutting across your lower leg is much more noticeable, and therefore shortening than a nude one.
So just be conscious of what sort of lines you are dealing with, how prominent they are and therefore how much they cut up your legs.
4. Think about heel height
The higher the heel the greater the illusion of leg length. But those lovely long legs won’t look so hot if you are hobbling along on them like an old lady! So choose your heel height carefully.
Kitten heels are a great choice for day time wear and perhaps up the heel height for the evening if you’ll be sitting down or drinking enough to numb the pain!
5. Think about heel shape
There’s a reason why stilettos are so ubiquitous on a night out – simply put, they are the most flattering heel style for slimming and lengthening your legs.
Because they continue the line of your leg, getting narrower as the eye descends.
Wedges on the other hand are not flattering for short girls. They are better placed on larger women, where delicate heels can look out of proportion.
I read recently that heels that are narrower at the top than at the bottom are an up and coming trend. I haven’t tried any on, but I would say proceed with caution. And make sure you try them on with your legs out so you can see if they look flattering or not.
6. Think about the view from behind
Is your heel on show, or is it hidden behind the sandal back (common on ankle strap sandals)? Again this is visually cutting off your leg, making it appear shorter.
I always think my legs look less appealing from behind (I’ve got big calves), so there’s even more need to elongate them. So choose sandals where the back is open or mules for maximum leg length, especially when you’ve got your pins out.
Styling tips for barely there sandals
Pair with knee length, maxi and midi skirts and dresses
This feels like a bit of a statement of the obvious, but if I miss it out you might think I’ve no idea what I’m talking about. Barely there sandals are the perfect accompaniment to dresses and skirts, of almost any length (bar micro mini – see next point).
If you are wearing a pattern, try picking out one of the less dominant colours within the pattern and matching your sandals to that. Or introduce a totally different colour – this is a good way to introduce trends like neon if you are cautious (see post on spring summer 2019 trends).
Or if you want a classic look go for tan, white, cream, navy or black.
2. Micro mini skirts: Proceed with caution
This might just be my 40 plus lens influencing me, but I have a “too much flesh on show” concern. But it can look sensational if you’ve got amazing legs.
If you do go for it, then make sure you cover up on top to keep the look from veering into slutty. And I think a tan (fake or real) is essential. Or tights (see below).
3. Cropped jeans
Barely there sandals and cut off jeans are a pretty perfect combo. For me, it’s the juxtaposition of a utilitarian piece of clothing with something quintessentially dainty and impractical that’s so delicious (let’s face it, you wouldn’t be lifting heavy items in barely theres).
Length is key here – just make sure your jeans are ankle skimming or above, because you don’t want to cover up your sandals.
This is also the way to wear your ankle strap barely theres. Your leg has already been visually chopped by the jeans hem, and the large distance between the ankle and toe strap will work in your favour – elongating the small amount of skin that is on show and giving the impression of length. This tip also works with maxi skirts and cropped trousers.
4. Combine with tights
Go on, be brave. This is really not that much of a leap from wearing tights with sling backs, which you probably wouldn’t think twice about.
Use your tights to give a pop of either contrasting or coordinating colour. Lilac tights with orange sandals, or yellow tights with neon pink sandals, or baby pink tights with hot pink sandals etc. So much fun.
I’m also seeing a lot of patterned tights popping up on instagram. Particularly polka dots. Top marks for introducing a bit of playful fun to an outfit.
The tights with sandals trend is also great for getting extended seasonal wear out of your barely there sandals. And perfect if you’ve yet to paint your toenails for the summer!
6. Slip on socks
Now if you really want to be in with the fashion pack, this is how to do it. Get some seriously nice socks (Next black 5 pack just won’t cut it) and pair the look with trousers or maxi skirts. You don’t want a big piece of flesh showing above the sock – that would be the complete opposite of leg lengthening as explained above. So better, in my opinion, to keep the socks and sandals trend confined to items of clothing that skim where the socks end.
I’m liking fishnet socks, glitter socks and sheer socks. I think the more feminine the better, to make them less reminiscent of “dad socks and sandals” connotations.
And if you want to dip your toe into the water (not literally of course, because that would be foolish with socks on), try flesh coloured socks, that will blend in to your legs but still keep your feet warm!
7. Elevate shorts
Shorts are going to be big this summer (see ss 2019 trends post) and if you want to take them from casual to dressy, barely there sandals are the way to do it.
Barely there sandals are the perfect accompaniment to the short suit if you want to look sassy and professional. You can match the colour of your sandals to your suit for monochromatic style, contrast them, or stick to neutral shades for a safe and classic look.
Or why not try animal print as an alternative neutral? Leopard looks particularly great with warm shades and black and white zebra really pops against brights such as cerise pink and emerald green.
My micro mini hesitation extends to teeny tiny shorts. I think longer shorts look more stylish with barely theres and with bermuda shorts all over fashion week, hopefully I don’t sound like a frump – more a well informed fashionista!
But if you’ve got the legs, who am I to stop you?
8. Make your barely there sandals the star of the show
I know, I know, this seems oxymoronic that a shoe designed to look like it’s not there should stand out. But small can also be beautiful. I guess you could argue they are no longer barely there, but hell, who’s got time for that!?
Take a look at these delights as an example. All ridiculous price points, so I include them more as inspiration than actual shopping suggestions – but if you have a few hundred to spare, go for your life!
If you find yourself lucky enough to own some barely theres as wow as these, then my advice is to let them steal the show. Keep the rest of your outfit classy and simple.