I am a huge fan of patent leather for both shoes and bags.
Hardest working shoes in closet, and probably on blog:
Why this penchant?
(1) Patent leather asserts itself at the edges of an outfit and thereby gives you definition — like a dark outline or a terminal punctuation mark: Outfit within! This outfit ends here!
(2) Black patent leather has a color value — i.e., an intensity — that makes it unlikely to clash with or recede against black textiles. So, when you are wearing dark socks, tights, or pants, your black patent leather shoes will be darker. You may have noticed that my shoes are almost always the darkest part of my outfit; I generally think that shoes should (with few exceptions) ground an outfit and black patent leather is very helpful in following this rule.
(3) Correctly or incorrectly, I believe that patent leather is very durable — far more resilient than suede (tender, timid suede — which can scarcely absorb a dampening look, let alone actual raindrops) and less susceptible to dulling than calf-skin leather.
So, if you haven’t thought about patent leather much before, today’s the day. Here are some ideas for fall:
Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, author of A Guide to Elegance: For Every Woman Who Wants to Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions, wrote approvingly, but somewhat inconsistently, of patent leather. She’s with me on patent leather shoes, observing, “Black patent leather [shoes] can be worn with almost everything except for very casual or sports ensembles; they harmonize with the colour of any outfit, including white, navy blue and brown.”
On handbags, though, she concludes, “Patent leather is never really elegant.” But, as Mme. Dariaux would readily concede — elegance, chic, and stylishness are very different things, and I think a patent leather bag can be chic and stylish even if it isn’t truly elegant.