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Put your best foot forward with peep-toe booties

Whoever said that Florida isn't a great place to wear boots hasn't seen the latest trend: the peep-toe bootie.

With an '80s vibe, designers have created this twist on the shoe bootie that was last year's must-have item. Now, with heels chunky or slim, in black leather or head-turning purple suede, they come with a small toe opening or with lots of artful cutouts that show some top-of-the-foot skin.

"They have the cool factor because they're leather, they're sleek and have a lot of hardware like studs and grommets," says Michelle McCool, fashion director of Cosmopolitan magazine, which featured the booties. "They're edgy and modern."

Gregg Andrews, a fashion director for Nordstrom, likens the peep-toe bootie to a hybrid of the classic peep-toe pump, the gladiator sandal and the bootie. "It's sort of the merging of three great shoe styles into one," he says.

They will keep your look current while adding a touch of sex appeal, McCool says. "The openness of the toe makes it sexy. And most of them are on a high heel, and that's sexy."

They can be worn with feet bare, or add tights or leggings for the colder months.

And the really good news? There were even more peep-toe booties on the runways during the recent New York Fashion Week previews of spring styles.

"Open-toe booties seem popular as the rush to wear a total boot does not play well with our global warming," says Candy Pratts Price, executive fashion director at Style.com. "Also, I believe the gladiator sandal was so popular that it is slowly evolving into a boot with still some openness."

She warns that not all of them are surefire hits, and shoppers need to choose carefully to complement clothes and personal style.

The booties, which often exude toughness, lend themselves to many of the overall trends for this season, including the rocker and the futuristic warrior. A less aggressive version would have feminine ruffles or cutouts, says Jennifer Gosselin, Piperlime's vice president and general manager.

They work well with jeans (skinny or boyfriend) and leggings, and give a new look to the little black dress, Gosselin says. They can even take you to work.

"They look great with a pencil skirt to spice up office attire while still staying appropriate," she says. You can add a blast of color with blue or purple suede; for a more conservative look, wear the booties in a rich fall color, like brown.

While women wore stockings with the peep-toe pump when the style emerged in the late 1930s, the look has long been the subject of debate, says Colleen Hill, assistant curator of accessories at the Museum at FIT in New York.

"As bare legs became more acceptable over the decades, it was no longer deemed necessary to wear stockings except for the most formal occasions," Hill says. "Although wearing open-toe shoes with stockings is still considered by some today to be in 'bad taste,' it has been adopted as a high-fashion look, perhaps for that very reason."

To wear the look with the modern open-front bootie, there's classic fall black and gray hosiery or jewel tones like plum and purple.

"You can also have fun with some print and pattern," says Nordstrom's Andrews.

Wearing the same color tight or legging and bootie, like black, makes your legs look longer, as will wearing a shorter cut boot, he notes.

When it comes to how many toes to bare, the styles range from just a small peep toe to a full open front where four or five toes can be seen. "This bootie — there's a sophistication to it," Andrews says. "That little flash of skin makes it very alluring."

Put your best foot forward with peep-toe booties 11/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 6, 2009 3:30am]

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