How to style Mary Janes, according to the internet

IMAGE VIA @100percentsilkshop/INSTAGRAM


Breaking the school shoe stereotype.

Those who attended schools with regulated uniforms will remember the dreaded start-of-the-year uniform shop. You’re coming off the high of an eternally sunburnt and carefree Australian summer to the crashing reality of your local Myer shoe section.

The retail assistant chats to your mum about the most ‘practical’ shoe available, whips out the freezing metal foot-measuring contraption and starts rifling through boxes of orthotic-appropriate options. Despite the constant begging for a pair of contraband all-black Converse or Vans, we always left with a chunky, velcro Clarks Mary Jane – two sizes too big, because I was a ‘growing girl’.

For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section.

They plagued my primary school years, shiny leather skis peeking out from under my striped white-and-blue uniform sack. I told myself when I left school I would a) be married and pregnant at 24 (ha!) and b) never wear a pair of Mary Janes again.

Evidently, I kept neither of these promises. One look at my wardrobe will affirm I’m a Mary Jane convert and now own not one, but two pairs (platform and flat, obviously). The platform option is a pair of secondhand Dr. Martens, sourced from a Depop trawl. Here they are paired with a cutoff op shop button-up and my housemate’s netball skirt (not mine, I have an aversion to sports).

In my mission to break the school-shoe stereotype, I took to the internet. I’ve handpicked some of my favourite Mary Jane looks from Instagram and – because our readers are always ahead of the curve – took to the Fashion Journal Instagram stories to ask our FJ community how they style Mary Janes.

Jessica Harris, stylist, wardrobe assistant and FJ reader

I always find myself drawn toward traditionally ‘cutesy’ items with a twist – which explains my love for Mary Janes. I love the juxtaposition of the traditional style with unexpected elements like chunky soles, heavy hardware, or super modern textures. To contrast the feminity of the shoe, I love pairing them with menswear-style items like tailored pants or a structured jacket.

In winter, I’ll wear them with a colourful pair of stockings or socks to show off a pop of colour. This pair came from a second-hand hunt and while nothing beats the thrill of the search for the perfect vintage pair, some Nicole Saldana Mary Janes are definitely number one on the wish list!


Maxine Wylde, content creator


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by max (@__mmaxinewylde)

Maxine’s primary colour palette plays into the schoolgirl aesthetic in a perfectly subtle way. A fluffy hat, oversized jumper and mini skirt on the top balance the weight of these incredible Nodaleto platforms.


Mary Grace, baker, content creator and FJ reader

I love my Mary Janes so much. They go with every outfit. I like to dress them up with stockings to make them a little more work-appropriate and I’ll pair them with a cute skirt on the weekend. For those who don’t like to wear heels, Mary Janes are a comfortable-but-still-cool option. I’ve worn them basically every day for the past six years!


No socks, no worries

Don’t knock the sockless approach until you’ve tried it. The addition of white or brightly coloured socks, while really fun, can sometimes make your legs appear shorter – and we want to elongate, honey. This outfit is proof that you can have your cutesy Mary Jane cake and eat it too.


Green on green


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Caron Callahan (@caroncallahan)

A monochromatic shoe and sock pairing is fun, but in a grown-up, I file my tax return on time type of way. Keep the rest of the outfit neutral to avoid looking like a leprechaun (unless you want that, in which case go for it girlie).


Mei, scientist and FJ reader

During Melbourne’s second lockdown (or was it third?) I suddenly became obsessed with the Mary Janes revival.  The Instagram algorithm gods must’ve heard me because I started seeing them on my feed and I eventually stumbled upon the perfect, ethically-made pair by Nicole Saldana.

I love the subtle, unique detail of the single lace-up strap and plan to wear them as is, or with my white fishnet, and – of course – sushi socks! I decided to grab them in the last restock in celebration of getting a job (!!) and with the intention of being able to wear them on any occasion, hopefully forever.

With great timing, they arrived during our fourth lockdown (it never ends) and so I’ve worn them at home instead. Here I’ve styled them with a shirt, flared pants and a vest (another obsession) that I got at a vintage sale.


Blue shift and white socks = simple yet effective

Can I hear a little commotion for the dress? This cobalt blue shift subdues the babydoll-esque white sock and Mary Jane combo. Keep accessories minimal and carry a tiny shoulder bag, always.


And when in doubt, opt for a pair of Dr. Martens

This picture reminds me that a) layering is a fail-safe way to add interest to an outfit, and b) that Dr. Martens has been doing the impossible for decades: making it cool to wear school shoes outside of a classroom setting.


For more of the best Mary Janes on the market, head here.

Lazy Loading