A complete cheat-sheet of high heel designs that will prove you’re an incorrigible shoe-addict. And an informed fashionista
BY NABANITA DUTT
As the name suggests, Kitten heels were designed as an innocent, virgin version of the feline, full-on sexy shoe goddess of the 50s: the Stiletto.
The length of the Kitten heel was shortened to less than 2 inches and the style became de rigueur among young adolescent girls (age 13 and up) who wanted to dress stylishly—yet demurely — as they teetered on the brink of womanhood. When Audrey Hepburn borrowed this modest, teenage design to wear in films like Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Sabrina, the Kittens grew up suddenly and become an adult footwear fashion that suggested understated, feminine elegance.
How To Wear Kitten Heel Shoes:
♥ A common perception about this high heel shoe style is that they look dated and frumpy. Indeed, this style can be quite tricky to carry off unless the silhouette of your outfit is clean, sharp and tailored. On the flip side, you can wear Kittens all year round. Even with sock or tights, if you know what you’re doing.
♥ They look fabulous with cropped trousers and ankle-revealing slim skirts.
Shaped like cones, these heels are usually thick and rounded on the top, and they slim down like a reverse pyramid as they hit the ground. The length of the heel is variable, and they are more comfortable to walk on than a regular Stiletto.
You’ll find many modern variations of the classic Cone heel in stores, but the style remains a throwback from the 50s and 60s when women wanted structural heels that made a unique statement of smart, casual femininity.
How To Wear Cone Heel Shoes:
♥ The thickness of the heel itself will suggest the pairing for your Cones. If they are slim, treat them like a modest version of the Stiletto and pair them with fitted pants and skirts.
If they are thickset or blocky, then they will work marvelously with vintage / printed summer dresses that reveal the claves.
♥ Try a pair of short ankle boots with Cone heels. You’ll fall in love with them!
Whatever the design of the uppers may be, it is the sole made of jute rope that defines a pair of Espadrilles. This tradition of using coarse natural fiber to build shoes originated in Pyrennean Catalonia, and the ordinary, peasant style has been embraced by high fashion ever since Yves Saint Laurent raised its status with a Wedged heel. A summer staple for obvious reasons, the natural fiber heels return seasonally, year after year, in various modern avatars.
How To Wear Espadrille Heel Shoes:
♥ Pair them with your warm weather casuals – cotton sundresses, cut-off denim shorts, rompers, shirtdresses and boyfriend jeans – with tropical abandon.
♥ Add extra-feminine oomph to daytime occasions by slipping on some Espadrille Wedgie heels with straps that wrap around your ankles.
♥ Have fun with embellishments. Choose Espadrilles in bold, sunny colors. Nobody minds if this playful, summery footwear goes cheerfully over-the-top.
Like an hourglass, the Spool heel curves wide at the top and bottom, resembling a reel of cotton thread. This low, exaggerated heel ruled in European courts during the Rococo and Baroque period, and were worn by both women and men.
A close cousin of other low, compact-structure heels like the French Louis or Pompadour, the Spool gets its cache from the flourish of its graceful curvature.
How To Wear Spool Heel Shoes:
♥ Spool Heels are extremely comfortable to walk on, and therefore a stylish one-step up from boring flat-soled shoes.
♥ They Spool high-heel shoe style adds quiet elegance to an outfit, and are a smart choice for daily officewear.
♥ Canadian shoes designer John Fluevog is a famous disciple of this archival style, in case you’re shopping for a unique pair of short, sassy Spools.
Slingbacks are characterized by the strap that crosses behind the heel to secure what is essentially an open Mule sandal. Slingbacks come in a variety of heel shapes and are comfortable to wear during warm weather without sacrificing style too much.
They showcase the allure of exposed feet and ankles, so are best worn with outfits that reveal the feet.
How To Wear Slingback Heel Shoes:
♥ Slingbacks with satin uppers look great at formal, dress-up events as long as it is a closed-toe pair. When worn with business attire, keep the heels short. Whatever the occasion may be, please don’t wear them with socks.
Open-Toes – also known as Peep-Toes or Peek-A-Boos – have a small opening at the toe box that reveal an alluring glimpse of your first three toes.
This style became really popular in the post-War 1940s, when women were hungering for luxury, after all the fashion-deprivation they had to suffer during the Great Depression.
The flirty appeal of peep-toe heels continued into the 1950s, and was pretty much the pin-up shoe design of the times. Marilyn Monroe and the Fifties nudie poster-girl Bettie Page were two famous fans of Peep-toes, helping the style to achieve an iconic status.
How To Wear Open-Toe/Peep-Toe Heel Shoes:
♥ These shoes make great transitional footwear as you can wear them through spring, summer and fall.
♥ Resist the urge to flaunt your Open-Toes in winter though, with ordinary tights and stockings. Somehow, the seams of flesh-colored stockings showing through an Open-Toe is vaguely embarrassing – like a slip peeking from under a skirt.
If you must wear stockings, choose colorful, opaque ones, like it’s a deliberate fashion decision and not merely to keep your tootsies warm.
♥ Open-Toe heels look amazing with any dressing style that exposes the feet prominently – such as Capri pants, skinny jeans, skirts and dresses.
♥ Make sure the openings in the toe box are wide enough for your toes not to get squeezed inside. You don’t want to risk bunions because of your tight shoe choice.
COMMA / VIRGULE HEELS
Comma heels, also known as Virgule heels, is the ultimate footwear if you’re looking for something expensive and `cheeky chic’.
The design of this unusual heel, curved like the punctuation mark it gets its name from, was created by the French design legend Roger Vivier, who is more popularly know for inventing the `Stiletto’, and whose products are often called the “Faberge eggs of footwear”.
A marvel of architectural genius, Vivier’s Virgule (meaning `comma’ in French) embodies the three key ingredients of an iconic footwear design: simplicity, audacity and style.
You don’t see people wearing Comma heels as much as Stilettos nowadays, but interestingly enough, the curved heel is structurally stronger than the straight line of the latter. You get more arch support and walking on them is easier.
How To Wear Comma/Virgule Heel Shoes:
♥ The extreme chic of the Comma/Virgule heel has somehow got a `mature formal’ label attached to the style. But the Roger Vivier company is reshaping its market image in a more playful, youthful mold, making the design universally age-appropriate.
♥ If you’re lucky enough to own a pair of Vivier Virgule shoes, don’t save the precious footwear for uber formal occasions only. Flaunt them with mini skirts, leggings, jeans – just about any sort of fun, casual ensemble. (The Vivier brand is even having their models balancing on skateboards while they take their dogs for a walk in these heels!)
Platform heels seem to have existed forever in different world cultures – looking strange and ugly in most instances, until Salvatore Ferragamo reinvented the bulky style with cork heels and walked it on the Italian fashion stage in 1937.
This new Platform, which used cork, wood, rubber and other non-traditional materials became a novelty, and by 1941, the design had reached American shores. The disco era found new love for the Platform heel, now broken up into 2 parts and worn by both men and women. Since then, Platforms have gotten younger and fitter, showing up whimsically on and casual sandals and sporting shoes as well.
How To Wear Platform Heel Shoes:
♥ When it comes to standing tall and walking in comfort, there is no beating the Platform high-heel shoe styles. Wear them in warm weather as a heavy visual contrast to soft, diaphanous dresses and skirts.
♥ Make sure the Platforms you choose are not too narrow at the toes, as the shoe carries a lot of load and can start to hurt if the front is tapered too tight.
An angular version of the Cone Heel, the Prism is a three-sided triangular heel, which is attached to sandals, court shoes and platforms. A classic pair of Prisms is pretty hard to come by these days.
How To Wear Prism Heel Shoes:
♥ The cool thing about Prism heels is that they can easily replace stilettos in your evening out wardrobe. Why? Because they give you the same height and elegance, and they are way more comfortable to walk on than your favorite pair of Stilts.
Marilyn Monroe was the most ardent Hollywood proponent of this hybrid shoe that is partially / entirely closed in the front and open at the back. Stubborn as a mule in character as well as in name, the design simply refuses to go out of style, making bold and tasteful statements on the feet of A-listers and flash-trash alike.
The sexy undertones of Mule heels are hard to miss – the mere suggestion that they can be dangled on the toe, instantly revealing the delicate shape of a naked foot…
How To Wear Mule Heel Shoes:
♥ Nothing shows off a beautiful set of ankles and calves like a pair of mules. They draw attention to the legs, visually elongating them when worn with skirts, dresses and cropped pants.
♥ The thicker the heel of your Mules, the more casual they will look. Conversely, the slimmer and daintier they are, the more suitable they will be with your formalwear.
♥ Mules clatter. Which means you should consider where you will be walking or how much walking you will do when you decide to wear a pair. The noise can be very annoying on wood floors. Or they can be a carefully-calibrated sound that conveys power and confidence. Just be aware of the distinction.
The fluid continuity of the one-piece Wedge heel has a visual impact of lengthening legs and thinning the ankles. But what makes the Wedgie such a blessing for fashionable women is the height, comfort and `walkability’ they afford in one single, feminine style.
Among various shoe designs that arrived with the 1940s, the Wedge was a trailblazer created by designer Salvatore Ferragamo in 1936 as a tribute to old, traditional `lifties’ from Venetian and Oriental cultures.
In the 1970s, the Wedge high-heel shoe styles stomped back onto the fashion stage, with Jodie Foster inspiring a fresh, new craze for the style among the disco crowd, and since then, Wedgies have endured as a design staple, appearing on all sorts of shoes like pumps, sandals and boots.
How To Wear Wedge Heel Shoes:
♥ Jeans and Wedge heels are a classic combo you cannot go wrong with. The skinnier the jeans, the better.
♥ As such, dresses and skirts of any length get a casual, feminine silhouette when worn with Wedge heel shoes. However, make sure that the cut of the skirt is not a tight, form-fitting one. As the construction of the Wedge is chunky, the pairing can end up looking frumpy.
♥ Wedge heels on pump shoes are a good option with your work outfits, if you want height and comfort from 9-to-5.