By Janet Kelly
MANY of us have spent the past year in slippers, nary a high heel in sight—nor an occasion to wear one. But even before the pandemic, women had been reassessing their relationship to heels in light of the casual-fashion trend. Remember Phoebe Philo looking so cool as she took a bow in her Adidas Stan Smith sneakers after her 2015 Celine show? The pandemic just accelerated the shift away from high heels.
However, as back-to-normal activities slowly resume, our wardrobes will also gradually transition—from stay-at-home sweatpants and sneakers to more structured but still forgiving and comfortable clothing and footwear.
For those who want to satisfy their lust for the look of status-y red soles, Pilgrim buckles and such, take note: You don’t have to risk life and limb in skyscraping stilettos (you will have to pay the same stratospheric prices, however). You can get your designer high without falling on your face with less lofty styles. Savvy, spendy brands like Christian Louboutin, Roger Vivier et al. have for years been showing the same styles in little kitten heels, block heels and flats as in their much more highly touted stilettos.
And there’s a newish (at least new to me) kid on the block—podiatrist and shoe designer Marion Parke, who wants women to wear high heels—all shoes—in a smarter way. Her styles are made to distribute weight evenly on the foot, emphasizing elegance over clunky. The goal is to bring wearability and fashion together.
Here’s a look at the highs and lows of some spring shoes.
Everyone knows Roger Vivier for his classic Pilgrim buckle on lots of different heel heights. The Belle Vivier Metal Buckle Pumps with their “slanted geometric” heel go back to 1965. A reinterpretation of the Belle Vivier, the Trompette has a curved -shaped heel that slightly flares at the bottom. The 70mm Trompette Metal Buckle Pumps (left) are $775 as are the 45mm pumps (center). The ballerinas (right) are $725. We love all three in lilac, but the style also comes in nine other colors.
The fabric on Loeffler Randall’s open-toe Camellia Tan Floral Bow Heel ($395) goes through two different pleating machines to achieve the label’s signature “toothpick” pleat. The Camellia comes in a 3.5-inch block heel with adjustable buckle ankle strap. So retro and feminine. For more down-to-earth occasions, slip on the Daphne Tan Floral Bow Slide ($250).
Mid-pandemic, former Barneys fashion director Marina Larroudé launched the eponymous Larroudé, a footwear and accessories brand, “to bridge the gap between mouth-watering design and eye-watering prices.” A fun, flirty party shoe, Larroudé’s 3.8-inch stiletto Valerie High Heel Sandal in magenta satin ($295) comes with a wide toe box for comfort and a flared heel for added stability. But if you want just a little lift, the Valerie Mule in gold metallic leather ($275) is just as glam.
Christian Louboutin’s 55mm Kate Patent Red Sole Pumps ($695, Neiman Marcus) are just the right height to be a summer staple and a transition to wearing heels again for those who see that in their future. The unusual ankle strap keeps these Twist-Lock Napa Red Sole Ballerinas ($695, Neiman Marcus) from slipping off your feet. With its lower, block heel, for fall ’21, the king of stilettos introduced the patent leather Mary Jane Red Sole Pumps ($845, Bergdorf Goodman) as an alternative to his classic Kate.
In Marion Parke‘s “Must Have” collection, heel heights range from the 85mm Nappa Leather Classic High Heel Pump ($495) to the 45mm Buff Suede Kitten Heel Pump ($495) and the Flat Pointed Toe Ballet Flats ($475, Bloomingdales). All are handmade in Italy, with a contoured insole, which is sculpted to follow the contour of the bottom of the foot. The key elements are arch support, a deep heel cup and added material along the outside for a more stable foot position.
Brazil-based Schutz, owned by Alexandre Birman, is a less expensive alternative to his eponymous collection of polished shoes from chic kitten heels to block heels, stilettos, mules and flats. Some like it high. Schutz’s Hallie Buckled Leather Mule ($118) with a pointed toe and stiletto heel can be dressed up or down. The Ray Leather Mule ($98) with its thin straps nicely balances the bulk of the block heel. The Sunny Leather Flat ($98) is an all-occasion shoe in the color of spring.
When you’re invited to your next ball, never mind the tiara. Instead put the focus on your feet with a pair of Louboutin’s Follies Strass shoes in transparent mesh sprinkled with sparkling rhinestones. Christian Louboutin’s Follies Strass heels come in 100mm ($1,195), 85mm ($1,195) and 70mm ($1,195) heights as well as a ballerina flat ($995). Cinderella shoes with red soles.