Kitten heels are stirring a debate in the fashion scene—are they heels or flats? Below, we dissect what a kitten heel means, where it came from, and its most famous wearers and designers. Scroll down to learn all the essentials when it comes to this shoe!
What is it?
Kitten heels have a thin and low heel that usually measures from 1.5 to two inches. Its most distinct design element is the indented placement of the heel at the shoe's sole and its subtle curved shape, giving the heel a more feminine silhouette.
We can trace back the kitten heel's history from the Sun King, or Louis King XIV of France. Being of small stature, he wanted to boost his height, thus he had shoes fashioned with heels that eventually became a symbol of one's status—people who resided out of the royal court were forbidden to wear heels.
King Louis XIV wearing the first red-sole heels.
Come the 1950s, heels came into trend. Stilettos became a staple in every woman's closet, thanks to French shoe designer Roger Vivier. This type of shoe was seen as a symbol of femininity and beauty, and a blatant showcase of one's sexuality. Stilettos had heels with five inches at least, making the wearer walk on their toes, imbibing a feline-like movement. Thus, young ladies and teenaged girls were not allowed to wear stilletos.
Roger Vivier holding one of the first models of a kitten pump.
It was because of this that Roger also whipped up a low heel considered to be a "trainer heel" for the young ladies, hence it bore the name of kitten heels.
Audrey Hepburn on a movie set.
By 1960s, kitten heels were at the peak of their popularity after women of all ages discovered its comfort and practicality. It officially became the shoe of the moment when actress Audrey Hepburn wore them in her films like Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Funny Face. The shoe continued to be everyone's go-to footwear when the 1960s Beatnik and Mod movements kicked in. These cultural movements were dance-heavy, which made wearing low heels an imperative. It suffered a decline come the 1970s, but it slowly came back to popularity by the '80s.
Oscar dela Renta famously brought the shoe back in his 1988 Fall show in New York, where he presented a Renaissance-inspired collection that was paired with low heels.
Princess Diana was also known to have favored the shoes; she even preferred slingbacks.
The 1990s also saw the need for the shoe. Kitten heels were the prefered footwear of supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington when off-duty. The shoe had a slight resurfacing by the early aughts but it wasn't until now that it fully returned to being a shoe of the moment.
And with the resurgence of all things '90s, there's no surprise that kitten heels have also made a comeback. Dior, of course, is at the forefront of the trend as they launched their now famous J'adior kitten pumps.
Dior's famous J'adior kitten pumps
Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Balenciaga, Celine, Prada, and more designers have also shared their take on the kitten heel.
Balenciaga's Knife kitten mules
Prada's studded slingback kitten heels
How to Style
Because kitten heels sit in between high heels and flats, they're practical footwear you can wear to just about anywhere. See below some style techniques you can easily follow!
For a casual day out:
Cropped straight jeans are best paired with kitten heel mules. The cut of the jean and the thin silhouette of the heel will accentuate and slim down your ankles.
For brunch with girlfriends:
Kitten heels will instantly give you a laidback vibe when you style them with a midi skirt. Add a pop of color via your footwear to brighten up your whole ensemble.
For an evening affair:
Complete your evening look with an equally shiny pair of shoes. Go for bedazzled kitten heels, which you can surely survive walking in the entire night! Who says elegant means zero comfort?
For the office:
While classic slingback kitten heels will never do you wrong especially in an office setting, why not go for a more contemporary color choice? Here's a white pair of kitten heel pumps that punctuates a neutral workwear ensemble.
For the tough gal:
While kitten heels have a feminine reputation, they can also toughen up your look. Case in point: Opt for boots with thin kitten heels. Earn even more style cred if you go for an animal printed pair!
Where to buy
Now, ready for your first (or nth, NBD) kitten heel purchase? We've curated the cutest pairs you can shop now!
1. A colored kitten mule is perfect this summer.
Leather heeled mules with maxi buckle detail, P2795, ZARA, Power Plant
2. Travel the world in these comfy and super chic boots.
Zipper leather boots, P7495, MANGO, Robinsons Magnolia
3. It's all about maximalism this season. Opt for open-toed sandals that have big buckles!
Square toe sculptural heels, P2499, CHARLES & KEITH, Greenbelt 5
4. Don't be scared to get a printed pair. They'll be perfect for when you want to try the print-on-print trend!
Gingham kitten heels, price unavailable, PEDRO, Greenbelt 5
5. Strappy kitten heels will slim down your ankles.
Strappy slingback kitten heels, P1690, H&M, SM Megamall
6. Going out tonight? Opt for a metallic pair that won't cause you aching ankles the next day!
Calina heel mules, P1799, CLN, Podium Mall
7. Nothing beats a classic black pair of kitten pumps. Go for a modern take of it with patent finish.
Wide fit kitten heel court shoes, P2750, MARKS & SPENCER, Zalora.com.ph
8. Hit two trends with one shoe with animal skin effect booties.
Atomic pointed toe kitten heel boots, P3599, PUBLIC DESIRE, Zalora.com.ph
9. Looking for an office-friendly way of trying the leopard print trend? Try it on your feet!
Lovorelle heels, price unavailable, ALDO, Greenbelt 5
10. You can never have enough shine. Add glitz to any attire with a pair of metallic kitten heels.
Rude heeled sandals, P3950, STEVE MADDEN, Zalora.com.ph
11. This will be your new go-to pair. From desk to dinner, you can live in these sandals forever!
Lecla heeled sandals, P5950, NINE WEST, Zalora.com.ph
12. Looking for a pop of color for your office ensemble? This bright blue kitten pump just might be the answer!
Carley heels, P5650, KURT GEIGER, Zalora.com.ph