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In Praise of the Kitten Heel

The little shoe that could...

While there are some fashion trends or silhouettes, I can almost guarantee I’ll never wear (looking at you, Maison Margiela Tabis), when it comes to fashion, I mostly operate in the grey area. I’ve often found myself saying, ‘Never say never’ because I can be convinced to make most things work for my style and aesthetic.

Not to mention, there have been plenty of times in the past when I swore off a fashion item, only to realize how much I actually loved said item. Case in point: the kitten heel, an enemy of my youth and the bain of my existence as a tall adolescent who felt too tall for the cool high heels other girls wore.

Back then, the kitten heel felt like a consolation prize, a less stylish version of the shoes I actually wanted to wear but thought I couldn’t as I was already towering over the boys at the school dance. I’ve since embraced my height and, ironically, the kitten heel.

Little in Height, Big in History

Standing around 1.5-2″ high, the kitten heel dates back to Louis XIV of France, who wished to stand a little taller, adding a couple of inches with his signature red heels. The trend eventually spread to other royals, and since the 17th century, kitten heels have rotated in and out of fashion.

Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn, image via Baazar
Lady Diana Lady Dior 1
Princess Diana

In modern fashion history, the kitten heel was once considered reserved for adolescent girls. Training wheels or sorts before the real thing. Then, in the 1960s, some of Hollywood’s biggest stars adapted to the trend, like Audrey Hepburn, and from then on, the kitten heel became an emblem of chicness.

An Ode to an Icon

Kitten heels have had their moments—from the quintessential almond toes of the ’80s and the kitten-heeled mules of the ’90s to the pointy-toes and skinny heels of the early 2000s—the height once deemed childish is now a closet staple, and rightfully so.

An undeniably feminine silhouette, the shoe I once discounted has now become a quintessential wardrobe staple. From knee-high boots in the fall to open-toed mules and kitten-heel sandals during the warmer months, the kitten heel is truly tiny but mighty.

It’s effortlessly chic and can (literally) take you far, saving your feet the pain of sky-high feels without sacrificing that dressed-up appeal.

As fashion’s obsession with 90s nostalgia continues, the kitten heel remains a cornerstone piece, holding a place in everyone’s capsule wardrobe. For Spring and Summer, it continues to thrive; spotted on the runways and on the streets alike, the kitten heel is here to stay.

Best of

Prada Satin slingback pumps
PRADA Satin Slingback Pumps
$1,200 via Prada
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reformation Wilda Kitten Mules
REFORMATION Wilda Kitten Mules
$278 via Shopbop
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Manolo Blahnik Maysalebi Buckle Kitten Heel Mule
MANOLO BLAHNIK Maysalebi Buckle Kitten Heel Mule
$875 via Nordstrom
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khaite River Kitten Heel Pointed Toe Mule
KHAITE River Kitten Heel Pointed Toe Mule
$950 via Nordstrom
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bottega veneta knot mule
BOTTEGA VENETA Knot Mule
$1,390 via Bottega Veneta
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GUCCI SIGNORIA SLINGBACK PUMP 3
GUCCI Signoria Slingback Pump
$1,100 via Gucci
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the row silk Kitten Heel Slide Sandals
THE ROW Silk Kitten-Heel Slide Sandals
$920 via Neiman Marcus
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Larroude Valerie Kitten Heel Slide Sandal
LARROUDÉ Valerie Kitten Heel Slide Sandal
$300 via Nordstrom
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Thefashionableteacher
Thefashionableteacher
1 month ago

I love kitten heels. I have scoliosis and bad feet. These give me a little lift without killing my feet and back. I’m no longer interested in walking around in pain.

A.Ouise
A.Ouise
1 month ago

I’ve been obsessed with kitten heels for a few years now…..mules, open toe, and sling backs…love’em ALL

J H
J H
1 month ago

Mules are the bane of my existence because I feel like I cannot walk in them. But as a fellow tall girl, I fully adopted the kitten heel in my mid twenties and have not looked back. I did not even realize that they were out of style until I read recently that they are hot again.

Terri
Terri
1 month ago

I like the BV knot mule.
What is the brand of the white bag in the first photo?
I tried Google reverse image search but it’s not the one I’m looking for.

Bri
Bri
1 month ago
Reply to  Terri

It’s from MiuMiu, I’m not sure the name of it, though.