Friday, October 10, 2014

The French Perspective on High Heels

My new summer sandals

I had to good fortune to hear a brief exchange between two customers over the weekend.  The situation was this.  A kindly Kiwi mum was bringing in a French woman whose daughter was just starting at the same school as her child as they had only moved to New Zealand three weeks previous.

While the daughter was trying on her school shoes, the two women were looking at ladies shoes and pointing out the ones they liked.  ‘Oh I don’t wear heels any more, I live in flats’ said the Kiwi mum, who was very practically dressed.  ‘Why is that, why do you not wear heels?’ asked the French woman, in her musical accent.  ‘If you buy good quality, they will be comfortable, no?’

Of course the French woman with her charming accent said the word ‘quality’ with the emphasis on the last syllable to make it sound quite lilting.  I could have listened to her all day.

Now I’m not knocking the lady from New Zealand, as she was dressed just as many other women do around here, very normal.  But I took notice of what the French mother was wearing and she had on slim-cut jeans tucked into brown leather boots that had a slight heel (I would guess between 2-3 inches at most, maybe lower), but still appropriate for a casual weekend look, a pretty top and hair cut in that uniquely French tousled way.  She wasn’t wearing tons of makeup, jewellery or bling, but she looked fresh, pretty and entirely age appropriate.

Naturellement she was a slim and attractive weight.  That seems to go without saying when I pick up a French accent and this is probably their true style secret.

I was so tickled by this chic sighting.  The French woman was genuinely perplexed as to why the other mother had given up on high heels.  And both these ladies looked to be only 30s-40s.  It was almost as if she’d told her she had given up on life!

I’ve been wearing flat shoes and very low heels (that are virtually flats) all winter, so taking the French woman’s advice I chose some higher but still wearable sandals from our new season’s range and will be alternating these with my ballet flats this summer.


  1. I've been thinking about this lately because I need to get shoes for a wedding and was dreading wearing heels. The French lady hit it on the head-quality! Previously, I would buy inexpensive shoes for an "outfit" not expecting to wear them often. But I may try a better shoe, one that will go with more than just the wedding guest outfit. I can't tell you how many "inexpensive" heels I have recycled over the years.

  2. Your heels are very chic and perfect for summer. I love hearing about your chic exchanges that occur in your shop. I was getting dressed yesterday and tried on a pair of flats and a pair of heels with the same outfit and the heels changed the entire look of the outfit and noticeably lengthened my legs.

  3. I also think quality is the key word here, at least for women of a certain age :) I used to be able to do cheaper heels, but I need more comfort now.
    Wish I could afford some Ferragamos!
    Your new heels look stylish and comfortable both.

  4. I have been chatting with a French woman who lives in Paris and she epitomizes exactly what you have observed. No bling, minimal jewelry, quality clothing and a bit of a heel to the shoes or boots. I seriously love their accent and truth be told the Kiwi accent is music to my ears. We have a family living next door who are from NZ and when I hear them chat outside I almost get goose bumps

  5. I have been chatting with a French woman who lives in Paris and she epitomizes exactly what you have observed. No bling, minimal jewelry, quality clothing and a bit of a heel to the shoes or boots. I seriously love their accent and truth be told the Kiwi accent is music to my ears. We have a family living next door who are from NZ and when I hear them chat outside I almost get goose bumps

  6. Quality shoes are more expensive, so my conundrum is: as I get older, I don't really want to spend more money on a pair of shoes. I'd rather put that money

    Also, at my age (49) I have developed Plantar Fascilitis in my foot so I truly need more comfortable shoes. What I've found is that the higher heels I have (approx. 2-3 in.) are more comfortable than the flats I have!

    I do love the heels you picked out for yourself, I've always loved wooden heels like that. They look like they would go with almost anything.

  7. Cute exchange. I enjoy people watching Europeans and I think the very under-rated South Americans (Colombians, Venezuelans especially), they could wear the exact same clothes as Americans, but just have that “je ne sais quoi” or “no se que” lol! that elevates it all. Personally, I feel more effortless and easy breezy in flats, especially since I tend to move pretty fast…I don’t like feeling impeded. I used to say that I only wear flats or high heels, no in between…but I’m getting old and I’ve found a very tempting pair of kitten heels.

    But at the end of the day, better to be the girl in flats, than the girl that can’t walk in heels!

  8. Loved your post, once again! Perfect analysis of the French approach to life! Carpe Diem ;-) Yves

  9. I would add an inner Platform or high Platform all around the shoes is trendy in Europe right now and very comfortable. I do work in a shoe shop in italy and really would advise to go for this sort of shoes this winter. Lace up tom boy style if you want to wear elegant androgine shoes.
    Colour Always black and burgundy this winter. Bye Bye.

  10. I was in France at the end of summer and noticed that french women of all ages tended to wear cork wedges as their go-to day to day shoe.

  11. Love your new shoes Fiona. Very chic. Since I live in CA where there is no snow and little rain even, I now, at my age, wear flat sandals most of the time, but I buy the more fem ones with some embellishment for added style. I don't like big clunky shoes of any kind. I used to love heels but no more for my foot health. For closed shoes, I now wear ballet flats almost all the time and love them. My fave brand I buy online is Lindsay Phillips because they fit my foot like a glove and I feel stylish but like I am wearing slippers! Also, their top embellishment snaps are interchangeable so you can buy one black ballet flat and change it to more causal or dressy or fun with just a snap change. Love their ballet flats! Great price too. I also like Sam Edelman's Felicia ballet flat--they are my second choice and I buy them online now via Nordstrom after finding the right size in a local store in person.

    What's your shoe store URL online?

    Thank you for the nice comment you left on my blog about our Laguna day trip. We love doing day trips together, or even just a two-hour outing on Sunday locally for coffee or tea together. Makes 34 years of marriage together fun.

    Blessings for a beautiful New Zealand day!

  12. You picked absolutely lovely shoes!
    And I agree with the French approach, although I have some very nice flats, I feel much more elegant and feminine when I wear heels (not very high 5 cm or so).

    Kind regards,

  13. What a great post! I hardly ever wear heels (I'm 5'11)and tower over everyone, but have been really trying to find shoes that are charming and elegant (but still comfortable!) rather than falling back on a practical style.

  14. I agree that beautiful, well-made heels can be works of art and make a woman look amazing. But take a look at some of the photos by The Sartorialist or Garance Dore: lovely women in amazing clothes, often wearing chic loafers, moccasins or other flat shoes. There's nothing ungainly or unflattering about their appearance at all. My feet and I are very attracted to the look!

  15. I haven't been able to wear HIGH heels for years - having arthritis- in most body parts - including feet... there are many stylish alternatives now - compared to 25 yrs ago - when I first developed Arthur. :-)

  16. I disagree here. To be chic means to me also to be healthy. And it is totally unhealthy to wear high heals. Ask your doctor :-)

    I live in a big European city, I walk my dog in the morning, walk to work, walk home, walk shopping, run around with my child - how on earth am I supposed to do this in high heels?

    The best quality one can afford - that is chic. And of course this is true for shoes as well. But high heals are never healthy and comfortable - and how can suffering be chic?

    Seams to me the Kiwi mum is sensible and modern and does not rely on the old "women scheme" - we do men not wear heals?

  17. Hi Fiona, I don't know if you've heard of this blog called It is written by a french woman and is very helpful in regards to how to dress like french women do.

  18. I agree that quality shoes are vastly more comfortable, but heels of more than, maybe 2 inches tops, create too much stress on my knees. I feel it the next day or two, definitely.

  19. I have always worn flats or very low heels for daily wear, and because this has preserved the health of my feet, I am able to wear heels when the occasion calls for it.

    I think I will never have to stop wearing heels, because I haven't damaged my feet through overuse of high heels.

  20. I can't think of anyone more chic or more French than the lovely and charming Ines De La Fressange, and she is almost exclusively photographed wearing Roger Vivier kitten heels or ballet flats!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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