The white stiletto is back in Vogue…so says the fashion bible's editor Alexandra Shulman- and a hint of bad taste is part of the appeal
01:22 GMT, 5 November 2012
Last week, I braved the chilly, wet streets of London with bare legs — all for the love of a pair of white stilettos.
The exquisite pair of Manolo Blahniks are in patent leather, have pointed toes and 3 in spindles of heels.
They are cut in a low swoop on the side and high on the back, creating a clean white knife-edge along the side of my foot and exposing just the smallest amount of toe cleavage.
Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman thinks white stilettos add a touch of glamour to any outfit, as proven by Gwyneth Paltrow
There is nothing of the everyday about a pair of brilliant white patent shoes, shining like diamonds on dirty London pavements
When they arrived at the beginning of October and I removed them from their white box, I was tempted not to wear them and just look at them nesting there in icy perfection. But shoes this fine are to be admired, so after tweeting a photograph of them for posterity, I ventured out to work in them.
The delicious point about white shoes — any white shoes — is their utter devil-may-care impracticality. There is nothing of the everyday about a pair of brilliant white patent shoes, shining like diamonds on dirty London pavements.
Wearing them provides an instant shot of glamour. Couple the body of the shoe with a towering skinny white heel and you instantly have better-looking calves, longer legs and a sassy wobble to your walk.
However, once a white stiletto girl, always a white stiletto girl, and though these may be the first ones I’m wearing this autumn, they are by no means the only pair I’ve owned.
My first pair were from Dolcis at the start of the Eighties. I was in my 20s, had just left university and was looking for a job. They were bought to go with a pair of white Katharine Hamnett cargo pants and a pink denim Fiorucci jacket — my favourite clothes at the time.
I was instantly hooked and wore the shoes with everything.
As I became more senior at work and felt I should dress in a slightly more business-like manner, out went the cargo pants and in came the suits and shoulder pads.
The word stiletto is derived from the Italian name for a long, thin blade
Cast your eyes down, however, and there were my old faithful white heels . . . a way of semaphoring that though I was, indeed, a young woman trying to climb the professional ladder, I was going to do it in unconventional footwear.
In recent years, as editor of Vogue, I’ve always found a way of teaming them with whatever else I might have bought that season.
Paired with dark cigarette pants, white stilettos have a graphic appeal. Worn with utility wear — such as denim or military styles — they add a dash of sex appeal.
As Gwyneth Paltrow (above) proved at the end of last month, when teamed with a little black dress, white stilettos contribute an element of surprise.
Far from being impractical, these are a pair of hard-working shoes.
In my opinion, a light-coloured shoe is too obvious in the summer. They become more desirable in the autumn, when white leather carries a whiff of rebellion into the short days, an all-important insouciance about the wind, rain and the dark nights ahead.
Of course, for years white shoes — like white vans — have suffered a bad press. But it’s the hint of bad taste that is an intrinsic part of its charm.
While white shoes have suffered years of bad press, Alexandra believes it's the hint of bad taste that is an intrinsic part of its charm
So averse are the Americans that they’ve even devised an olde-world dress code to limit their use — ‘no white shoes to be worn after Labour day’ (the first Monday in September) goes the rule.
I was reminded of it by a chic New York hairdresser when I arrived mid-September in his Fifth Avenue salon, proudly sporting a pair.
But who cares if they are seen as bad taste by less adventurous types If they’ve been seen on the mottled, frozen legs of Saturday night binge drinkers and hordes of Essex girls holidaying on the Costa del Sol How dull would it be to have to stick to black court shoes, sensible loafers and ballerina pumps
And while the Duchess of Cambridge’s penchant for nude heels is a style I’m also partial to, blush-coloured courts don’t have the elan of my lovely white heels.
However, there are rules to follow. White stilettos look much better when worn without revealing large expanses of bare flesh. This style of shoe paired with a patterned mini-dress takes you perilously close to WAG territory.
Blush-coloured courts don't have the elan of my lovely white heels
Anyone considering wearing them with a pair of shorts on holiday should have their passport revoked (unless you are Alexa Chung). You might need to consider fake tan, but if you’re pairing your shoes with skirts or dresses, it’s best for the hem to hover around the knee.
With trousers, white heels draw attention to the only bit of flesh on display, thus allowing the delicate bones of the foot to be highlighted by the glistening frame around them.
Though this style of shoe has never really gone away for me, mainstream fashion — from the High Street to high end — has fallen back in love with them, too.
In contrast to the summer’s dense floral prints, pared-down looks are enjoying a renaissance.
The hint of trash about these shoes is what makes them the perfect partner for the unadorned canvas of minimalism.
W hat could be more appealing with an oversized black wool coat and camel-coloured trousers than unexpected white shoes (as the new queen of cool Phoebe Philo often does at Celine)
If you are going to delve into this season’s shimmering metallics, white shoes are the perfect weightless finishing touch.
The masculine outlines of bulky leather aviator and bomber jackets get a feminine lift by teaming them with delicate white rather than hefty boots.
And while I am persevering with bare legs, I shan’t be giving up on my new shoes even when the bad weather really kicks in and going tightless is simply no longer an option.
Then, I shall simply pop on a pair of black opaques and my white heels will add a Beat vibe to a black skirt or turtleneck. Really, I’m not sure my wardrobe would work as well without them. I certainly don’t want to find out.
Alexandra Shulman is editor of Vogue.
Monochrome sling-back, 40, riverisland.co.uk
Gold, black and white, 475, jimmychoo.co.uk
Elliot, 220, kurtgeiger.com
White leather, 440, manoloblahnik.com
Nicholas Amore metal toe caps, 167.42, shopbop.com
White cross strap, 52, asos.com