What Are Kitten Heels?

All About the Kitten Heel

The height, shape & placement of the heel on these Nine West pumps makes them kitten heels.
Jessica T/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

A kitten heel is a type of shoe with a thin, low heel that is usually 1.5 to 1.75 inches or less, but they're more than just a low heel. What makes a pair of shoes "kitten heeled" is the placement and feminine shape of the heel.

History:

Kitten heels rose to prominence in the 1950s. They were introduced as appropriate heels for the younger set, and were even referred to as "trainer heels" that would prepare young, teenaged girls for stilettos.

Kitten heels offer a feminine aesthetic similar to a stiletto, but they're much easier to walk in.

The generation of girls who had grown up wearing kitten heels as trainer heels started wearing the style exclusively for its femininity and practicality, and they eventually became hugely popular with women of all ages. Kitten heels reigned supreme during the 1960s.

In the 1980s kitten heels experienced a resurgence of popularity. They were also popular during the early 2000s, but the stiletto heel had made a comeback and kitten heels were suddenly labeled as dowdy and conservative.

Pop Culture:

Actress Audrey Hepburn is largely to thank for popularizing kitten heels in films like "Sabrina," "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "Funny Face." The style icon helped introduce the practical yet fashionable heels to a wider audience during the '50s and '60s.

First Lady Michelle Obama brought kittens heels back on the fashion radar when she started making appearances wearing the stylish, refined shoes.

The First Lady is a fashion icon in her own right, and she's become known for her trademark collection of bright, chic kitten heels.

Kitten Heels Today:

Kitten heels might be low-heeled and practical, but they aren't dowdy or outdated in the least. Some of the most prominent shoe designers in the world, like Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin, have created stylish kitten heels, and low-end and high-end brands have followed suit.

Comfort and style are no longer mutually exclusive terms. Anything can be fashionable if it's designed with the right aesthetic. Kitten heels prove that shoes can be practical and chic. They're the perfect compromise between your favorite pair of comfortable, feminine flats and sophisticated stilettos.

Stiletto heels might be the most trendy style today, but you can find fashionable kitten heels at any price point.

How to Wear Kitten Heels:

Kitten heels work during any season with nearly any outfit. If you're shopping for kitten heels, look for slim, feminine shapes and similar-looking materials.

A black suede, close-toed kitten heel would be a great addition to any fall or winter outfit, like a cocktail dress or a pair of skinny pants. Show off a kitten heel with an open toe, ankle strap or wedge with a cute sundress, skirt or pair of cropped pants during the spring and summer.

The low heel also makes it appropriate to wear to work.

How Not to Wear Kitten Heels:

Avoid kitten heels that have round toes, are made of heavy materials and have curved, chunky heels. Remember: you're looking for kitten heels that look chic and sophisticated, not like they came straight from the kid's department.

Since kitten heels are low, pay special attention to the lengths of dresses, skirts and pants. This is particularly important if you're petite. Avoid wearing skirts that hit below the knee and wide-leg pants: they can cut you off and make you appear shorter.