How to dress like a grown up with Sarah Bailey: Why it’s high time to step into haute heels

Fashion has always loved a fantastical shoe — and there were some absolute zingers at London Fashion Week.

I clocked trainers balancing on coloured balls instead of soles at Christopher Kane’s show, while at Simone Rocha, the models wore flat satin slippers stitched into a nest of splayed pastel feathers — the world’s most luxurious floor dusters.

Bonkers, yes, but seeing as my own feet were like an Ordnance Survey map of blister plasters by that point, boy, did they look comfy.

But, arguably, the best shoe-spotting at the shows is on the feet of those in the front row.

Which is how I found myself coveting a pair of slingbacks in white croc-effect leather, finished with gleaming, gilded sculptural heels (think a tiny Henry Moore bronze).

Fancy footwear: Model and actress Sienna Miller (pictured) at Berlin International Film Festival 

It turns out they were ‘Conie’ shoes by the up-and-coming London designer Rejina Pyo (£440,, who has developed her collection of arty heel shapes for a few seasons now. Worn with a midi day dress, the effect was dazzling and super-modern.

Another key designer leading the trend for heels that would look at home in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is J W Anderson, whose cylinder-heeled ballet shoes are another It-piece of the season and will no doubt pop up at the Paris show this week.

But it’s not just high-end labels that are playing with ‘ornamental’ heel shapes for autumn.

I spied a terrific pair of suede ribbon-tied sandals that appeared to balance on giant ball-bearings at Zara (£17.99, These will look dazzling with all the animal-print clothes in the shops.

Even Marks & Spencer is getting in on the game, with mules in deep blue suede atop a bulbous metallic heel, which will bring a real bolt of modernity into your look (£65,

Fanciful heel shapes have a long and illustrious history.

The great Parisian shoe designer Perugia, who made surrealist creations for Schiaparelli and collaborated on a pair of shoes with Pablo Picasso, designed footwear that appeared to balance variously on corkscrews, dominoes — and, in the case of the sandals he created for Josephine Baker for her 1934 movie Zouzou — a vertical stack of metal balls.

What are the rules for wearing sculptural heels?

Sculptural heels look better paired with longer hem lengths.

  • Wear them with tailored trousers, rather than leggings.
  • Keep your fancy heels in tip-top condition. Socks are a no-no!

More recently, Alexander McQueen conjured fantastical creations that were more like museum pieces, with Ming vases for heels and elaborately carved sci-fi dragons.

But, while the surrealistic shoe designs of the past were mainly the preserve of out-there theatrical dressers, the new sculptural heel shoes are designed for real women’s wardrobes.

When shopping, look for a shoe with a relatively classical upper — such as Topshop’s turmeric-coloured suede mules atop geometrically fabulous heels (£69,

So why do we crave these avant-garde, fanciful heel shapes? I have a theory that, as more of us embrace longer hem lengths, we simply need that bold, graphic ‘full stop’ in our outfit, to prevent us from looking too bell-shaped — too Handmaid’s Tale, if you will.

And we are now so utilitarian with our day-to-day footwear (trainers, Birkenstocks, flip-flops!) that we crave fizz and excitement with our special occasion shoes, without wanting to give up on walkability.

Whimsical, ‘conversation-piece’ shoes can be keepers.

But, at the risk of sounding like your nana, wear them sparingly. A witty crystal ball heel looks chic when pristine. A few scuffs and cracks and it is more fancy dress box. And repeat after me: absolutely no walking on cobbles!