From the moment the first shop opened in Wimbledon in 1990, our founder Linda Bennett was hailed as 'queen of the kitten heel'. Over the years, L.K.Bennett has remained recognisable for these elegant little heels, and we have continued to expand and develop our trademark collection, providing stylish designs for women looking seeking their much sought after mix of glamour and versatility.
Since its appearance in the 1950s, the kitten heel has had its famous fans – from Audrey Hepburn to Michelle Obama – but it’s once again enjoying a fashion renaissance. A chic alternative to the towering heels that have dominated the fashion scene for so long, the 5cm ‘petit stiletto’ has never totally disappeared off the fashion radar, and now designers are creating their own modern-day versions.
But where did the feline name for this mini heel originate from? Kitten was actually 1950s slang for a young and inexperienced girl. The kitten heel was originally conceived as a trainer heel for teenagers as the 5cm height (and point tapering to 5mm) was an easier and elegant alternative to the 10cm-plus heel popular at the time. The higher heels, worn by femme fatales such as Marilyn Monroe, caused an extremely sexy wiggle while walking. In contrast, the virginal kitten heel, allowed for mobility and, at best, a little wobble in the walk.
Its greatest ambassador was the star Audrey Hepburn, who is invariably cited as one of the ongoing influences on fashion. In 1954, she starred in Sabrina as the heroine, a gauche girl who returns from Paris to America with a sophistication and charm that seduced both actors William Holden and Humphrey Bogart. Her transformation was expressed by costume designer Edith Head (who won an Academy Award for the movie), with the assistance of the young French couturier Hubert de Givenchy. Hepburn was 5' 7" in height and 25 years old, playing a teenager against romantic lead Bogart who was 5' 10 ½" - so she was put into kitten heels to give her an adolescent appeal. The same thing happened again in Funny Face, released in 1957, when kitten heels ensured Audrey remained a little shorter than petite Fred Astaire.
The little heels, so cleverly used to express Hepburn's age and character, took off and were popular both in Europe and America until the mid-1960s. Now, with the style back in vogue, you can expect to see more of these sophisticated heels worn by stylish ladies everywhere. As one Fashion Editor recently commented, "Kitten heels give clothes that sexy, sixties French actress look. It's nice to go back to shoes that look like shoes".