Festive in flats: What would Carla choose?

The party season approaches. I have but one pair of heels. They are wintry, but will I wear them? My heart says yes, and my feet say, "But Carla doesn't."

Huffington Post ran a piece on Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's love of flats, along with a slide show, here, which shows how she wears flat shoes and boots for even dressy functions. During a visit to England in March, 2008, photos show Dior ensembles of increasing formality, always with flats.

She is thought to have adopted them to prevent towering over her bijoux husband.

Look, his heels are higher than hers. According to various reports, Sarko is 5' 5" or 5' 6", Carla is 5' 9' or perhaps 5' 11". That's quite a gap to close, if it matters.

I'm 5' 10", and back in the day dated a few Sarko-sized guys. They either liked the attention the effect drew or agonized about it. Ray, who ended up marrying my friend Dacia, swore he was 5' 7", but was really at least an inch shorter. He was so dismayed about the platforms I wore to a party that he turned up for the next date in a gorilla suit.

Regardless of their reasons, ever more women are flashing flats with dressier outfits. But many flats look a bit sad and settled-for with party clothes. (Carla's consistently in Dior shoes.)

The bad news is that flats with fizz are costly, hard to find, or both. The good news is that they don't date as quickly as heels.

Flats that stay up late

Prada Skimmer with Rings, $550 from Neiman Marcus. I love the lines; this is a grown-up flat.

Juicy Couture Ravi Studded Ballerinas, $195, also from Neiman Marcus.

Small enough to fold in your bag when wearing winter boots to travel, with studs for attitude.

The Cole Haan Nike Air Addison Ballerinas have that divine Nike Air cushion-support, detail and texture via patent and matte leathers, and the slightest wedge to save your feet from looking like flippers. $158, from Neiman's again (also available from Zappos in chocolate). Too sporty for Carla's ballgowns, but a great looking shoe.

Mugnai's "Kaitlin" in aubergine is smart, refined and has similar air-cushioning. $425 (Canadian dollars) from Ron White. (International shipping.)

Marni's pink jacquard tweed lurex ballerinas are an intelligent alternative to the brand's vertiginous heels at the same lofty price point, $510 from Marni.

Accessoire Diffusion is one of my favourite French shoemakers; the US stores are in Vegas and NYC. Carla and I could wear our sapphire patent "Gounod" ballerinas with everything from le smoking to jeans. €220. Visit the site just to enjoy the stellar collection.

Anthropologie's "Sort of Saddle" shoes, in glittery brown fabric and patent, would add wit to a silk shirt and pants, for only $128. Anthropologies' web site has many appealing flats; problem is that the standouts sell out.

Finally, an unexpected colour kicks a flat into sharp. These Italian leather ballerinas from Sundance come in purple, red, navy, mustard, a tart apple green, and brown. $128 from Sundance; international shipping.

With flats like these, I'll probably not venture into those heels more than a time or two. And you?


Susan B said…
Those are some fun flats!

Funny story about the Prada ones...during the summer I saw them on the pre-season sale rack at Neiman's for 30% off. They didn't have my size, so the salesman found a pair at another store and had them sent to my house. Except when they arrived, the shoes in the box were a different pair ...with 4" heels! Unfortunately by that time they'd sold out of my size. There's a similar pair of Roger Vivier's I've been eyeing, but haven't been able to get past paying full price.
M said…
I've been wearing mostly flats for years. My husband teases me that I just keep buying the same shoe over and over. I would also suggest to anyone shopping for them to take a look at Repetto and Lanvin. Enjoyed your post.
NancyDaQ said…
Umm, I don't know about flats. I like at least a bit of a heel, even an inch or so suits me. I've also found that ballet flats can be cut uncomfortably low in front for me.

But to each her own!
Duchesse said…
Pseu: Oh NO! It's so weird that no one looked in the box.
Lisa: Once you find your style buying duplicates makes sense to me!
Nancy: I look for a (very elusive) flat that is not a pancake, with an arch, like the Cole Haans shown. My favourite is a very low wedge which rescues my large feet from the breadbox look.
CompassRose said…
I saw a pair of Robert Bloch ballerinas this summer that I desperately wanted, the City Roll-up, with a rubber sole, in pewter grey. Unfortunately, the store couldn't get them in my size in that colour, and by the time I started surfing for them, the WORLD was sold out of them in my size, in that colour.

Now, all the Blochs I'm seeing are the usual leather-bottomed ones.

I admit, I've been coveting some of the Repettos on the Gravity Pope website.

On me, though, paper flats are perhaps the most unflattering shoes ever. I'm short, and broad, and I need a little something on my feet to balance all that out, or I look even more like a squat dwarf than usual... Not that that will stop me, if I find the perfect pair. (It's a very 80s look, though, isn't it, especially the pointy shiny ones cropping up all over. Add leggings or skinny jeans -- poof! High school all over again!)
Dear Duchesse,

I've been lurking for months. It's about time to come out and tell you how much I enjoy your blog and your approach to fashion.

I'm a little over 5'10'' and back in the day wore super high heels all the time and just LOVED that feeling of power. I could actually lope and jump in them, but no more. It's mostly flats. Your choices are divine btw.

Everyone says Carla changed to ballerinas when she married Nicolas. They do look sweet on her and he is apparently extremely sensitive about his height. (Got that from an inside source.)

When Deja Pseu was in Paris we talked about you. All very nice things of course.

I would kill for a pair of Vivier's in black patent and another pair in a bright, wild colored satin. Maybe someday. . .
Warm regards,
mette said…
I´m as tall as you and have worn shoes with low heels all my life, but not anymore! I love wearing heels. I even have booties with 10 cm heels. I need practice to walk in them, 6-8,5 cm is ok. Now, why on earth didn´t I find these shoes earlier? A whole new world has opened to me!
Anonymous said…
I was actually on Zappos looking for flats when I read this! I am looking for flats for an upcoming trip to Paris and I'm having a hard time finding ones that are both cute and walkable for hours. I really enjoy your site.
Belle de Ville said…
I love the way that Carla Bruni has shown us that flats can be elegant and not dowdy.
I would wear any of your picks.
Duchesse said…
CompassRoes; I have serious lust for this Repetto "ballerine loafer":

tishjett: Thanks for commenting! I too would love the Viviers- or those sapphire Accessoire flats shown. I am mad for Accessoire shoes, if I were living in Paris I'd buy so much there.

metscan: Your feet must be up to it; I don't mind passing the six foot mark in heels but my feet don't agree.

Anonymous: Cole Haan with the air soles come to mind. Or Privo? (Not all their styles are sporty). Though there are fab shoes all over Paris you will want broken in ones to walk!

Belle: Thank you; I 'see' you in your Tahitian pearls and flats:)
materfamilias said…
Like some of your other commenters, I'm not giving up my heels anytime soon, especially for festive occasions. However, it's hard to be festive when grimacing from foot pain, and I've learned to balance heel days with flat days -- what a great selection you offer here -- those Prada ones especially! They're out of my usual price range (by several hundred dollars) but if I came across those in my size I would find it very hard to resist -- I know they'd earn their keep by being stylish for many, many more years.
kristophine said…
I love those Addison ballet flats. The thought of comfort, combined with something that can go either formal or edgy... I like it.
CompassRose said…
Your Anthropologie link isn't right, by the way, Duchesse.
I love a ballet flat (as you're probably aware). I tried on a pair of Cole Haan zebra pony skin ones when I was in the US, but alas they were too small and didn't have my size - but they did seem very comfy (we don't get Cole Haan here).

I've noticed that flats can work well when feet are small or standard for your height, but can make you look like you're wearing flippers if your feet are larger proportionally than your height, even a small heel can make a difference here.

I have been on the lookout for a pair of black ballet flats to replace the ones I've got (that are past it), but have not found anything comfortable yet - very frustrating.
Rebecca said…
Hmmm. Probably due to my price range, I don't find flats to be any more comfortable than heels. That is, slip on flats. Occasionally I will find a pair to wear sockless in the summer, but usually they don't seem to fit well enough to avoid rubbing.

(I love those blue ones!)

I do have two pairs of flat boots I'm wearing this winter. And, at just under 5'6" and wearing a size 9 shoe, I suppose Imogen has explained why I've always been sort of luke warm about flats.
dana said…
Since men don't have to kill their feet to dress up, why should we? It's a feminist issue. Take back your feet. Never compromise on comfort.
Duchesse said…
dana: I've never figured out why men advocate high heels when most of them could not endure wearing them for five minutes! Of course they draw attention to a shapely leg, but by god, they are torture.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

The posts with the most