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The beautiful Vivienne Westwood high heels above (Zappos, $230.63) are eye-opening enough with their gorgeous ”flame harlequin” colour scheme and 3 3⁄4 inch stiletto heel. But their defining feature must be their cut-away sides that reveal the arch of the foot, giving a slightly sexy flash of foot-flesh as we walk and giving those of us with high arches little space in which to hide!
This style is known as a “d’orsay” heel (pronounced “door say”). It is named after Alfred Gabriel, the Court d’Orsay. Around 1838 the Count single-handedly took it upon himself to tailor the (by-then boring) closed-toed court shoe of the day especially for women to create something beautiful and lasting.
The Count added a v-shaped vamp to the shoe to reveal toe cleavage and cut away both sides of the shoe to reveal the arch of the foot. However, as Christian Louboutin’s take on the d’orsay above shows ( Nieman Marcus, $595), these days it is common for a heel described as a d’orsay to have only the arch-side (ie the instep) cut away.
Another change from the days of the good Count is that, in those days heel heights hovered around the 2 inch mark. These days, heels seem to be much taller – and may have platforms besides. Take the above green snake print d’orsays with green patent at the vamp (Promise shoes; $52.99). They come with a 4 1/2 inch heel and 1 inch platform and there are plenty of taller d’orsays out there as well.
While the d’orsay has evolved – bringing in peep toes, closing off the outer side of the shoe and increasing the height of the heel — a couple of things are for sure: this sexy shoe is here to stay, and we can thank the good Count d’Orsay for that.