With every major recalibration of silhouette, there’s also a shift in accessories – and if there’s one look that epitomises the attitude of the season this autumn, it’s the pairing of a soignée dress with tall boots. Just above the knee, or a whole lot higher, this statement-making footwear is becoming the default option for women who build their cool-weather wardrobes around easy dresses or skirts: a pair of tall, go-anywhere boots that is both chic for day and smart enough for night can be a total game-changer.
Versions of this look appeared all over autumn’s catwalks, elevating the tall boot’s status and desirability. At Céline, creative director Phoebe Philo accessorised midi-length crepe dresses, flared calf-length skirts and beautiful tuxedo dresscoats with over-the-knee stretch boots (about £1,170) – a curved-toe nappa-leather style in oxblood or bi-colour versions in navy and black or black and cream. She also introduced a black stretch thigh-high boot (£1,750) in nappa with an elegant kitten heel.
At Fendi, tall boots were added to almost every look, from cosy camel overcoats and flared wool skirts to diaphanous eveningwear. Glossy over-the-knees (£1,090) in sealing-wax-red leather made a particularly strong impression next to billowing printed-silk dresses in graphic prints. On the Bottega Veneta catwalk, Tomas Maier proffered an intrecciato take (£1,445) on the trend – a slightly slouchy, stretch calfskin and nappa wedge boot in barolo or black.
The tall boot has a power to transform potentially dowdy midi-length dresses into something altogether more alluring – and Isabel Marant’s autumn show was a masterclass. A parade of super-tall boots with a slight slouch, in finishes from black, tan or red ponyskin and metallics to leathers (£1,580), gave an edge to pretty, printed mid-length silk dresses – an effect heightened with ultra-wide belts.
“It’s how you want to wear clothes in winter: longer lengths and still dressed-up, but also cosy and comfy,” Marant said backstage. “I wanted these dresses to have a feminine side, but with these big boots that don’t let in the cold – like armour.” Marant illustrated just how versatile these boots can be, pairing them with flared skirts – including minis – and skintight embellished jeans, as well as her covetable silk dresses. Kym Ellery, a designer who relocated from her native Australia to Paris last year, has also tapped into the city’s bourgeois dress codes for autumn, pairing gauzy printed or jacquarded dresses with thigh-high boots in black and white patents and vivid purple corduroy (price on request).
“Full, floaty dresses in a midi-length with pull-on boots just look right at the moment,” says Sandra Choi, creative director of Jimmy Choo, who – despite the heat – was already wearing them together in the summer. Her favourites are the brand’s stretchy Lorraine pull-ons (£1,150) in a shiny techno fabric and with a 10cm heel – also available in crushed velvet. “They create a smooth, clean, polished look,” she says. “There’s a tendency to think the over-the-knee, skintight boot is vulgar, but for me it becomes a second skin – and if you wear it with something quite covered up, it works. It’s all about the contrast and proportions.”
The fervour for these dramatic boots can be laid at the door of Demna Gvasalia, who has championed the tall boot’s strong silhouette since he was installed – in 2015 – at Balenciaga, where he has often combined them with airy midi-length dresses. He has now taken the style to extremes with his Knife boots (£1,145), cartoonish in character and tall in stature, in endless zingy colours from egg yolk and emerald to teal, plum and hot pink, worn with everything from leather knee-length skirts or printed silk dresses to voluminous evening gowns. The Georgian designer has also put dramatic, tall boots on a pedestal at his own label, Vetements, where he persuaded Manolo Blahnik to create a thigh-high version of his duchesse satin stiletto boots (£2,346) earlier this year.
While few have gone as far – or as high – as Gvasalia, many brands have embraced the ease of these taller styles. Gianvito Rossi has sumptuous thigh-high knitted bouclé boots (£1,515,) in rich burgundy or black, and Charlotte Olympia has several lower, block-heeled styles: the Sky High (£795) is mid-heeled in crushed grey velvet, while her thigh-high Endless boots come in red or black velvet (£1,095) or in tan or black suede (£1,195) with a clear Perspex block heel.
The lower-heeled versions of these boots are an effortless option for daytime, a consideration that has been on Nicolas Ghesquière’s mind – albeit with a dash of whimsy. His glossy, second-skin over-the-knee boots for Louis Vuitton come in orange, white or black with a 6cm monogrammed flower heel (£1,140), as well as a flat version (£1,290) in black leather with a flared gauntlet-style cut. Over at Nicholas Kirkwood, meanwhile, the flat, black suede Casati boot (£1,350), which comes just up to the bottom of the thigh, has a heel edged with grey pearls and is dressy enough to add some edge to a shorter skirt. Stuart Weitzman has also opted for black suede: his thigh-high Alllegs boot (£675) has a sleek heel that’s entirely practical for daytime.
There are tougher takes on the tall boot, too, that combine the new elongated silhouette with biker styling. In her autumn/winter show, Miuccia Prada added biker buckles to tall, low-heeled soft leather boots (£1,780), which appeared in earthy brown, chestnut, teal, dusky pink and tomato red, as well as ornate beaded suede (£2,590). Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri used tall boots (over-the-knee, £1,500; knee-high, £1,200) in plush suedes with a simple toe buckle to add bite to a collection of inky, belted coats and short dresses.
Ann Demeulemeester, which has long been the first port of call for the perfect biker boot, has sleek, thigh-high versions in stretch leather this season (£1,505), while Belstaff, always a leader when it comes to the hardworking urban boot, offers up the chocolate leather Ashbridge (£795) with a chunky heel and a flared top that sits just above the knee.
Designers have also explored the potential of taller boots to be seriously glamorous, really going to town with the details – perhaps none more so than Edgardo Osorio, the man behind Aquazzura’s highly covetable footwear. This season he has thigh-high stretch-velvet pairs (£760) in sage grey, as well as deliciously tall block-heeled Biba boots (£1,425) in chocolate suede, richly embroidered with multicoloured folkloric emblems. While the new tall boots can take you just about anywhere, this is one pair you might want to keep away from the urban jungle.