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My Search for the Perfect Pair of Slingbacks

A trip to Paris -- and one too many pairs of sneakers -- left contributor Tara Lamont-Djite craving a dose of ladylike chic.
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When I was a little girl, my mum made most of my clothes. White lace dresses, a crop top short suit with lady beetles around the collar, a fairy princess costume. I preferred matching tops and bottoms, insisted on a pair of Siri-like mini heels, and always got dressed up for a tea party with my teddy bears and dolls. Fast-forward 20 years and I’m pretty much exactly the same. I prefer tailored pants to jeans, matching short suits and sky-high heels. Basically, I’m the opposite of #normcore.

Don’t get me wrong, I have embraced slip-on sneakers (with my tailored pants) and own a pair of New Balance trainers, but when I returned from a month in Paris I felt something inside me rebel against the idea of looking like Jerry Seinfeld. I wanted to dress like an Upper East Side grandmother, or the woman from The Row’s pre-fall lookbook: super chic, put-together, stylish. And the accessory I didn’t own that I felt could take me to that place: a pair of slingbacks.

While slingbacks weren’t stars on the runway this season (that was left to mules), plenty of designers sought to bring back a more feminine silhouette. Givenchy, Nina Ricci and Dior all showed super femme, ladylike collections, and Nicolas Ghesquière’s first collection for Louis Vuitton was more woman than nonchalant teen. Slingbacks also play along with fashion’s current love affair with flats. They work with pencil skirts, mid-length skirts, tailored pants and dresses. For someone who wants to run around New York but still look super chic (that is, me), they’re kind of perfect. Also, the Olsen’s are huuuuge fans. It’s basically their go-to shoe.

Before I knew it, a full-blown fashion obsession had taken over. After many hours of failed online searching (everywhere from eBay to Zara to Neiman Marcus), I decided to think like an Olsen and head to a brick-and-mortar store: specifically, Bergdorf Goodman, with its well-curated shoe floor and extensive Manolo Blahnik selection. I tried on Christian Louboutins (too short a heel), Manolo Blahniks (the exact style and brand that the Olsens prefer), Jimmy Choo and Céline. The price range was much too high—for a freelance fashion writer at least—with tags reading from $545 to $700, but the style and color options were exactly what I was looking for.

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Ultimately, it was the Céline that delivered. The fabrication (a cotton/linen) wasn’t what I imagined, nor was the shape (open on one side). But once on my foot, they were clearly the best option. In the case of most things, trying on different styles was the best way to discover what I wanted, something I regularly struggle with when it comes to online shopping. So, I did what we all do, tried them all on, snapped some pics for Instagram and then—sadly—put them back in their boxes.

I have yet to actually buy my perfect slingbacks, but I did learn a few things along the way. First, you really have to try on multiple styles to see which you prefer. Second, do your research. You never know where you’ll find your dream shoe. And, lastly, sometimes the hunt is more fun than the purchase.