T Party: The New Mary Jane

Designers have given the mary jane a serious style upgrade, transforming the formerly super sweet into super sexy.

t party

Balenciaga shoes, $800. China, Mini cakes, Bobbette & Belle, Toronto. Tea, Pluck Teas. / Photo by Hamin Lee

This fall’s twist on ladylike dressing has a dark edge: strict, pointed shoulders alongside cinched waists at Bottega Veneta; pencil skirts in translucent PVC at Burberry; filmy slips and racy lace hiding under tailored coats at Louis Vuitton. Staying in step, shoes have adopted this sultry tension. Take, for instance, the T-strap. Once the dainty mainstay of refined dressing, its proportions and attitude have been updated: Buckles are super slim and toes end in an assertive arrow, as though harnessing the spirit of the self-assured pointy pump, so prevalent last fall.

This iteration hearkens back to the style’s dancing days. The T-strap first gained a foothold as the go-to going-out shoe in the high-octane ’20s, lengthening gams that had been set free from Edwardian skirts. As with this season’s, the carefree flapper version had a party-friendly pointed toe. It only rounded out in the more sober ’40s, when the shoe was reclaimed by the ladies-who-lunch set.

If today’s T-strap were worn to tea, said tea would likely be spiked. All points aside, however, there remains a retro charm to the T’s simple silhouette. “You feel feminine in them,” says Tabitha Simmons, the New York–based shoe designer whose Heart Mary Jane exudes a demure sexiness. “I wore a pair the other day with a simple dress and I felt very girly,” she says. Without, one would presume, feeling too goody two-shoes.


1. FENDI, $1,230, similar styles at 2. EXPRESS, $80, 3. SIGERSON MORRISON, $475, 4. NICHOLAS KIRKWOOD, $1,340, (646) 559-5239 5. TABITHA SIMMONS, $1,185, 6. SALVATORE FERRAGAMO, $825, (866) 337-7242 7. SOPHIA WEBSTER, $705, 8. JIMMY CHOO, $1,115, Vintage Photo, Getty Images.

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Balenciaga / Photo by Anthea Simms