My search for the perfect country boots

My search started in earnest as soon as the removal vans unloaded our wordly goods into our temporary rental cottage one very rainy Autumn day in 2012 with my husband and nine month old baby daughter. It was obvious that my much treasured shoe collection was going to be seriously challenged by rain and mud!

Just to put this into context I was and am a real London townie, raised and schooled in Central London.  My late father and my job as an editiorial fashion stylist and costume designer had taught me to truly love my home city, exposing me to the diverse and eclectic neighbourhoods of London, both North of the River and South.  I have been on so many film locations in areas with names I was only previously familiar with on the Monopoly board (Bromley-By-the-Bow one of them).  However I have also always loved escaping London thanks to three years of university in Norfolk where I discovered that country life was equally enjoyable.  Fast forward and as soon as our baby daughter was born, my husband and I were on a mission to find our forever home in deepest rural England.  With Dr Johnson’s famous quote ringing in my head: ” when a man is tired of London, he is tired of ife; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  and determined to prove Johnson wrong we left London to embark on a new chapter of country living.


Working in television commercials and feature films, I have always had to be very practical with shoes, no tottering around London in high heels for me.   Running around London ‘prepping’ as we call it buying or rather shopping till I dropped, visiting costume houses, fittings with actors and meetings at production companies, always necessitated comfortable and practical footwear but equally a stylish shoe that suggested that yes I clearly understood style to my clients.  Prada Sport had become my go-to brand and one year they produced the perfect knee length boot, their interpretation of a classic riding boot with a rubber sole (lessens the impact on feet on those London pavements), decent heel,  slim fitting on the leg and fitted like a glove so to speak.  Importantly the boots looked brilliant with skirts or dresses as I tend only to wear jeans when filming on set or on location.  They looked so good that I would receive compliments from strangers and colleagues alike and regularly, an endorsement if there ever was one.   I wore these boots to death and if Signora Prada sees this, could I please request that she reintroduces them again in black and tan as before (and oh I am a size 36 just in case the factory asks…).  So moving to the countryside I had to rethink practical shoes and boots as well as my wardrobe (more on that later).

The challenge was to find a slim fitting black pair of leather boots with a rubber sole,  preferably a Welted Commando rubber style (forget leather soles in the countryside in the wet months) that was practical and stylish that did not necessarily scream designer fashion.  Mud I have discovered arrives in the Autumn and stops around late Spring and I needed an alternative to wellington boots which had become my daily default footwear.  Two years of searching every boot in shops, waiting patiently for the first boots to arrive in the stores in the summer and the internet led nowhere…

Then my eureka moment!  I remembered Penelope Chilver’s Long Tassel Boots from many a year ago when I had seen them at a London Fashion Week stand.  I immediately logged on to the website but sadly no boots were available in my size. Undeterred I then embarked on a search of the internet for a Spanish Riding Boot as they are also known and ordered in quick succession several pairs of varying quality that were all too tall 44cms in height to be precise. Village Post Office greatly amused by the returns I was undertaking.   I now faced a problem:  I had found the perfect country boot but they were just too tall for my legs and too wide.  I am 5ft 2 and have never had a problem with boot heights but the nature of these boots are that they are tall to accommodate horse-riding.  So frustrating!

I then did a search for bespoke riding boots and came across an article in the Daily Telegraph by Lisa Armstrong which talked about the made-to-measure service that was offered by Penelope Chilvers.  I emailed immediately and an appointment was made.  I went up to London for my fitting with Penelope Chilvers herself.  I tried on various sizes as the boots do come up big, we settled on a size 35 and worked out the best height for me which was 40cms.  Penelope also introduced me to all her other country worthy boots, great fun and will certainly be back to try on again.  Six weeks later my boots were delivered to me, a belated Christmas present from my husband, hurrah!  They were quickly initiated into Country Lane lifestyle and so far are fairing really well in Hampshire and even made an appearance on Chesil Beach, Dorset.  They are comfortable, easy to clean and versatile as they look good with skinny jeans, skirts or dresses. Further endorsement came this year when the Duchess of Cambridge wore her Penelope Chilvers boots on her trip to Bhutan and Canada which looked well worn and no doubt much loved.  Having road-tested these boots, I now have my eye on the brown version…

The details:

Penelope Chilvers boots – £475 plus additional £100.00 Made-to-Measure by appointment only at Duke Street store, tel 020 7491 9555 or email duke

Also worth looking at:

Really Wild Clothing – £315.00 height 44cms but shoe size true to fit

Fairfax & Favour – £310.00 height varies according to size but shoe size true to fit

This is not a sponsored post.

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