Ballet Flats

AKA: Dolly Shoes

How to say it: bal-ey  flats

Traditional Features: 

Ballet Flats

  • very thin sole and heel or the appearance of no sole/heel at all
  • styled like soft ballet slippers
  • may have a ribbon binding around the opening of the shoe
  • can have slight gathering over the toe area
  • often adorned on the toe or heel with various decorative details

21st Century Ballet Flats

The ballet flat is a must have for women everywhere. Available in every colour of the rainbow and all the prints in-between, the ballet flat is the perfect slip-on-and-go shoe for the 21st century and its abundance on the footwear market reflects this popularity.

J.Crew Lanvin

J.Crew, Lanvin

McQ Alexander McQueen Tory Burch

McQ Alexander McQueen, Tory Burch


…of the style: The ballet flat, not surprisingly styled after soft ballet slippers, has been worn since the 16th century when they existed in the fashion world as an equal opportunity shoe for both men and women.

The flat style shoe was popular until 1533 when Catherine de Medici wore heeled shoes to her wedding, ushering in the age of high-heeled shoes. Heels reigned as the shoe of preference until Marie Antoinette wore high heels to her beheading in 1793, causing women’s shoe fashions to swing back to flat styles.

Ballet flats entered modern history in 1947 when Rose Repetto had stitched a pair of ballet flats for her dancer/choreographer son, Roland Petit. The shoe was instantly popular amongst the dancing fraternity, but didn’t cross over into the fashion realm until starlet Brigitte Bardot wore a red pair, made by Repetto, in her film ‘And God Created Woman‘ in 1956. In 1957 Audrey Hepburn wore ballet flats with skinny jeans in her movie ‘Funny Face‘ and the shoes status as a fashion classic was secured.

The ballet flat has come in and out of fashion since the 50s, but it has never fully disappeared from the fashion landscape. The perfect shoe to dress-up or dress-down, and a chic alternative to uncomfortable heels, designers from high-end labels to low-cost chains have recognised the appeal of the soft, flat shoe and continually release updated versions season after season in a variety of colours and decorated with everything from bows to skulls.

In the 21st century the ballet flat is as popular as ever and as new styles are constantly releasing new versions of the iconic style, it seems unlikely that it will ever not be a part of women’s fashion.

…of the name: The iconic shoe was modelled of soft ballet slippers, hence the name.

Random Facts

  • Catherine de Medici’s wedding shoes had a 2″ heel
  • In the 16th century, the men’s ballet shoe was called a pompe

For more info on Ballet Flats try Casa Couture Collection, Shoes of Prey, Wikipedia or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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