Obviously, ballet flats are not just for ballerinas. The iconic staple shoe has staying style power for a reason and re-emerges every few years with reimagined designs and shapes.
But make no mistake, ballet flats for women originated in the dance world.
Women’s ballet flats weren’t designed this century. In the 1900s, Salvatore Capezio, an Italian-born shoemaker who established Capezio, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of dance apparel and specialized dance shoes, set up his shop across the street from the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan.
“This prime piece of real estate brought the cobbler a slew of customers — all ballerinas looking to have their well-worn shoes repaired. After clocking in for a significant amount of hours fixing ballet slippers, Capezio learned a lot about them. So much so, he decided to design a better ballet shoe that would need fewer repairs. The result was a huge success, ballerinas loved Capezio’s shoe so much that in 1910 Anna Pavlova bought a pair for each member of her company,” according to Startup Fashion.
“The talented Capezio was the link that brought the ballet flat from the dance world into the fashion world. Fashion designer Clare McCardell fell in love with the simple, elegant look of ballet flats, so much so that she went straight to Capezio himself and asked him to create a version that could be worn off-stage.”
With the addition of a solid sole to the shoe, the wearable-off-center-stage ballet flat was born.
Ballet flats really took off when Italian fashion designer Rose Repetto hand-made a pair for her dancer and choreographer son Roland. When the dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet saw the shoes, they wanted a pair for themselves.
Enter French actress Brigitte Bardot, who was a classically trained ballerina before transitioning to acting. She loved the ballet flat and asked Rose “to create a more elegant, ‘city version,’ of the flat for her role in the film Et Dieu Crea La Femme (And God Created Woman). Her role turned her into an overnight sensation, and one of the most influential fashion icons of the 1960s and 70s,” says Aerosoles.
“Other notable ambassadors of the ballet flat trend throughout the 20th and 21st centuries include Audrey Hepburn, who debuted them in her film Funny Face, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Diana, and more recently, Meghan Markle.”
Today, there are so many different styles of ballet flats for women. Whether you prefer them with an ankle strap, a peep toe, buckled, slingback, pointed toe, Manoletinas (flexible with a round shape), or Merceditas (an instep strap, or the classic ballet flat), there is one for you.