The ballet flat has long been a wardrobe staple. A go-to slipper for many, it ticks all the boxes of a great shoe: comfortable, stylish, agreeable and versatile. Its innate elegance makes the style easy to dress up and down, while its ground-hugging sensibility and flat-ish sole makes it utterly functional – a joy, even. Some iterations are so pleasant they even feel like a second skin, which circles back to its origins. In the 1600s, ballerinas danced with heels (considering how hard it is to even walk in heels, it’s a feat to be applauded). But to better articulate their feet in jumps and promote a sense of lightness, they removed the heels from their dancing shoes in the 1700s et voilà: the pointe shoe was born, or what is now known as the “ballet slipper.” Maria Taglioni was recorded as the first ballerina to dance a full-length ballet en pointe (in La Sylphide in 1832), a shoe which was then simply a flat satin slipper with little support, aside from around the toe.
Of course, pointes – and fashion’s appropriation of them – have since evolved in terms of support and construction, but modern articulations continue to resonate in terms of shape and feel, albeit with a modern twist.
The ballet flat made its debut in the fashion scene in the 1950s thanks to Repetto; the brand commandeering the shoe from dance to high fashion via Hollywood siren (and trained ballerina) Brigitte Bardot, who asked Rose Repetto to design her a pair of flats that were as flexible as a ballet slipper but softer and more comfortable – and Repetto’s cult Cendrillon was born.
Now, the ballet slipper takes on exciting new form. For historical houses like Loewe and Bottega Veneta, gone are the style’s soft, spherical curves, replaced with a sharper, more angular toe, while Gucci is hard-nosed in its approach; elongated and pointed. Others have tricks up their sleeve (or sole), jazzed up with trinkets and hardware like chains and embellished appliqués.
The catalyst for this week’s Fab Five, however, is Khaite’s Ashland Ballet Flat, perhaps the most purposeful, yet utterly beautiful, homage to the ballerina shoe. Pure in its intentions, Cate Holstein recalls the pointes of old with a stretchy top, sturdy base and quaint tied bow on top. While Loewe also makes a strong case for the modern ballet flat, proffering many a style from classically tied slippers to this jazzed-up pair as part of Jonathan Anderson’s quirky capsule with ceramicist William De Morgan, squared off at the toe and topped with a gilt dodo. And of course, where would fashion’s modern ballet be without Chanel’s Ballerina shoe? A firm favorite on every fashionistas foot, this pair come in tactile two-tone tweed; an update on a classic.
Shop our edit of new-era ballet flats below.
the ashland ballet flat, $1005. shop now
Embellished leather ballet flats, $1410. shop now
SOFT LEATHER BALLERINAS, $50. shop now
Flats in Tweed, Ecru and Black, $1140. shop now
5. La Garçonne
FLAT APARTMENT Curved Front Sling Backs, $201. shop now