Shoe Glossary: Ballerina Flats

These comfortable shoes aren't just for dancers

Low Section Of Woman Wearing Black Flat Shoe
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Ballerina flats, also called ballet flats, dolly shoes, skimmers, and flats, are a type of ballerina-inspired shoes that have become a staple in women's footwear. Ballet flats are slipper-like in construction, with a very thin or completely flat heel, a closed toe and a low cut that reveals the top of the foot.


It shouldn't come as a surprise that ballet flats originated amongst, you guessed it, ballerinas. Ballerinas danced in high heels up until the 1700s and switched to pointe shoes during the latter half of the century.

In the 1880s famed shoemaker Salvatore Capezio got his start in the United States repairing pointe shoes for ballet dancers. He was making so many repairs that he decided to design a better version himself. His new and improved design became the standard for pointe shoes.

In 1947 Rose Repetto made a pair of pointe shoes for her son in her Parisian workshop and the shoes became popular amongst ballet companies around the world. Up until that point ballet shoes only appeared on stage. Then, in 1956, screen siren Brigitte Bardot requested that Repetto make her a pair of ballet flats for her upcoming film "And God Created Woman." Repetto crafted a pair of iconic red ballet flats that went into mass production shortly after the movie was released. The Repetto brand is leading name in footwear to this day.

Actress Audrey Hepburn is responsible for helming many fashion trends, and ballet flats are one of them. The shoes experienced another wave of popularity when Hepburn sported a pair with cropped skinny pants in "Funny Face" in 1957.

Ballet flats surged back into the spotlight in 2005 when Oprah Winfrey endorsed Tory Burch's iconic Reva flats on an episode of her talk show. The Tory Burch website received a whopping 8 million hits within the 24 hours after the episode aired.

How to Wear Ballet Flats:

Since ballet flats have no heels, they tend to make the legs appear shorter, but that doesn't mean you should completely avoid them if you're petite. Whatever your height, ballet flats look great when you show a little leg. Expose the ankles by sporting a pair of crops or cuffing your pants. They also look nice paired with short dresses and skirts.

Ballet flats with long skirts and dresses or wide-legged pants can work, but exercise caution, especially if you're petite. The extra fabric can weigh you down. This doesn't mean a maxi skirt is out of the question; just make sure that if you do wear long bottoms with flats that the hem isn't dragging on the floor.

Flats are appropriate for every occasion and can easily take you from work to date night. A pair of brightly hued flats, like d'Orsay, give an elegant, Parisian look. A pair of sturdy, comfortable leather ballet flats are perfect for work, especially if your commute requires walking. Ballet flats that are made out of luxe materials, like silk or feature embellishments work for formal events.

They're also the kinds of shoes that are great for transitional weather, like when spring is arriving, but it's not quite warm enough to sport open-toed footwear.

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