A Brief History of the Forever Comfortable (and Chic) Ballerina Flat

The Ballerina Flat is known for its chic, comfy, lightweight appearance and wear. With little to no heel, the delicate and simple shoes are easy to pair with just about anything. From a casual blouse and skinny jeans to a formal evening gown, these shoes are perfect for slipping on and running across a busy Parisian street.


The History of Ballerina Flats

The lightweight shoe with the barely-there heel obviously originated from the ballet. So, did Ballerina Flats come to us by way of the thin, leather slippers worn by ballerinas? You may be surprised to learn that ballerinas actually danced in high-heel shoes; flats were never worn offstage until pretty recently. In the early days of ballet, the shoes worn by ballerina weren’t flat at all.


The original ballet shoe worn by ballerinas (the high-heeled version) made its first appearance in 1680’s France in the ballet school at the Royal Academy of Dance. Back in those days, the shoes were not easy to wear, and made it virtually impossible for dancers to perform jumps and other technically difficult movements; it was all fashion over function for women’s dance. Fortunately, people started to realize the highly problematic issue for what was supposed to be an athletic shoe.



The Guillotine

At the beginning of the French revolution in 1789, the high-heel became synonymous with aristocracy and was thought to be vulgar and ostentatious. After the French Revolution, heels quickly went out of style and ballet flats became the shoe of choice for many women. Marie Antoinette was supposedly a huge factor in the drop in popularity. Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France before the French Revolution, walked to the guillotine in a pair of heels. This is widely known as the reason French women were turned off from the style, preferring flats instead.


The Very First Version of the Ballet Flat

Dancer Marie Camargo was one of the first to wear the flat version of the ballet shoes by the middle of the 18th century. At that time, the ballet flats looked more like what we’re familiar with today: flat, fitted, and cut from soft leather or satin. By the 1880’s, a man called Salvatore Capezio had crossed the sea from Italy to set up shop in America, the shop situated just across the street from the Metropolitan Opera House.

Not long after, he found out that all ballerinas of the Metropolitan Opera House were looking to have their well-worn shoes repaired. Capezio took this opportunity to design a better ballet shoe that would need fewer repairs. He became very successful after Anna Pavlova bought a pair for each member of her company. After that, he was attributed to bringing the ballet flat from the dance world, into the fashion world.


Worn On and Off-Stage

Around the time of the early 1900s, a Fashion designer named Claire McCardell fell in love with the simple, elegant look of ballet flats. She asked Capezio to create another version that could be worn off-stage, which they did by adding a hard sole to the classic design, making the ballet flat easier to wear by all.


The Story of the Ballet Flat Never Ends

Today, the ballet flat is ubiquitous; nearly every woman owns a pair. After Claire McCardell, many other experienced people were inspired to create ballet flats in their own ways. The ballet flat has conceivably become one of the most timeless fashion items to date, and channeled the laid-back French-girl style that most of us love.

A Lighter Footprint Thanks to the Ballet Flat

While today’s fashion loves a good high heel, it’s safe to say that the ballet flat has become a wardrobe staple — flats are appropriate for every occasion and can easily take you from work to date night. For the woman looking to take a break from her heels and leave a lighter human footprint on our earth, the ballet flat is the perfect shoe to satisfy her needs.

Make sure to check out our shop to get yourself a cute new pair of ballerina flats!


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