History of the Ballet Flat

History of the Ballet Flat

Posted by Samantha Caruso on

Meet the ballerina flat. Simply polished and always on point, this chic, lightweight style is the perfect compliment to any outfit. This style has been a fashion staple through the decades, but how did the flat transition from the stage to the street?

Marie Camargo (source)
On Stage
The original ballet shoe made its debut as a heel in 1680 at the Royal Academy of Dance in France. At the time, fashion was far more important than functionality, and these heels were uncomfortable and difficult to perform in.

This style of dance shoe was the norm in the ballet world until the late 1720s, when Marie Camargo became the first woman to make the switch from heeled shoes to a more flat, slipper-like style that made it easier to perform her intricate footwork. This new flat dance shoe became the choice of ballerinas for centuries to come.
Claire McCardell (source)
From Stage to Street

In 1941, renowned fashion designer Claire McCardell fell in love with the simple, sleek design of the ballet flat. She commissioned Salvatore Capezio, the trusted shoemaker for the Metropolitan Opera House, to create a line of ballet flats that could be worn off-stage. Capezio added a hard sole to the classic ballet style, and the ballet flat we know and love today was born.

The ballet flat rose to fame in 1947 when Rose Repetto, an Italian fashion designer, hand-made a pair for her son Roland, who was a renowned dancer and choreographer at the time. The shoes were such a hit, they gained quite a cult following within the Paris Opera Ballet.

Bridgette Bardot (source)
Meghan Markle (source)
In Popular Culture

The popular style then caught the eye of Brigitte Bardot, a famed French actress (who was also a classically trained ballerina) in 1956. Bridgitte 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.

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 Karlie Kloss and Meghan Markle.

The ballet flat's functionality & versatility make them failproof wardrobe staples that elevate any season, moment, or mood.

Shop our icons collection for more timeless styles.

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