Ballet flats adorned women's and men's feet as far back as the 16th century with the prototype modeled after the soft ballet slipper. The shoes experienced a reprieve from fashion during the 17th and 18th centuries when Catherine of Medici walked down the aisle in a pair of high-heeled wedding shoes. The dainty slipper came back into fashion when women rejected the high heel after witnessing Marie Antionette walk to the guillotine in a pair of heels.
Ballet Flats for Women
The fashionable ballet flats appeal to women of all ages from young girls to teenagers to senior citizens.
Reappearance of Ballet Flats
A public siting of ballet flats occured on Audrey Hepburn's feet in 1957 in the movie Funny Face which created a resurgence of the shoes. I'm sure the shoes experienced some waxing and waning between Catherine and Audrey, but as the story goes Audrey wore them with a pair of skinny jeans. I would be willing to bet the brand name of those shoes was Capezio.
When I attended junior and senior high school in the 1960's, the popular, well-to-do girls wore Capezio shoes. Capezio's, as we called them, came in two styles: Mary Janes and T-straps. You were "in" if you wore Capezio's -- at least you were in Fresno, California. I wasn't popular or well-to-do, so I wore fakes. They weren't even knock offs. They were just obviously fake. Although we called them Capezios, they were ballet flats.
A Master Shoemaker
In 1887, Salvatore Capezio, an Italian immigrant, opened a shop in New York City conveniently located near the Old Metropolitan Opera House and billed it The Theatrical & Historical Shoemaker. He started repairing shoes for the Met. When the opera singer, Jean de Reszke, rushed into his shop asking for an emergency pair of shoes, Capezio the shoe designer was born. Before long, dancers from all over the world were ordering Capezio's pointe shoes. Eventually, he trained his family to make his beautifully designed shoes.
Capezio shoes gained fame from adorning the feet of dancers on Broadway, the Ziegfield Follies, many musicals, and dozens of movies. Eventually his dance-shoe designs grew to include ballet flats for street wear like the ones worn by the boomer girls of the 1960's.
My grandmother bought me a pair of Capezio T-straps when I was in eighth grade. They cost $12.95 which was a lot of money for a senior citizen on Social Security. It was a lot of money for any working-class family like mine. Those shoes were bought with love. I don't know when I eventually disposed of them, but they were well worn. I wish I had saved them and framed them in a shadow box. They didn't make me popular, but they did make me feel "in".
The Capezio Company no longer makes ballet flats for street wear, but the name lives on in dance wear as well as other atheletic wear.
Did You Wear Capezio Ballet Flats as a Young Girl
The Ballet Flat Today
Call it a Classic
Anything that can survive from the 16th century to the 21st century has earned the title of classic. I don't remember seeing the ballet flat during the 1970's, but as I recall, shoe design took on a tame Lady Ga Ga look. I wonder if that's where she got the idea for her elevator shoes. In my own opinion, the 70's was a decade of the worst design in all areas since the Civil War in America.
The ballet flat re-appeared in the 80's with a string binding around the low top that could be tightened or loosened at the toe box just like ballet slippers. Ballet flats have hung on since then in various styles created by various designers.
Women love these shoes, because they're the next best thing to going barefoot. They look great with jeans, leggings, slacks, skirts, dresses and shorts. It's great to plop down in a chair, flip your shoes off your feet and swing your legs over the arm of the chair. You can't do that with running shoes.