Ballet Flats for Women

by BrendaReeves

The fashionable ballet flats appeal to women of all ages from young girls to teenagers to senior citizens.

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.

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.

Salvatore Capezio

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.

Updated: 11/30/2013, BrendaReeves
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BrendaReeves on 11/30/2013

Yes, I have read Katie's article on the subject. Ballet flats are my favorite shoes to wear. Thanks for commenting.

Torybri on 11/29/2013

Hi Brenda. Great article. I always love reading about the history of ballet flats, after all, they are my favourite kind of shoes. As we approach the 50 year mark since the reappearance of ballet flats, thanks to Audrey Hepburn in 1957, the only thing that has changed is the wide variety of manufactures, colours available and the unique details on the shoe itself. And maybe the sizes available. Since you've seen Katie's articles you know what I'm about to say next. I'm lucky cuz I'm a guy with a women's size 10 foot so I have all the colours and styles available as women but now with them being made in larger sizes more women and some men also have a better selection to choose from. I don't think having Carl and myself commenting is enough to warrant you to change the title of this post from how it read now.

Thanks for sharing this post on "our" favourite shoes.


I'm sure you've seen it but if not, this is the post Katie did about me.

BrendaReeves on 02/08/2013

Hi Carl, Yes, I didn't realize men enjoyed wearing women's shoes until Katie's article. You learn something new everyday. I can understand why. I prefer not to wear shoes at all; especially in hot weather. I don't see how men can wear those clunky shoes they have to wear. I'd die. If my feet are hot my whole body is hot. Glad to have you here.

Carl on 02/08/2013

Hello, Brenda! I look forward to chatting with you on occasion, since I have just joined this week... I live in central Pennsylvania, and I work as an operational meteorologist (weather forecaster and radio broadcaster)... I adore (and even wear) women's shoes from time to time, and my 'weakness' is the ballet flat... I've left behind some comments on various articles regarding this topic by Katiem2, who has done so much to bolster my self-confidence... I just received two pairs of the "Ollio" comfort flats which you've highlighted in this article -- and I can't wait to try them! I'll talk to you soon :)

BrendaReeves on 08/25/2012

Thanks Katie!

katiem2 on 08/25/2012

WOW I knew you were the one with the great collection of flats. My daughters love flats, will have to show them now that I've found this again. Back to school. :)K

BrendaReeves on 07/08/2012

Thanks Dusty. I'm a flip flop gal during the warm weather, but I'm a sneakers girl in the winter. I hate wearing shoes though. I'd rather go barefoot all the time.

dustytoes on 07/08/2012

Well I'm glad to see I'm not alone in the "poor nerd" category...hahahaha.. that had me laughing.
My daughter loves this type of shoe. I'm a sneakers and slippers type of gal, but the ones you have featured here are very pretty.

BrendaReeves on 06/27/2012

Thank you 2uesday. I love the shoes also.

2uesday on 06/27/2012

The style of ladies shoe fits in well with today's hectic lifestyle. The shoes on this page are perfect to wear with jeans, Capri pants, skirts or dresses. I like them because they are feminine and suitable for all ages of women. Patterned flower and animal print styles would look really with good plain colored clothes.
I enjoyed reading about the history of this style of shoe. You could say if this style was good enough for the beautiful Audrey Hepburn no wonder it is still popular today.

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