The Ballet Flat
There are few things as enduring in the fickle world of fashion as the ballet flat. Classic, elegant, and practical, the soft slipper once reserved for the studio has earmarked its place on most fashion editors’ essentials list. And while the current shoe trend points decisively towards the more louche, ‘man-repelling’ style of flatforms and clogs, the ballet flat is steadfast and safe in women’s wardrobes. Why? As well as being timeless, ballet flats are the ultimate go-to shoe, easily paired with virtually any outfit. They are a no-brainer. And in the monopoly of women’s fashion, that represents serious value.
But how did the ballet flat turn from necessary balletic kit to fashion mainstay? And who is retaining the integrity of a shoe style so heavily saturated into the world’s high streets?
THE AUDREY EFFECT
There can be little doubt that the moment the modern ballet flat turned from dance wear staple to an icon of style was when Audrey Hepburn flitted about on screen - all lithe limbs and lightning quick feet - in the iconic scene from Funny Face(watch it here). The film was released in 1957. Hepburn's look was modern and gamine; cigarette pants and ballet flats highlighted her dancer's physique and seemed elegant yet effortless. In a time when cinched waists and heels were the norm, the idea that a woman could be both chic and comfortable at once left an indelible mark on the fashion world. But it took several decades for the ballet flat to turn from stylish accoutrement to a fully fledged, mainstream trend.
As the new millennium dawned, ballet flats became as at home on the feet of the prim and proper as on the nonchalant and even bohemian. Whether you were a rockstar or a royal, the shoes were a ticket to effortless style - perhaps because the shoe was so widely endorsed by famously stylish women, whose lives were vastly different, almost paradoxical. The image of a coolly disheveled Kate Moss wearing a red velvet pair of ballet flats remains just as vital as the image of Kate Middleton, all glossy and groomed, in a pair of classic black quilted incarnations . And if those two style icons aren't enough validation, in 2009 Vogue.com reported that the incomparable Anna Wintour decreed that Bloch ballet flats 'are a must this season'. It certainly seemed so, with Anne Hathaway, Katie Holmes, and Elle Macpherson all spotted in their Bloch ballet flats. It quickly became the norm to see the world's illustrious fashion editors hop from show to show during Paris Fashion Week in a pair of ballet flats. After all, there are only so many cobble-stone streets a woman can navigate in a pair of heels. And in a city as synonymous with fashion as Paris, it only seems natural that the ballet flat has now come to represent quintessential Parisian style.
THE TURN SHOE TECHNIQUE
While luxury brands continue to produce fashion ballet flats for the well turned out elite, Bloch doesn't only offer the sort of accessibility needed by most, but also a priceless understanding of ballet flat craftsmanship. As one of the only ballet shoe boutiques who practice the traditional method of the turn shoe technique - a process most commonly reserved for making pointe shoes and one that involves quite literally making the shoe from the inside out - Bloch is able to lend authenticity to their fashion ballet flats. This results in a more elegant, comfortable, and long lasting shoe. There is also the sense of association for many that they are not just buying a pair of ballet flats, they are buying into the world of ballet, romance and glamour.
Ballet has given much to the world of fashion, but there is no doubt that the ballet flat has been its most enduring contribution. Fashion ballet flats have evolved from their humble beginnings, transcending trend status and becoming instead a basis for creative expression from the world's top designers over and again, proving that Audrey Hepburn is not only the patron style saint for ballerinas, but a galvanizer of modern fashion altogether. Each season sees a new print, a new interpretation, a cheeky twist on a classic staple. Like most fashion accessories that manage to be as relevant on the front row of the runway to the streets of suburbia, ballet flats have truly earned their reputation as one of our most fundamental wardrobe inclusions. And there is also the undeniable truth that a new pair of beautifully crafted ballet flats, with their intoxicating leathery perfume and untouched soles, must stir the memories in many women of being a young girl receiving her first pair of ballet shoes - a promise of the dancing to come.
By Annie Carroll
The Audrey Effect - www.behindballet.com
Style Icon - www.stylist.com