Chunky dad trainers and stompy boots dominated the pavements at fashion months before the pandemic hit, then influential dressers turned to slippers and sneakers to see out lockdown. But eagle-eyed style-watchers will have also noticed the quiet resurgence of an arguably neglected shoe: the ballet flat.
Remember Kate Moss’s Primrose Hill days, when she swaggered around west London in a uniform of skinny jeans, Saint Laurent blazer, and discreet flats? A pair of black Repetto bowed pumps were the supermodel’s go-to back in the Noughties, and the handbag-friendly shoe (slim enough to stash for an end-of-the-night switch-up), is back.
Of course, ballet flats never truly went away. Chanel’s two-tone ballet flats have been a staple for fashion editors, actors and models for decades. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel first created her distinctive beige and black sling-backs in 1957, adding the signature contrasting toe cap to give the illusion of longer, slimmer legs. The designer is said to have hated her own feet, a hang-up that inspired her to create a shoe that was elegant yet practical. The actors Gina Lollobrigida and Romy Schneider were fans of the two-tone style, and new iterations of the classic shoe appear on the Chanel catwalk every season.
Testament to the shoe’s timeless appeal, ballet pump enthusiast Angelina Jolie wore a pair of Chanel flats on the March 2021 cover of British Vogue, with a black Burberry polo neck and Max Mara cigarette pants, styled by editor-in-chief Edward Enninful.
How to style ballet pumps
To style your ballet flats? The possibilities are endless. Under relaxed silhouettes (think: boxy blazers or bombers and louche-cut jeans) the shoe goes from enduring classic to modish cool-girl catnip. If it’s a classic look you’re after, they’re a failsafe foundation for sleek tailoring, slinky slips and summer dresses; add interest with the square-toed or strapped riffs on the style that are the height of balletcore chic.
Pointed versions (see Prada, Zara and Piferi) instantly elevate all kinds of ensembles, but play with their slim proportions in a wide-legged trouser, and you’ll have a very sophisticated stride indeed. Reinvented in the magpie jewels and metallics du jour, pumps from Miu Miu make excellent accents for a minimalist wardrobe. And if all else fails, take a trip down memory lane with socks and a skirt for an outfit with preppy appeal.
All things considered, there isn’t a sartorial scenario that the ballet pump can’t dress you for. Vogue explores the shoe’s pavement potential—and 12 takes to tickle your fancy—below.
Shop Vogue’s ballet pump edit
This article was originally published on British Vogue.