The pandemic has created an entirely new way of looking at fashion, and there are plenty of trends that have cropped up as a result, from sweatpants-as-work-attire to the onslaught of tie-dye that has circulated social media feeds.
Flat shoes are no doubt another pandemic-induced fashion trend, but one style is creeping its way to what looks like a full-on comeback this fall.
For nearly the past decade, the ballet flat has lived its life as a modest shoe, elegant in a quaint, retro way but also safe, conventional — and a little too ordinary. This has especially been true when compared to the blockbuster, must-have appeal of the fashion sneaker, or even the unisex allure of the loafer (why would anyone opt for a ballerina in 2015 when you could get a Gucci Princetown lined in fur?)
But now, in the vortex of the pandemic’s virtual offices and stay-at-home lifestyle, the ballet flat seems to be twirling back to life. And thanks to some clever new approaches from a handful of buzzy fashion brands, the style is feeling fresh again.
It may have all started with a shoe that isn’t really even a ballerina. Back in April, as lockdown orders persisted, a flat shoe from The Row began to make the rounds on the feet of fashion insiders and influencers, becoming an “It” shoe of sorts for the lockdown. Featuring a lace-effect mesh upper, The Row’s mesh slipper resembles more of weird spa sock than a ballet flat. But it was the way it hugged the feet in strange, glove-like manner that offered a glimpse of how the ballet flat could gain appeal during this stay-at-home era.
Since then, other brands have also begun to play around with the traditional silhouette. New York brand Khaite has a cult following for its Katie Holmes-approved knitwear, but fans — including Holmes — show the same loyalty to its footwear. Recently, it debuted the Monroe flat, a ballet silhouette in caramel suede with ties that criss-cross over the foot and wrap around the ankle. There is also its Ashland, a more traditional ballet flat done in black or white leather with a scrunchie elastic edging, a style that will make any former ballerinas feel a twinge of nostalgia.
To buy: Khaite Monroe flat, $304 (was $760).
The success of the ballerina this time around lies on quirky innovation — and squarely on a square toe, though not exclusively.
UK brand Neous has one of the most exciting new takes, a flat whose supple leather ruches up around the ankles and has exaggerated square toes that look a bit like flippers.
“It” shoe brand Bottega Veneta also has its version, a basic-luxe flat with its new almond toe and a more covered vamp, in options that include basic soft nappa leather as its signature intrecciato leather weaving technique. What the brand has also nailed is a new “It” color: a warm, supple beige that looks and feels like gloves for the feet.
To buy: Bottega Veneta Almond flat, $720.
For those looking to make less of a financial commitment in a simple flat shoe, most of the direct-to-consumer brands, from Allbirds and Everlane to Mansur Gavriel, have already released versions that are a bit more traditional. Everlane has also picked up on the “gloves for the feet” idea with its
With plenty of new options, we’re betting the new ballerina could a pep in a few steps this fall — even if it’s merely a dance from the living room to kitchen.
Shop the new ballet flat for fall
To buy: Allbirds Tree Breezers flat, $95.
To buy: Vionic Robyn ballet flat, $120.
To buy: Repetto Cendrillon suede flat, $350.
To buy: The Row leather ballet flat, $760.