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Pas de Deux

Comfortable and versatile ballet flats are popping up at at stores all over town, from Target to high-end boutiques

Women who haven't worn ballet flats yet may soon be taking that step. This spring's repertoire is so vast, they are hard to resist. "Ballet flats have always been popular, but this year there is so much variety," says Wendy Krimins, general manager of Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue. "There is something for the young girl up to the grandmother."

"They are comfortable and versatile," says Jennifer Scott, managing director of London Sole, a shoe manufacturer based in Santa Monica, Calif. "They can be something casual a mom wears to pick the kids up from school or something she wears to dinner."

Ballet flats are akin to the Capezio slippers worn in dance class: a soft, form-fitting shoe with flat sole, rounded toe and tiny bow on the vamp. And some of today's interpretations do run toward the balletic. Steve Madden's "Tillary" has ribbon detailing that laces up the ankle. It comes in black, white or silver leather or faux leopard satin and costs $70.

For fancier footwork, there are pointed toes and peeky toes, sling backs and elastic straps, polka dots, faux fur, lace, embroidery and glitter.

The mainstay of London Sole's collection, "Pirouette" sports a classic silhouette in 100 or so colors, prints and contrasting trims (from $150, www.balletflats.com). "Valentine" shows lots of toe cleavage and features a ribbon bow ($245). "Lowcut" has no rights or lefts--uppers mold to the wearer's foot (from $140).

"[Author] Danielle Steel is such a good customer," says Scott. "She'll buy 25 pairs at once."

At Neiman Marcus, the top seller is a perforated skimmer with pointed toe cap by Manolo Blahnik. It's called "Petunia" and comes in black or white patent for $575.

Other ballet flat notables include "Ballerina Dee" by Tod's ($325) with a pebble sole and elastic banding for comfy driving--and easy fold-up for packing. The entire line of Taryn Rose, priced in the $400s, was created by and named for an L.A. orthopedic surgeon in response to her patients' foot and back complaints.

Chicagoan Jackie Walker, a fashion consultant and author of I Don't Have a Thing To Wear: The Psychology of Your Closet (Simon & Schuster, 2003), bought her first pair for her son's 2005 outdoor wedding near Tampa, Fla. Originally she planned to wear designer stilettos, but two days before the event she realized she would be standing on grass for many hours.

"I knew we weren't going to be right on the beach, but it never dawned on me that my high heels would be sinking into grass," Walker says. "I couldn't wear them."

With limited time to shop, Walker hit department stores and shoe boutiques. Finally, at Target, she found beaded chocolate-brown flats that matched her dress.

"Everyone else had to take off their heels and go barefoot," says Walker, who now owns several pair. Her favorites are the ones that resemble tennis shoes, like the Keds Skimmers, which range from $40 to $70.

"I wear a size 9 1/2, and I feel that tennis shoes look very clunky on my feet," Walker says. Tennis-style flats "are cuter and still casual."

An unlikely fan is product manager Amanda Johnston of Mt. Prospect, who describes herself as "the most boring dresser." Her wardrobe largely consists of black pants and white button-down shirts. Last fall she came across a pair of Kate Spade ballet flats in navy, red and charcoal plaid with black patent trim and instantly fell in love. The cost was $240, an amount she couldn't justify spending.

Johnston visited "her" shoes many times before they disappeared. Weeks later they reappeared on a clearance rack. This time she bought them, for $100.

"They make me so happy," Johnston says. "They are my destiny. Everyone says they are so cute. Even guys say that."

There's a ballet flat for almost, but not every, outfit in your closet, says Walker, whose book categorizes women into what she calls "fashion personas," determined by their tastes.

"If you are a dramatic persona, you might wear a ballet flat with a longer top with a legging or with a baby doll dress with or without a legging," Walker says. "If you are more of a classic, you'll probably wear them with a slim-leg pant or a capri like Mary Tyler Moore did when she was married to [TV husband] Rob Petrie."

In the executive suite, ballet flats partner best with the softer lines of unconstructed jackets or those that are nipped at the waist, Walker says. "They don't work as well with a serious, man-tailored, corporate suit," she says. "You'll look like you changed your shoes because your feet hurt. That's not what this trend is about." 

Published: April 01, 2007
Issue: Spring 2007


I can't believe you guys are covering fashion. After all these years, you decided to incorporate fashion in the magazine. I, for one, am torn.
Donald Rikels, Apr-24-2007