Ballet Flats Are Back, With A Twist. Here’s How To Wear Them In 2023

Words by Naomi Chadderton

6 min read

It’s time to start practicing those pirouettes because the comfortable yet timeless ballet flat (and heel) is well and truly back in style

From low-rise jeans and cargo pants to crop tops and maxi-denim skirts, designers have spent the last few seasons revisiting our favourite trends from way back in the 2000s. It should come as no surprise, then, that fashion’s most popular flat will take your minds immediately back to a noughties Kate Moss or Sienna Miller who, renowned for teaming theirs with spray-on skinny jeans and floaty boho skirts, were leaders of the pack when it came to this particular trend. Actually, maybe it’s Amy Winehouse who will spring to mind, or perhaps Alexa Chung and her combo of denim cutoffs and bright Chanel pumps. That’s right, there’s one shoe style in particular that’s really piquing our interest after cropping up on many a runway this season — the ballet flat is well and truly back in style. “Who can forget Sienna and Kate sporting ballet flats with skinny jeans, miniskirts, tank tops and waistcoats?” asks Christina Arrighi, senior stylist at Level Shoes. “They unquestionably put ballet pumps on the fashion map. The SS23 take has a more mature, wearable appeal. Think slip dresses, tailoring and trench coats accessorised with cashmere socks.”

Beautifully simple and a fashion classic, a pair of ballet pumps is a wear-forever staple that every woman should have in her wardrobe. Originally taking on a new lease of life away from dance in the 1950s, most credit Rose Repetto’s designs for the introduction of the ballet flat into the fashion sphere after she created a pair for Brigitte Bardot to wear in the movie And God Created Woman, and later for Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. Fast forward to SS23 and Bella Hadid has been spotted incorporating Sandy Liang’s flats into her off-duty style, while the pirouette-worthy pumps are also loved by the likes of Elle Fanning, Kate Bosworth and the Olsen twins.

Simone Rocha SS23

“We’re definitely seeing a more transitional feminine aesthetic resonate well with our customers this season, and ballet flats fit perfectly into this trend,” Liane Wiggins, head of womenswear at Matches Fashion tells MOJEH. “They are an easy shape to smarten a look and are transitional from day to evening, all while offering a modern alternative to the heel. I love them because they are very versatile and a great shoe for all ages.”

Our newfound intense love of the ballet flats first reared its head last season and, like many of our fashion obsessions, can be attributed to Miuccia Prada. The fashion mogul sent her models down the AW22 runway in satin versions worn with snuggly knitted socks reminiscent of the very lusted-after lace-up styles she introduced for SS16. Fast forward to SS23 and the ballet pump is en pointe once more. “Ballet flats have had a resurgence this season, and are definitely here to stay as women look for more dressed up styles to complement their hybrid lifestyles,” adds Wiggins. “Miu Miu have always approached this silhouette very well too, so it’s not surprising that their satin ballet flats have been one of our bestselling styles.” In fact, so popular is the trend that Matches Fashion has grown the category by 84 per cent for SS23, as well as launching exclusive new styles with Le Monde Beryl and Vibi Venezia.

Luxury Olsen twin-owned The Row is also leading the troupe with its most recent style of dainty ballet flats, which feature a barely- there sole and buttery-soft leather in a range of muted colours complete with a simple elastic strap over the top. Kendall Jenner recently sported a classic black pair. “The Row’s minimal leather silhouettes have been extremely popular this season, and I also suggest looking to Roger Vivier, Jimmy Choo and Maison Margiela, whose Tabi ballet flats are some of my absolute favourites,” enthuses Wiggins. “Designers are all offering such different takes on the trend this year so there’s a style for everyone.”

Miu Miu at Matches Fashion

We also saw flats in sunburst yellow and purple silk at Tod’s, accentuated with the Italian label’s signature Gommino sole. Over at MM6, on the other hand, models wore dancers’ separates such as leggings, boleros and vests with pumps reinforced like pointe shoes. And who can forget Simone Rocha, who also got in on the act with pumps that blurred the boundaries between fragility and strength in metallic khaki, bronze leathers and pretty floral fabrics crisscrossed with leather laces. Chanel’s monochrome numbers pumped up the femininity with pretty little bows, their classic ballet pumps a a wise investment since they were debuted by Inès de la Fressange in a Helmut Newton-lensed campaign back in 1984. Its most revered style, the soft beige pumps with black toe caps, were conceived by Karl Lagerfeld a year after his arrival as the head of the luxury brand, as an extension of Coco Chanel’s signature two-tone slingbacks. “The Khaite Marcy flats win wardrobe must-have for me, while Ganni’s scrunchy ballerinas are also a fun favourite,” adds Arrighi.

When it comes to styling your flats, the 2023 difference is that while once worn with peplums and polished midis, they are now paired with minimal elements for a loose and laid-back feminine feel. “There is a huge demand this year for ballet flats to cater to different styles and needs, with brands offering colours, toe-shapes and even non-leather materials like mesh and satin,” founder and chief brand director of Malone Souliers, Mary Alice Malone, tells MOJEH. The designer herself has released a number of chic ballet pumps this season that have the style set falling over each other to get their hands on a pair. “I love to pair a ballet shoes with either a silk mid-length skirt, or a pair of slightly cropped slim jeans with a blazer. Even for travelling, ballet shoes provide the perfect comfort- meets-chic look. As for the evening, just switch up the materials to something elegant, like a satin or a bit of sparkle.”

Tods SS23

For those not quite ready to lose a few inches, there’s an influx of heeled pumps for after-hours too that allow you to work the trend in a more grown-up way. “Maximillan Davis’ new era of Ferragamo ensures ballet flats can be taken from day to night with the signature Vara bow pump given a dazzling red strass suede makeover, while Roger Vivier has also released a wide array of polished pumps for evening attire,” explains Arrighi. Also be sure to check out Le Monde Beryl’s latest capsule collection, which includes two heeled styles. “Ballet flats are simply eternal,” concludes Malone. “They may have their roots as a court shoe, but have remained one of the foundation patterns in shoe making since. Chic and simple, and always standing the test of time.”

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