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The History of Ballet Flats

Ballet flats entered the world as footwear designed for use by ballerinas. Interestingly, the earliest ballet shoes were heeled; it wasn’t until Marie-Anne de Cupis de Camargo (or "La Camargo"), a popular French ballerina, wore non-heeled slippers during her performances that heeled ballet shoes were eliminated. Later, Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova helped catapult ballets flats into the mainstream fashion market after she purchased pairs for her entire cast from an Italian cobbler turned shoemaker, Salvatore Capezio, during a dance tour in 1910. In 1941, American sportswear designer Claire McCardell further popularized the ballet slipper when she commissioned Capezio to design a range of flats for her collection. High-end retailers like Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus then purchased and promoted the style. But it was Brigitte Bardot who ultimately transformed the ballet slipper into a chic fashion mainstay. Bardot (who was trained as a ballet dancer) asked Rose Repetto to design a pair of shoes for her that were as flexible as ballet slippers, but softer and more comfortable. The result was the famous Cendrillon, which Bardot wore in her 1956 film, ...And God Created Woman. The ballet flat's appeal was further solidified by celebrity fans such as Audrey Hepburn, who wore a custom Ferragamo pair in Roman Holiday, Princess Diana, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Rita Hayworth. Today, ballet flats have achieved a nearly iconic status in the fashion world and are considered a timelessly stylish wardrobe staple.

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