How Amy Winehouse Made Ballet Flats Trendy in the 2000s

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It seems kismet that the ballet flat is back in a big way. A cornerstone of the balletcore trend, the style has been a must-have for 2023 and well into 2024 — “Are ballet flats back in style?” searches peaked on Google in 2023 according to the tech company.

That the trend is in full swing during the promotion of the Amy Winehouse biopic “Back to Black,” the story of Winehouse’s early rise to fame and the creation of her album of the same name is perfect timing. While she may be known in-part for winning a Best Pop Vocal Album award for that album with singles like “Rehab” (which won Record of the Year,) “Tears Dry on Their Own” and the titular “Back to Black,” Winehouse also became known for something else during the aughts: she became one of the faces of ballet flats, which was a major trend in the 2000s and through to the 2010s. In fact, throughout the second half of the biopic, Marisa Abela wears the pink slippers in multiple scenes as she portrays Winehouse.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: Marisa Abela filming the new Amy Winehouse inspired movie 'Back to Black' in Soho on January 16, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Neil Mockford/GC Images)
Marisa Abela filmed the new Amy Winehouse-inspired movie ‘Back to Black’ in Soho on January 16, 2023, in London.

The Origins of the Ballet Flat

As the name implies, the ballet flat comes from the world of dance. In the 1730s, French dancer Marie Carmargo decided, contrary to the style at the time, she would wear a flat shoe instead of heels to dance in. It was the first definitive step in the silhouette as we know it today.

By 1941, American sportswear designer Claire McCardell commissioned Salvatore Capezio to design a lifestyle version of the shoe. Capezio was an Italian shoemaker who often made shoes for actual ballet dancers. Some say the idea was first proposed by famed fashion editor Diana Vreeland in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar. It. came as a result of wartime rationing which restricted the amount of leather shoes that could be made. The first ballet flats were mostly fabric, sometimes including a little rubber for the soles.

Some say that Ukranian-American designer Valentyna Sanina-Schlee was also an early designer of the ballet flat as a streetwear style. A dancer herself, Schlee’s flats were said to date back to the 1940s as well. By the end of the decade, Rose Repetto made a pair. Mother of dancer Roland Petit, she changed her son’s shoes to make them more comfortable. That was in 1947. In short order, she began to recreate the shoe for many other dancers, making a pair for Brigitte Bardot in 1956. These, dubbed the Cendrillon, were made to be worn on the streets.

Amy Winehouse and her Ballet Flats

Winehouse had a preference for actual ballet flats. As she wore them increasingly during her Indie Sleeze moment. People (as well as paparazzi) would see her walking the streets of Camden or even in court wearing a pair of pink satin ballerina shoes.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 07: Amy Winehouse and father Mitch Winehouse sighted outside Cityburlesque where her father was playing a gig on October 7, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Fred Duval/FilmMagic)
Amy Winehouse and her dad, Mitch Winehouse, were sighted outside Cityburlesque, where her father was playing a gig, on Oct. 7, 2010, in London.

Purchased from brands like Gandolfi and Freed of London, Winehouse would wear the shoes until they were torn and brown. One of the styles she preferred, specifically, was the Satin Aspire ballet shoe. She was seen in them with her father, Mitch Winehouse, in 2010 but also in court in 2007.

In 2021, two pairs went up for auction at Julien’s Auctions and sold for $12,500. Another pair went up for auction in 2023 from the collection of her longtime stylist Naomi Parry.

Petal pink satin ballet slippers worn by Amy Winehouse, who was often photographed performing in or out wearing ballet slippers, are displayed at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, California on November 1, 2021, ahead of the "Property from the Life and Career of Amy Winehouse" auction to be held November 6 and 7, 2021. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
Petal pink satin ballet slippers worn by Amy Winehouse displayed at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, California on November 1, 2021.

Making it Trend

In the 2000s, Winehouse became one of the main faces wearing ballet flats on the regular, joined by Kate Moss as well as Alexa Chung. Paparazzi images of her were often seen in tabloids and circulated online of her in the style. This all came at the same time as shows like “Gossip Girl” featured the shoe heavily: Blair Waldorf was spotted in ballet flats for multiple episodes, and the show’s stars, like Blake Lively, weren’t immune to wearing it even off-set.

British singer Amy Winehouse (2ndR) arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London, on July 24, 2009. British singer Amy Winehouse launched an "unjustifiable" attack on a female fan who politely asked her for a photograph at a charity ball, a court heard on July 23. The 25-year-old songstress -- said to be on the road to recovery from her drug addiction -- denies beating Sherene Flash, a dancer, in an incident in Berkeley Square, central London, on September 26, 2008. AFP PHOTO/SHAUN CURRY (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP via Getty Images)
Amy Winehouse arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London, on July 24, 2009.

Designers were similarly infatuated. In 2004, Alber Elbaz sent models down the runway at Lanvin wearing evening gowns and leather ballet flats. In 2006, Tory Burch released the Reva, a ballet-inspired flat featuring a logo hardware piece on the vamp. The shoe became massively popular. Chanel’s ballet flat was also popular at the time.

The current iteration of the trend comes amidst a wider nostalgic revival of Y2K fashion trends, being seen on red carpets, high fashion runways, as well as worn by consumers. Sabato de Sarno was the latest designer to put ballet flats on the runway, earlier this month at the Gucci 2025 cruise show. Libby Page, market director at Net-a-Porter said in January that the Maison Alaia ballet flat is “still reigning supreme” as an “it” shoe in 2024 after holding the position in 2023.

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