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How to Style Ballet Flats: Different Ways of Wearing the Trendy Shoe Silhouette

Ballet flats have been around since 1947 when an Italian fashion designer created the pair for her son, who was a dancer. After years of gaining popularity with the ballet space, the set quickly became mainstream as many people in the early 90s were seen wearing them for performances and red carpet appearances. It can be debated that the early 2000s red carpets saw more flats than heels. As time went on, the set became a daily pair used for casual ensembles, where it made its way into Y2K style.

Whether someone knows the set from its origin or as a nostalgic piece in their 2000s closet, ballet flats have become a popular set because of their comfort and sleek look. Because of their versatility, they have been seen in various ensembles and environments including the workplace and the runway at Fashion Week.

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Here are the best approaches to styling a pair of ballet flats.

Elevate a Casual Look

Billie Eilish, Oscars, ballet flats
Billie Eilish attends the 96th Oscars Nominees Luncheon on Feb. 12, 2024, in Beverly Hills, Calif.Getty Images

A pair of neutral flats is a simple way to add a hint of sophistication to a casual look. Because of its simplicity, The set can easily be paired with several prints and textures. While not adding a distraction to the rest of the look, ballet flats can be a subtle completion that allows a relaxed ensemble to be suitable for red carpet appearances.

Billie Eilish slipped into a set at the 96th Oscars Nominee Luncheon on Feb. 12 in Beverly Hills, Calif. While wearing a mustard-toned bomber jacket and relaxed plaid trousers, the cap-toe flats brought formality to the look without taking away from the aesthetic.

A Pop of Color

Sofia Richie, ballet flats, new york fashion week
Sofia Richie arriving at the Proenza Schouler show during New York Fashion Week on Sept. 09, 2023, in New York City. GC Images

While the set can blend in easily with prints and patterns, ballet flats have also been used as a way to command attention. Especially for neutral silhouettes, ballet flats can bring a soft touch of vibrance to a look. It needs no texture to bring the eyes downward like it did for Sofia Richie at the Proenza Schouler spring 2024 show. The socialite completed her look with a black strapless top and a white pleated maxi skirt, with a pair of bright red flats. The almond-toe heels kept the look chic while also standing out among the rest.

Ready for Business

Gigi Hadid, New York City, ballet flats
Gigi Hadid on Aug. 11, 2023, in New York City.GC Images

With trends constantly changing, a pair of ballet flats has always been a popular workwear staple. The silhouette adds a sleek look to an ensemble which is favorable for business events. The modest pair brings an added level of sharpness to a blazer or a pair of trousers.

While sporting a sophisticated look in New York City last year, Gigi Hadid completed her look with black patent leather ballet flats. While pairing them with a white button-down and black trousers, the set was a practical completion to the look. Flats easily compliment business casual pieces like blouses and skirts.

Embrace Balletcore

Irina Shayk, Vivienne Westwood, ballet flats
Irina Shayk at the Vivienne Westwood womenswear spring 2024 show on Sept. 30, 2023 in Paris. WireImage

The rise of the ballet flat in the 20th century started with the Y2K trend, and its popularity has created its own fashion category altogether: balletcore. Feminine dance silhouettes have now resurfaced and captivated the catwalk once again, as it did at Vivienne Westwood’s spring 2024 show.

Model Irina Shayk was seen posing in a decadent white gown with a corset bodice and a puff skirt. On trend, the ensemble was completed with red velvet flats with a satin bow. Using its origin as inspiration, the pair compliments any look that centers around feminine silhouettes in soft pastels.

Make a Sparkling Statement

Diane Kruger, Paris Fashion Week, ballet flats
Diane Kruger attends the Chanel Haute-Couture Fall 2012 show on July 3, 2012, in Paris. Getty Images

Like balletcore, the simple set usually flatters feminine silhouettes. This can also be said for detailing like lace and crystals. Even if the rest of the look is composed of casual materials, a sparkling flat can elevate a look.

While attending Chanel’s Haute Couture fall 2012 show, Diane Kruger embraced Parisian chic style with a drop waist dress and a black hat. Although her sleeve piece was made from denim, her crystal-embellished flats were able to distract from the usually relaxed material and draw the eye to a detailing that is known for being luxurious. When dealing with a textured ballet flat, it benefits for that to be the focal point and working with simple patterns and colorways.

Go for Preppy-Chic

Meghan Markle, Invictus Games, ballet flats
Meghan Markle attends the 2020 Invictus Games on April 16, 2022, in The Hague, Netherlands.Getty Images

Along with Y2K and Balletcore, the classic silhouette is a common set used within the preppy trend. Whether the chic ensemble is dressed down with a pair of jeans or in its entirety with polo and pleated skirt, ballet flats are an addition that flatters the ensemble.

While Meghan Markle attended the 2020 Invictus Games, she looked effortlessly chic with a pair of blue jeans and a black tweed cardigan with gold buttons along the center closure and cuffs. To complete the set, she wore a pair of neutral cap-toe flats, which is a style favored within this category.

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