It all started with a simple request. “All-American look” fashion designer Claire McCardell commissioned dance shoe manufacturer Capezio to create a comfortable, yet fashion-savvy shoe for her new line of casual sportswear.
Taking up the challenge, Capezio made the round-toe, flat-sole style of a dancer’s ballet slipper into a stylish street shoe that epitomised the new leisure look of the 1950s.
Ballet slippers, or ballerina flats as they were also called, were a much more comfortable alternative to the pointy-toed stiletto, and they complemented the slim silhouette of the 50s. The simple style was a big hit when teamed with sweet ballerina skirt dresses and short Capri pants.
While ballerina flats were primarily casual wear for ladies, they were dress-up shoes for teenagers who lived in penny loafers and saddle shoes.
Beatnik ladies adopted the dancer flats for their everyday shoe, and paired them with black leotards and capris like Audrey Hepburn’s hepcat character in 1957’s Funny Face (1957).