The History of the Chanel Ballet Flats, Brought to You by Carla Rockmore

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Believe it or not, the Chanel ballet flat actually wasn’t invented by Coco Chanel. Unlike the beloved 2.55 bag and the label’s selection of tweed jackets, the flat was actually one of Karl Lagerfeld’s inventions. After appearing in a 1984 campaign starring model Inés de la Fressage and lensed by Helmut Newton, Chanel ballet flats were quickly adopted by the style set for their causal ease and couture-like detailing. 

While Lagerfeld is credited with the ballet flats’ creation, his inspiration came from Chanel herself. A regular attendee of the Ballet Russes (a dance company situated in Paris between 1909 and 1929), she adored the free movement of the dancers and their unbridled femininity. Their dalliance led her to create the brand’s two-tone slingbacks, which adhered to the style codes of the ’50s while still providing the sartorial freedom that so many women craved. With their color-blocked design and practical premise, the slingbacks inspired Largerfeld to create a flat-heeled version, otherwise known as Chanel’s Ballerinas—which continue to speak to the ever-changing modern woman years later.



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