At five-foot-four-and-seven-eighths, and apparently lacking even one sensible bone in my body, you’d better believe that the word “flats,” pre-babes, was not even a word in my vocabulary, let alone a staple in my wardrobe. I used to wear heels under any and all circumstances. I flirted with the idea of wedge sneakers. Rejecting that misbegotten notion, I settled on MBT trainers not for their benefit to my thighs, but for the added height. I used to navigate Manhattan subways and walk several blocks to work every day in three-inch heels. I took the subway instead of cabs in order to have more money to buy high heels. It’s fair to say I was an addict.
Alas, pregnancy quickly broke me of my habit. About 6 months in, with loose joints, a quickly shifting center of gravity, swollen feet and early winter snowstorms, I realized my high heel habit was both a disservice and a danger to my unborn child. I eased myself in with a low heeled boot essentials wardrobe: two pairs of riding boots (one cognac, one black), and a pair of chocolate brown UGGS. Now, two years and two babes later, I’m branching out. Flats are fabulous, and necessary, as I learn to chase a toddler whilst baby-wearing my 2-month-old.
This season’s focus on detail, from metallic neutrals to ladylike ruffles and bows, hardware and serpentine textures, update the traditional ballet flat and provide interest, even for those of us who prefer the view from three inches up. Here are my picks:
Bejeweled Ballet Flats
The trend in bejeweled footwear is a lovely, but expensive one. My hands-down fav is the Oscar de la Renta Embroidered Flat in Bordeaux, but with two kiddos to save for, it would be beyond ridiculous for me to drop nearly $600 on a pair of shoes. Next would be the Tory Burch Emily Embellished Ballet Flats in black, available for pre-order at Saks, but at nearly $300, it’s really just a lesser degree of insanity to think I might actually pay for this look when there are other viable options, like the Vince Camuto Richie Flat in Pewter - $97.95 or the Geox Donna Lola Flat in Black Patent - $129.95. I’m also planning to keep my eyes peeled at the big box discount stores for similar finds. Since this style is fairly flashy, I’m feeling them with simpler ensembles, like a black cardi over skinny or straight jeans—make sure they’re hemmed to show off the glitz.
Ladylike details offer just the right amount of interest as they peek out from boot cut denim or menswear-inspired trousers. Try the Blowfish Switch in Pewter - $40.00 for a budget-conscious, muted metallic, or the Marc by Marc Jacobs Kiltie Flat in Dark Grey - $254.00 for a toned-down bow-embellishment. The Me Too Limit in Violet Patent - $88.95 is a striking update on the classic black patent ballet flat and the Forever 21 Suedette Round Tow Flat in Purple - $17.80 provides a pop of color and shine for a wear ‘em once price.
Snakeskin, the animal print du jour, is an edgier way to kick your standard ballet flats up a notch, so to speak. They often cross over to metallics and can go neutral with a simple outfit. Let serpentine shoes do most of the talking for your ensemble, i.e. don’t go Bon-Jovi-literal by pairing them with more than one of these: teased hair, heavy eyeliner, leggings, chain belts or similar. Check out the Naughty Monkey Bambi in Yellow - $75.00, which also plays on the hardware trend, or the Kenneth Cole Reaction Slip On in Natural - $59.00 if you have a wide foot. If you don’t want to commit or just want a subtler serpentine texture, consider the Old Navy Lizard Print Flats in Bronze - $24.50.
The hardware trend closely follows the jeweled trend, but with less glitz and a harder edge. For a value, the Old Navy Studded Ballet Flat for $24.50 can’t be beat, though on the opposite end of the spectrum, I love the playful Jimmy Choo Western Star-Studded Flat, $495.00, for folding metallic, western, snake-print and hardware into one cute little package. The Nine West Leonardo in Black - $78.95 is a perfectly toned-down option for those who want a more casual version of the jeweled flat.
Year after year, metallics keep coming back and I couldn’t be happier. Worn right, metallic shoes are neutral, but give you just the right lift. I especially love them for travel as they help keep packing to a minimum and go with practically anything. The Cole Haan Air Bailey Ballet Flat in Metallic Ginger - $148.00 is a polished, ladylike comfort shoe option. These would look great with any kind of denim or dressed up with navy or black trousers. The J.Crew Montebello Driving Moc in Metallic Gold - $94.40 and the BP. Revel Flat in Pewter $59.95 are perfect muted metallic options for travel, running around town or meeting friends for brunch.