Honestly, I can’t remember when I last wore flat pumps. I’m guessing it was the Eighties when we thought nothing of wearing a bronze metallic pump with a fat leather bow, lace tights and velvet knickerbockers.
I know for a fact that I was wearing pointy black suede pumps in 1983 (there’s a picture), and I can dimly recall wearing some with a short denim skirt. And that was it.
After that, they always felt just a few degrees too ladylike. Chic in quilted black, with white jeans on a Parisian; elegant in navy, with a skirt-suit and pillbox hat on Carla Bruni; and always good on Kate Moss, who wore skinny jeans and ballet pumps throughout the Noughties. But not for me.
I’ve always felt it’s a mistake not to max out the edginess of your footwear because feet are the one place you can always get away with cutting-edge fashion, allowing you just the right injection of ‘Wow!’ to keep you in the game, without having to trouble yourself much.
British style expert Shane Watson, shared her advice for embracing this season’s flat pumps trend. Pictured: Sharon Stone
Whether it’s a towering platform or gold clogs, a fifty-something in the shoes of the hour looks instantly modern.
And what do you know — that shoe, at this moment, happens to be a ballet pump.
After decades in the wilderness (or stuffed in a handbag ready to slip on if your heels got too much) ballet pumps are back.
It’s not easy to explain why they suddenly look, if not edgy, then cool. But they do. They’re neat. Cute. Smart without being stuffy. Elegant.
To my surprise, I want a pair — to wear with cropped jeans and midaxi dresses, which need to be worn with flats and the lighter the better.
Ballet flats are ideal to go with the new baggier trousers, hems rolled up, because chunky shoes on the bottom will do you no favours. A black pair of ballet pumps will make white jeans autumn-wearable and dungarees feminine.
But I’m aware that this simplest of shoes is one of the hardest to get right.
Ballet pumps, as you may recall, are not that easy to wear, certainly not when you’re used to the fat-soled comfort of trainers and Birkenstocks. Flats don’t give you legs the way heels do, and when they’re this flat they can make you look drilled into the ground.
But get the details right —make sure the front is low cut to elongate the leg — and you’re cooking with gas. A contrasting toe cap adds still further to the illusion of a longer slimmer leg, as Coco Chanel discovered. Try almond suede with a black leather toe (£65, bananarepublic.co.uk).
PUMPS: THE NEW RULES
- Keep the front low cut to elongate the leg.
- Try red or pink for a change, and almond or pointed toes.
- Always leave feet bare.
The key is to avoid the ones that have been sensibled-up with a bit of a heel and a solid, high-sided cut; those ones will make you look like a middle-aged bridesmaid. Slim and shallow in the front with just a sliver of a heel is the answer.
Otherwise, you can take your pick of toe shapes. The pumps that kickstarted the ballet pump revival are by Bottega Veneta, and they are pointed and angular and a cool £485, but most of us will get on better with an almond toe.
French Sole is the place to start — perfectly cut, low in front — and it does all the toes: almond, round, pointy.
I’m tempted by the almond-toed leopard calf pair (£40, frenchsole.com) — leopard flats are a great way to add oomph to neutrals — and the plain black (£40).
It’s really whatever suits your foot, just don’t go for the ones with driving-shoe soles or tassels. Prominent bows will, likewise, tip your chic ballet flats into fussy, girly territory.
That said this ballerina moment does not have to be classic. You can go for beige (£70, boden.co.uk) or woven leather flats in cream or black (£85, dune.co.uk), but you might equally opt for a bright pink or silver or red from Repetto (£175, repetto.com).
The rough rule is the more dazzling the outfit, the more classic the pump, and vice versa. And never wear with tights or popsocks. What stops this look from veering into lady diplomat territory is your naked foot peeping out. Yes, even in winter.