The ballet flat: Il était une fois, une jolie petite chaussure… Once upon a time, there was a pretty little shoe…

Charming. Chic. Classic. Comfortable: The ballet flat – la ballerine, in French –  seduces women around the world. Check out your favorite retailers or online stores in the spring, and you will see it everywhere. Offered in a wide selection of colors, styles, materials and prices, the ballet flat is a must-have in every woman’s wardrobe, from the average Jeanne, to fashionistas and the world’s First ladies.

ballet flat
Carla Bruni Sarkozy on the town… 
ballet flat
… or at work, while shooting Woody’s “Midnight in Paris”
ballet flat
Madame Obama loves her ballet flats…
ballet flat
Inès de la Fressange at home
Beyonce and her baby:
Mother and daughter wear ballerines!


Not all ballet flats are created equal. One brand has ruled the market (and the heart of the world’s ballerine lovers) for over 65 years: Repetto. The story of the ballet flat can be traced back to 1947. In Paris, Rose Repetto perfects a pair of revolutionary ballet slippers and pointe shoes for her son, Roland Petit (1924-2011,) a renowned dancer and choreographer. Rose Repetto’s shoes are such a hit with Roland that his friends Rudolf Noureyev and Maurice Béjart start wearing them too.

Rose’s secret: exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail. Repetto dance shoes are entirely handmade, fit the dancer’s foot like a glove, and prove more durable than their competitors. In the following years, Rose’s shoes build a dedicated following among the ranks of the Paris Opera Ballet. Dancers flock to her small workshop to order the magical shoes.

ballet flat
Madame Repetto (1907-1984)
ballet flat
Rose Repetto and her son, Laurent Petit
(France Soir)

If Repetto shoes were an almost immediate hit with professional dancers, the rest of the world may have never heard about them without Brigitte Bardot, the famed French actress and animal rights activist. In 1956, the young French star is about to shoot the movie that will turn her into an overnight sensation, and one of cinema’s greatest sex-symbols: Et Dieu Créa La Femme (And God Created Woman.) Beautiful and sensual Brigitte, a classically trained ballerina, asks Rose Repetto to create for her a comfortable but elegant city version of the ballet slipper. La Ballerine Cendrillon (the Cinderella ballet flat) is born. The world is going to take notice, and Brigitte Bardot becomes one of the most influential fashion trend setters in the 1960s and 1970s.

ballet flat
A young “B.B.” mesmerizes at the Cannes Film Festival

The 1960s belong to B.B.!

Free-spirited, vibrant and sensual, Brigitte Bardot – or B.B. (pronounced “Bay-Bay“,) is going to impose a style: la ballerine, le pantacourt, le chignon choucroute, (ballet flats, capris and sexy, voluminous hair.)

Add la marinière (the French sailor shirt,) and behold the iconic Bardot look, a classic still in vogue today.

The original: B.B. in 1956
Emma Watson
Kate Moss
Trying too hard?

We must pause here and give credit to lovely Audrey Hepburn who discovered ballet flats (made especially for her by designer Salvadore Ferragamo) while shooting Roman Holiday in 1954. Did Audrey – also a classically trained ballerine – inspire Brigitte? Or did Brigitte inspire Audrey? We will never know. Different women, different styles.  But they both made the look work, n’est-ce-pas?

“Roman Holiday:”
A princess wears ballet flats
Still sporting ballet flats in the 1960s…

There were other celebrity endorsements along the way, and they helped propel Repetto beyond its competition. After Serge Gainsbourg, the controversial French singer and composer, adopted the Zizi model, once created by Rose Repetto for her daughter in law, famed dancer and one-time actress Zizi Jeammaire, male customers took a closer look at Repetto shoes.

Serge Gainsbourg, a valued customer,
had a closet full of Repettos!
The “Zizi Richelieu” is still a best-seller today!
The great Zizi Jeammaire

While Repetto’s fame kept growing through the 1960s and 1970s, the French brand – like many other traditional companies – hit a snag in the 1980s. Consumers’ taste had changed, and Repetto’s former customers now favored different styles of shoes. Even professional dancers were moving away from their once- favorite brand. Rose Repetto died in 1984, and sales kept plummeting.

A business man came to the rescue. HIs name was Jean Marc Gaucher. He had successfully launched Reebok in France and took over the venerable French company in 1999. Through savvy marketing (including partnerships with famous designers and brands such as Isse Myake, Karl Lagerfeld, Comme des Garçons and Colette,) a focus on foreign markets (more noticeably Japan,) and new distribution channels, Gaucher orchestrated the renaissance of Repetto. In 2012, the brand has cornered the consumer luxury market for ballet flats around the world; while re-establishing itself as a leader in the world of professional dancing.

Jean-Marc Gaucher, Repetto C.E.O.
Repetto Collection by Comme des Garçons
Karl Lagerfeld collection, for Repetto (2009)

In 2006, the Repetto flagship store located 22 rue de la Paix on Paris’ Right Bank, was given a make-over befitting a worldwide brand. Today, customers flock to the elegant boutique and do not hesitate spending over $200 on a pair of ballet flats. You do not like ballet flats? Not to worry. Other products are available for discerning customers, a complete line of dance wear, bien sûr; handbags (inspired by dancers’ bags,) and accessories. I heard the sales personnel can act a tad haughty on occasion, in typical Parisian fashion!

Repetto flagship store on the prestigious Rue de la Paix
Repetto “B.B.” in flame red: a hit in Japan!

Jean-Marc Gaucher does not rest on Repetto’s prestigious past and ongoing success. The French company is investing in its future, too. This year {Note: published in 2012,} a training school opened in the beautiful Dordogne region, near the Repetto’s outlet store and production center (85% of Repetto shoes are still made in France.) Gaucher’s goal is to provide skilled jobs for unemployed French youth, while ensuring that the company’s focus on excellence and craftsmanship is passed on to the next generation.

Do you own a pair of Repettos? Several? What is your favorite brand of ballet flats? Are you a Repetto fan, or do you prefer les ballerines Maloles? (a competitor on the French market.)

As for me, I can’t really afford these…

Still, you can be certain I will visit the Repetto flagship store when I go back to Paris. After all, who can resist the appeal of a luxurious shopping environment, colorful {if overpriced} shoes, and snooty sales staff? Ah, Paris, I have missed you so…

A bientôt…


Véronique - France with Véro
Véronique of France with Véro

Véronique of France with Véro

Vero shares her homeland weekly on social media with virtual tours, photo essays, live events and other publications at France with Vero. Learn more.

Or click a link below to read the next (or previous) post...allons-y !


  1. Owen on May 3, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    You have dazzled us with a rainbow of Repettos… I know some frogs and tadpoles around here who have a few too… seems like they could never go out of style… A fine weekend to you, whichever color of flats you may be wearing… 🙂

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 7:22 am

      Well, that is what happens when you live with a tasteful Madame Frog and her tadpoles, Monsieur Toad! 😉 I am wearing camel flats this weekend, thank you for asking! Happy weekend to you too!

  2. Virginia on May 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Well my dear, you’ve posted a blog that made my heart sing!!! J’adore Repetto flats…from a distance. Usually through the window on Rue de la Paix! Their windows are enough for me. I’m afraid my days of wearing these are long gone but I do love to see the new and colorful editions each season, not to mention that fabulous WALL of toe shoes! V

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 7:23 am

      Dear V. I know your expert eye has already captured that Repetto “vitrine” to perfection. Looking at your photos would be the next best thing to actually stepping inside. I am planning on doing just that in June and will report back.

  3. Jennifer Fabulous on May 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Well you have just given me another life goal: to one day own a pair of Repetto ballet flats! These are so lovely and dainty and seem so comfy! I own several flats, but they are generic brands. I wore heels four straight years in a row as a news reporter. For the past two years I have been wearing flats, and I will probably never go back to heels.Awesome post! (As usual). 😉

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 7:26 am

      Aren’t you happy that so many of the “life goals” I have given you already all involve visiting France? 😉 Heck, if you are super organized, you could probably achieve most of them in one long, carefully planned trip… Bon weekend, Jenny!

  4. Katelyn @ Pure Panache on May 3, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Lovely post as always, Veronique! I do not own a pair of Repettos…trop cher! But for an American brand, I am partial to my Tory Burch Reva flats, which I received as a gift from my very chic aunt. My feet are very prone to blisters, and these shoes are the most comfortable ballet flats I’ve ever tried on. Perhaps not as comfortable as Repetto? I will never know!

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 7:20 am

      … unless you visit Repetto in Paris during “les Soldes,” as I am planning to do in a few weeks, or the outlet store in Southern France… Thank you for your visit!

  5. g on May 3, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    just D-E-L-I-G-H-T-F-U-L…repetto is my favorite but love the cece j crew-you NEVER cease to amaze-gosh i miss my monday morning coffe and v dose….so HAPPY when you post – well i am off to go purchase the devine coral ballet flats from the j crew ballet boutique!!! have a glorious week end-your faithful reader here in philly-

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 7:25 am

      Yeah! g is back!!! I hope you are well, my friend, and that your dad is feeling better. Thank you for stopping by today. Why did you have to mention the Cece coral flats? Why?! I was going to try and resist until I go to France but now that you have talked about them… Arggghhhh…

  6. Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder on May 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Dearest Véronique,

    LOVED this post for your juicy writing and for the history that you always manage to interweave. La B.B. muah… But I’m not a favorite of ballerina flats. I have only one pair and they have ankle straps in navy blue and those I adore.
    In general, comparing these great stars with their race horse legs with the average woman is quite different. Therefore they most of the time do not ‘lengthen’ the silhouette of a woman in a flattering way, but rather stomp it off. But sure, all those with a bit of problem feet they certainly embrace these Repetto style ballet shoes.
    Love to you,


    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 7:29 am

      Good point Mariette. We don’t all have B.B.’s, Audrey’s or Zizi’s long legs, but you are pretty tall, as I recall, Dutch girl. What should I say? I will deal with my “stomped off” silhouette since ballerines are a fairly new addiction for me. Hope my hubby can still spot me in a crowd! 😉

  7. Richard Moisan on May 3, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Catherine Deneuve, aussi, en a souvent portées dans sa jeunesse. C’est frais, léger, élégant. J’aime beaucoup!

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 7:31 am

      Merci Richard. Ah, la Grande Catherine. J’ai bien cherche des photos d’elle en ballerines mais n’en ai pas trouve, helas. Passe un beau weekend ensoleille a Antibes, et bonne election dimanche!

  8. Lost in Provence on May 4, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Such a fabulous post, as always Veronique! I love how you always manage to teach us something that we didn’t know–even about such French icons. I am actually a driving moc girl (gasp!) but do love the comfort and the all around wear it with anything of a good ballerine. Yay for BB and Audrey!
    Bon weekend!

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 7:32 am

      Bonjour Heather. Nothing wrong with driving mocs. In fact, a pair of Tod’s driving mocs has been on my wish-list for years. You would look great in ballet flats, too, you tall, red-headed American girl!

  9. Nicola on May 4, 2012 at 5:11 am

    I am wearing my Repettos right now! A treat from ‘les Soldes’. I love them a little more every time I wear them – a dangerous addiction. I posted a picture of the Repetto’s Valentine window on Rue de la Paix back in February – amazing window dressing. Take a look if you have time:

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 7:33 am

      Bonjour Nicola. Ah, les Soldes. I am certainly planning on making the most of them in a few weeks. Loved your photo of la vitrine Repetto. Great capture! Bon weekend dans la region parisienne…

  10. Sandy on May 4, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I have to admit, I’m not big into fashion…but I admire it, what an art form! I think I have seen more high heels in Vegas than I have drank wine in France. I feel like they are getting higher by the minutes Veronique. Is this a good fashion? It’s so nice to see something new…like flats. =)

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      High heels… I can’t say I am a fan, even though I probably should, given the fact that I am the size of the “average French woman” according to statistics (read: “short!”) — I’d still pick a pair of comfortable ballet flats over vertiginous Christian Louboutin heels. Probably would look out of place in Vegas, then, eh?

  11. Barbara on May 4, 2012 at 6:25 am

    I didn’t know that Brigitte was the one who started the trend – fascinating! As a former ballet dancer, I adore Repetto. Thank you!

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 7:35 am

      Bonjour Barbara. “B.B.” started many fashion trends in her time. I have only mentioned a few here… She was quite influential, and still is, from the look of things. Great to hear from an actual ballet dancer! Bon weekend!

  12. Mouthwash on May 4, 2012 at 9:26 am

    what a wonderful post! I have never heard of Repetto, and I even took ballet in college! Can you believe it? I’m off to Google him and admire more of his shoes.


    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 10:34 pm

      Well, we are ok if you had heard of “B.B.” Amber! I could see you wearing a pair of Flame Red Repettos…

  13. Mem on May 4, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Very much enjoyed your post, and learned about Repetto. During the 1960’s in the U.S., the Capezio brand was the shoe of choice for young women. Do you know it? I’m not even sure the brand survives today…I think not.

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      Well. I have never heard of the Capezio brand, but will look it up now that you mention it 🙂 Thank you for your visit and comment!

    • Parisbreakfasts on May 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      capezio still makes dancer shoes.
      they were the ‘Repetto’ of their day and most covetous

  14. g on May 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    you are so funny -i was laughing out loud to myself-my dad is healing everyday- some very scary/serious stuff-and some life changes for all of us- but everyday more and more like himself-back to neurosurg doctor in another 2 weeks-we shall see-i hope that is not too much of a downer or too much info on this beautiful space-and what is this i read you will be attending the summer sales in france….OH PLEASE DO FILL US IN and please know i read your comments everyday to see what everyone else is saying-YOU ARE THE BEST! lovely weekend my friend thanks for your very thoughtful words!

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 4, 2012 at 10:38 pm

      Wonderful news, g. Fingers crossed. I promise to keep you posted about the upcoming trip. Life would not be the same without blogging anymore, you know? Bon weekend, friend.

  15. miss b on May 5, 2012 at 2:26 am

    You have chosen a wonderful selection of photos here displaying all these lovely Repetto shoes. I love to wear ballet flats especially in the summer – my favourite pair (so comfy!!) are by Dune but are amazingly similar to those Chanel ones (less expensive however!) My mission now is to own a pair of the BB ones! I had ballet lessons from age four to seventeen and had pointe shoes although I can’t remember the brand so maybe I have already owned several pairs of Repetto!!!!

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 5, 2012 at 7:59 am

      Another classically trained ballerina. Great for you, Miss b. Do send a photo of you wearing the BB ones. I bet they will look smashing on you!

  16. labergerebasque on May 5, 2012 at 6:19 am

    I had no idea Repetto was actually so close to me in the Basque Country. There is HOPE for an affordable pair (or 2) during a braderie. I would love a pair in black and another in red (mat!) GREAT article!

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 5, 2012 at 8:01 am

      You’d better believe I would attend that braderie if I lived closer, too. The young lady this story is dedicated to, Marion, told me you can snatch a pair for 80 Euros (basically half price) during the event. Not a bad deal.

  17. Karena on May 5, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Thank you for sharing so much background on Repetto and for the images of my Miss Audrey!

    Please, one in every color!!

    I have featured an Interview with Tina from The Enchanted Home…


    Art by Karena

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 5, 2012 at 8:02 am

      One in every color would be quite fun. Imagine what a cheerful and colorful closet you would have! Enough to brighter any rainy day (come to think of it, every female Seattle home owner should have one of those!) Thank you for your visit. I will stop by The Enchanted Home today. Congrats on the interview!

  18. Riet on May 5, 2012 at 9:01 am

    The best shoes there are. I am glad they are back in fashion. Used to wear them at the same time BB and Audrey wore them. Yes that long ago.:))) Big fashion then too. Have a nice weekend.

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 6, 2012 at 9:24 am

      Riet, I bet you looked smashing in those shoes way back when! Bon weekend in Holland!

  19. Genie -- Paris and Beyond on May 6, 2012 at 7:54 am

    The Repetto flagship store is a must-stop on each visit to Paris and I snap away. I do not actually own a pair of Repetto ballet flats but my sister Nanette who danced and taught dance wore out about a hundred pointe shoes over the years. The chandeliers, the brass ladder and the wall of shoes just sings to me on each visit and that does not even count the creative and amazing windows.I love your complete story here and the links… plus the tip about J Crew…Bises,Genie

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 6, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Between you and Virginia, I know there must exist some really cool indoor shots of that boutique. I am definitely headed there in June, even if only to look…

  20. PerthDailyPhoto on May 6, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Excellent post, I’m not sure if there is an outlet for Repettos’s here in Perth Veronique, but believe me I will definitely be finding out asap, because all of a sudden I feel that I really need a pair haha! There is a brand here that I quite like called ‘I love Billy’ they are reasonably priced with many, many styles and really comfortable too. Loved the images of ‘Repetto’ wearers, they do look good on long slim legs, mine are not so long but I still love the ballet flats. till next time Veronique….

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 6, 2012 at 9:27 am

      Bonjour Grace. Outlet store in Perth sounds doubtful but you could always hit the sale in Paris one of these days… Lovely to hear from you, as always. PS: Is it still hot, hot, hot and sunny in Perth?

  21. Deborah on May 7, 2012 at 5:17 am

    I love Repetto! It’s very chic! Interesting post! I follew you on FB and GFC, I hope you follow me too!

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 7, 2012 at 8:57 pm

      Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment, Deborah. I will stop by your blog too.

  22. French Heart on May 7, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Truly, if I had to choose one brand & style shoe to wear for the rest of my life…I’d be very pleased if they were only Repetto! Fabulous post!! Thanks for the smiles.

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 7, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      You’re welcome Suzanne. Funny that both you and I mentioned Madame Sarkozy 🙂 Well, she is going to have a lot of free time now, and since she has a brand-new baby, that’s a good thing. I am happy that little girl will have her dad at home more often now. I bet, deep down, he is happy too (and he has earned a break from all that madness anyway.)

  23. Vagabonde on May 7, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I used to wear ballerinas but after so many years of walking my feet need more “comfortable walking shoes..” What a well researched post with such fabulous illustrations – un plaisir à lire.

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Merci beaucoup Vagabonde. Coming from you, it really means a lot 🙂

  24. M-T on May 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    “Un délice!!!” This was such a delight. It brought back so many sweet “souvenirs” of my French past. Thanks for the lovely walk down memory lane.

    I love your posts. They always make me smile, which, as you know, is something the French do all too rarely.

    Bises, M-T

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 7, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Merci M-T, truly. I am glad you enjoy my little stories. It always makes me feel special to hear from my “compatriotes.” 🙂

  25. Sarah on May 9, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Wonderful post! I always learn so many interesting things from you. You do your research! I wear ballet flats, but I was never a dancer. 😉
    Happy Mother’s Day!

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      Happy Mother’s Day Sarah! Not to worry… I am not a dancer either, but I still wear ballet flats!

  26. Fry_Fry_Fly_Sky on May 12, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Delectable post) it’s a necessity to always have a pair in car just to change into them in case of a sudden walk in a park or just..)) love love love

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Absolutely! And ballerines are so small they fit in your handbag and tag along everywhere you go…

  27. The Tablescaper on May 12, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Neat post. I never realized the history.

    It would be wonderful to have you come visit my 100th Seasonal Sundays and $100. give away.

    – The Tablescaper

  28. Nancy on May 13, 2012 at 1:19 am

    Bonjour Veronique —

    Can you tell me the name of the town for the Repetto outlet? I may need to visit…

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      The Repetto factory is located in St Medard d’Excideuil, in the Perigord region. They hold “braderies” (sales) several times a year, and Repettos can be snatched for as low as 40 or 50 Euros a pair then! Bonne chance!

  29. Parisbreakfasts on May 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Exhaustive study on ballerines
    you deserve a PHd.
    who knew?
    merci carolg

    • French Girl in Seattle on May 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      Merci Carole. A Phd in ballet flats would look really good on my resume, I am sure 🙂

  30. Kathy A Delightsome Life on May 14, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Hello, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your wonderful post on ballet flats – so much I did not know, but loved learning! Ballet flats should be in every girl’s wardrobe! I do appreciate you sharing and am happy to be your newest follower,

  31. Ballerina flats on May 18, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    So colourful and best shoes for parties. Its design is wonderful and excellent. Thanks for sharing us

  32. Closet Coach on May 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    How I wish there were an American store to buy these from! I am nervous to order them from France and not be able to return them if they don’t fit my fussy feet.

    Maybe an excuse to return to Paris some day?

  33. Olga on May 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    I have several ballet flats in my wardrobe, despite the fact that I’m short. I think there is no such woman that wouldn’t love them for their comfort.

  34. on May 27, 2012 at 5:09 am

    I’m not much of a ballet flat wearer but I do own one pair. Not a Repetto..never even heard of them, they are way out of my price league!

  35. The Harringtons on August 15, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    I loved this post! I just came back from Paris and actually visit the Repetto Flagship every time I am there! I have never heard of the outlet….must look for this next time!

  36. Lydia Nguyen on September 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    I came across this post doing a search for comfortable, quality ballet flats. This post is amazing, and I adore your blog! Now following 🙂

    Lydia <3

  37. Albina Patou-Chebykina on October 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Merci pour le post. Interesting piece of history with nice texts! I am enjoying your blog and following you. Hope to see you on mine:

  38. Anonymous on June 27, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Great story about Repetto’s company, for me one of the most beautiful ballerinas makers in the world. IDespite being a young man, I used to wear ballet slippers from this brand for my ballet classes and I really love them. Good quality and price. Then I started , sorry I hope you dont mind, to wear ballet flats (ballerines)after had an injury at the top of my foot and discovered how comfortable and practical this kind of shoes are. I only tried twice Repettos ballet flats very comfortable but out of my budget, so I only wear Sam Edelman Felicia flats that are more affordable and also comfortables and by the way I also have a pair of TB Revas in black for dressy outfit. Finally I think ballet flats were and maybe will be unisex shoes in the future.
    Bonne journée

  39. Paris Tips and Tricks | Chat with Veronique Savoye | Paris Made for You on June 21, 2018 at 6:35 am

    […] Neither, too flat and too high. But I did a blog post on something called the Zizi model of the Repetto line. It’s a flat but with […]

Leave a Comment

Join la Mailing List

Be the first to read stories and travel tips I don’t share anywhere else!

No spam, ever. That’s a promise. Visit the Privacy Policy.

Les Catégories