Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fashionable Flats

Pink, blue or red floral printed skimmers from Delman, $245, at Diane B, 1412 Third Avenue, 212-570-5360.
By Ki Hackney

After my recent column about Big Bags, I went back to Barney’s to take a second look at Barney’s own label selection.  I told the saleswoman, who was new to the department, that I had done a story recently and was looking for a bag for myself.  She made a fabulous suggestion, and I explained that I couldn’t go too big, anymore, nor too heavy, as I had injured my shoulder/neck last year.

Top to bottom: Gold embroidered mesh shoe, $225; Green floral silk Vivia style, $225; Colorful Fishscale flats, $200.

All available at at Betta Carrano, 1322 Third Avenue between 75th/76th Streets), 212-452-0542.
She quickly asked for whom I wrote, and when I answered NYSD, she said, “You’re the one. I read that story.” When we were completing our business, one of her colleagues came over to say “hello” and asked if I would please do a story about comfortable shoes. When she heard that flats were running next, she broke into a big, warm smile, saying “Good!” Here’s the lowdown on fashionable flats.

Jacqueline Kennedy had a preference for flat shoes in the 1960s, as did Audrey Hepburn a few years earlier. And their influence is still with and around us. Thank goodness.

Flat shoes and big sunglasses are must-have accessories with the skinny pants of the past few years and the pretty dresses that young women and those of us with a few more years on us are snapping up this season. Thank goodness.

I watched a high school group on a school trip the other day. The guys were in their khakis-and-blue-blazer uniform, and the girls were a wardrobe mish-mash; one of whom was wearing a short black jersey dress and teetering across town on teensy spikes. I wanted to slip that young woman a more comfortable pair of skimmers.
Left, top to bottom: Gucci bow-tied slide, $380; Tod’s white leather stretch ballerina with rubber pebble sole, $325. Both available at Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue between 49th/50th Streets, 212-753-4000 or

Right, top to bottom: Black and white polka dot flats, $225; Black patent lace-up/bow tied flats, $225. Both available at Diane B, 1412 Third Avenue, between 80th/81st Streets, 212-570-5360.
Flat shoes date back to the Ice Age, when men and women tied animal skins around their feet for protection; shoes worn by American Indians indicate that native Americans may have shaped their sandals for left and right feet as early as 800 B.C.; and the Roman sandal remains a model for light, open shoes with straps or laces securing flat soles to the instep, heel and/or ankle.

During the Renaissance, Catherine de Medici changed the contours of footwear forever by adding heels to her wedding shoes in order to appear taller for her marriage to France’s Duc d’Orleans, the future King Henry II. The reverberations from that decision are legendary. Just thinking about chopines, for example, with pedestals as high as 24 inches off the ground gives me vertigo. I’ll stick to flats.

Top to bottom: The striped Bees ballet flat with a flexible, rubber sole; The flexible Picara flat, available in seven colors, including basic black patent and summer gold, shown here.

Both available from Steve Madden, $69.95, at or 1-800-SIR-MADD.
Ballet-type skimmers were introduced in the 1940s, and instead of a passing trend, as pundits predicted, flats remained the favorite shoe style until the Italians invented stilettos in the mid-1950s.

Stepping forward through high heels, pointed-toes, athletic, walking shoes, and the more recent trend for outrageously high heels, we’re in the era of the lift provided by wedge-heeled shoes, and we’re channeling our inner Audrey and Jackie again.

Take a tour of Barney’s shoes online, and in addition to the newest wedge styles, the message is great flats from twenty-first-century Roman sandals such as black leather ones with a low wedge by Stella McCartney to Marc Jacobs’ rubber “jelly” skimmer.

A visit to Bloomingdale’s provides cut-out styles, gingham flats and a super selection of the popular patent leather ballet flats, particularly a group from French Sole.
Above left, top to bottom: Stella McCartney low wedge sandal, a Roman update, $565; Ankle-tie mule from Ann Demeulemester, $425; Sigerson Morrison patent cut-out skimmer, $345; Yves Saint Laurent Canvas Flat, $310; Lanvin peep toe ballet flat, $585; Marc Jacobs jelly flat with rubber, $155; Christian Louboutin Stitched Ballet, $725. All available at Barney's, or 660 Madison Avenue, at 60th Street, 212-826-8900.

Above right, top to bottom: Exclusive pleated pink satin flat from Manolo Blahnik, $585; Silver canvas flat with crystals from Valentino, $395; Black patent logo ballerina from Prada, $425; Seaside Nubuck espadrille from Kors by  Michael Kors, $175; Alejandro Ingelmo green suede d'Orsay flat, $375; Tory Burch gold signature medallion flat, $195. All available at Bergdorf Goodman, or 745 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street, 212-753-7300.
We love Steve Madden’s basic $99.95 flexible flats, especially in gold. Don’t forget the selection at Saks, including Gucci’s flat slide with a big bow and Tod’s white leather stretch ballerina with a rubber pebble sole.

Over at Bergdorf’s, flats reign, from their exclusive hot pink pleated satin Manolos to Tory Burch’s signature medallion version. Heading home, it’s raining flats at Stubbs & Wootton; French Sole and its sister store across the street, Jaime Mascaro; Betta Carrano; and Diane B.

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