In case you haven’t heard, ballet flats are officially back en vogue for 2023. But if that information is giving you flashbacks to the Gossip Girl-era cap-toe shoes you wore to pieces back in 2002 and making you want to shout “never again!”, we have some good news—you absolutely can style the minimalist shoe in a way that is chic and modern without harkening back to the dark days of early aughts fashion. Here are our nine best tips for making your new ballet flats look as fabulous as possible in the new year.
7 Ways to Wear Ballet Flats in 2023 (& 2 Looks to Retire for Now)
PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. You can learn more about that process here.
1. Choose Shoes with Ample Structure Over Sock-Like Fits
Super-supple leather flats that conform to the shape of your foot aren’t really adequate for winter, and also evoke images of the flimsy little flats we wore in the early aughts. This time around we’re opting for shoes with more structure and sturdier soles. The good thing is that it doesn’t really matter whether you prefer a classic rounded toe, a ‘90s square toe or a pointed toe, as there are plenty of shoes out there to fit every style.
Shop similar styles: Margaux The Demi Ballet Flats ($195); AYR Closer Wool Coat ($695); Italic Mila Cashmere Crewneck Sweater ($150); Banana Republic Cargo Joggers ($70)
2. Opt for Cropped Jeans in Straight-Leg Silhouettes
The best way to put your ballet flats on display is with a pant that shows some ankle. Choose a pair that hits somewhere between the top of your ankle bone and two inches above. As for fit, skinny jeans are too reminiscent of the early 2000s and baggier styles can sometimes look out of whack in a cropped cut. But a straight leg should be just the ticket.
Shop similar styles: Tory Burch Georgia Square-Toe Ballet Flats (from $248); Generation Love Serena Tweed Jacket ($415); Everlane Waffle Turtleneck ($50); Agolde Riley Straight-Leg Jeans ($198)
3. If You Prefer Flares, Pay Close Attention to Your Hems
If flares and wide-leg jeans are more your vibe, you can definitely wear them with some chic ballet flats, but it’s important to get the length exactly right. Choose a style that just grazes the top of your foot without pooling, so that your shoe doesn’t disappear under the fabric.
Shop similar styles: Kate Spade New York Bijou Ballet Flats ($258); Eileen Fisher Stand Collar Jacket ($278); J.Crew Tissue Turtleneck ($40); American Eagle Outfitters Ne(x)t Level Flare Jeans ($50)
4. Eschew Mini and Maxi Skirts for Midi Lengths Instead
Miniskirts and ballet flats can feel too juvenile, while maxis can wind up looking frumpy without a stand out shoe. Midi lengths, however, strike just the right balance.
Shop similar styles: Rothys The Point Ballet Flats ($149); Abercrombie & Fitch Trench Coat ($160); Reformation Brinley Dress ($248)
5. Use Pointy-Toe Flats to Dress Up Simple Basics
An oversize button-up, baseball cap and loose jeans is a supremely casual look. But throw in some pointy-toe flats and you suddenly look much more polished. (Adding a ladylike bag into the mix doesn’t hurt either.)
Shop similar styles: Journee Collection Karissa Mary Jane Ballet Flats ($65); Ganni Baseball Cap ($95); SNDYS Bello Button-Up Shirt ($62); GAP Mid-Rise Girlfriend Jeans ($70)
6. Balance Cute Mary Janes with a Boiler Suit
Mary Jane flats are perhaps the most popular current take on the ballet flat trend, but can feel a bit twee for some folks. However, wearing them with a tough boiler suit helps to cut some of the sweetness.
Shop similar styles: Sam Edelman Mary Jane Ballet Flats ($140); Vera Bradley Packable Rain Jacket ($70); Outerknown Station Jumpuit ($178)
7. Black on Black Is Best for the Office
For professional work attire, stick with a monochrome palette, preferably black, and again be sure to choose a shoe that feels sturdy and not like a true ballet slipper. If you don’t love true head-to-toe black, try either pairing black shoes and black trousers and sporting some color up top or mixing other dark neutrals like navy, charcoal gray or a very dark green.
Shop similar styles: Boden Pearl Strap Mary Jane Ballet Flats ($160); Topshop Belted Blazer ($93); M.M.LaFleur Smith Pants ($265)
8. Don’t Wear Puddle Pants with Ballet Flats
Extra-long pants that pool at the ankles, aka puddle pants, are another hot trend at the moment, but they don’t mix well with ballet flats. The combination of a minimalist shoe and excess fabric at the ankle can make your legs appear shorter and your overall look feel sloppy. Instead, wear your trendy pants with something with a thicker sole or a heel, and stick with cropped, or at least properly tailored, trouser-lengths when sporting ballet flats.
9. Keep the Cap-Toe Styles in Retirement for Now
There was a time when beige-and-black cap-toe flats were the pinnacle of chic footwear, but they still feel so intimately tied to the early 2000s that it’s incredibly difficult to make them feel fresh for 2023. Of course, fashion trends are bound to repeat themselves, so if your old ballet flats are still in good condition we suggest you hold onto them for a bit longer for their inevitable return, whether it be in two years or ten.