June 02, 2012

Un pas de deux avec Repetto

Like most women, I'm addicted to shoes! Since I'm only 5'0" tall, I almost always wear heels. Yet once and a while, I feel like being more grounded. When I'm not perched precariously on pumps or wedges, my go-to flats are ballerinas.  Ballet-inspired slippers have existed since at least the 16th century. In medieval times, ballet flats were popular with both men and women.  Heels became popular at the court of Versailles, but quickly went out of fashion when Marie Antoinette wore them as she walked to the guillotine. In her book, The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Should Own, Nina Garcia, Marie Claire editor and Project Runway judge, ranks ballet flats as #5! She affirms that they are chic and timeless, simple and elegant.  

Although ballet flats are available in nearly every clothing and department store, my favorite ballerinas are the incomparable Repettos. Before she became an iconic film and fashion star, Brigitte Bardot was a trained ballerina. She always purchased her point shoes in a small shop at 22 rue de la Paix in Paris, just blocks from the Garnier Opera House, home of the Paris Ballet. When she was chosen to star in Roger Vadim's 1956 film, Et Dieu Créa la Femme, Bardot asked Rose Repetto to create a pair of ballet flats for her to wear in the film. She desired a slipper "qui dévoile la naissance des orteils" (to reveal her toe cleavage!). After ballet flats were worn by Bardot in And God Created Woman and by Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face (1957), ballerines became de rigeur.

I love the whole Repetto experience and I make it a regular stop on my strolls through Paris. The lovely little shop on the rue de la Paix is a treasure reminiscent of my little girl's jewelry box with its tiny pirouetting ballerina. The shop window, lined with theatre lights, is always beautifully adorn with delicate tutus or piles of pink toe shoes. As soon as I step inside, I feel the music and almost wish I'd continued the ballet lessons I began as a child. But then, I as I mentioned, at a diminutive 5'0", my dream of being a ballerina would never have been realized. Still, I revel at the blush-colored tulle and the satin bodices of the tutus hanging near an entire wall of cubby holes filled with every size of pale pink point shoes. Sometimes I am lucky enough to see ballet dancers or little girls trying on new shoes or costumes.

Under the crystal chandeliers on low round tables are the shoes that every woman can wear. Each shade of Repetto ballet flats is displayed in circles of complimentary hues. I'm always tempted to choose a different color. I've considered the pale pink that might make me feel just a bit like those lovely ballerinas...but then I worry that they'd be too delicate to wear on the dusty Paris cobblestones. What about red? I love what red accents add to a neutral outfit. I'm partial to navy and gray, yet despite numerous visits and hours of browsing, I always seem to choose classic black.

Everything about a new pair of Repettos is enchanting, starting with the beautiful black box, lined in wispy pink tissue. What is it about the combination of pink and black that feels so French? Inside the cover is the story of Rose Repetto's lovely shop and shoes. The final lines are a promise: "Vous venez d'acquérir une paire de Repetto, objet de tous les soins, garante de souplesse et de confort. Un pas de deux avec Repetto pour une promesse unique de grâce et de légèreté." ("You've come to acquire a pair of Repettos, object of all cares, guarantee of suppleness and comfort. A "pas de deux" dance with Repetto for a unique promise of grace and lightness." Repettos are indeed weightless. The lambskin leather is so soft, and the grosgrain ribbon trim and tiny bow allows the wearer to customize the fit for optimal comfort. Logically, I know that when I'm wearing my Repettos, I'm less than statuesque. Yet, I stand a bit taller and walk a bit lighter, channeling my inner ballerina.

On a practical note, if you decide to invest in a pair of Repetto ballet flats, purchase a size larger than your regular shoe size. The do run a bit small. You can buy Repettos at Saks Fifth Avenue and even online, but if you ever have the opportunity to visit this magical shop at 22 rue de la Paix, Paris 75002, enjoy the enchanting experience!