Ballet flats or Dolly shoes are derived from a woman's soft ballet slipper, with a very thin heel or the appearance of no heel at all. The style sometimes features a ribbon-like binding around the low tops of the slipper and may have a slight gathering at the top-front of the vamp (toe box) and a tiny, decorative string tie. Ballet slippers can be adjusted and tightened to the wearer's foot by means of this string tie and done.
The essence of the ballet flat has existed since at least the 16th century, in which men wore a similar shoe, then known as pompes. In medieval times ballet flats were popular with both men and women. They only came out of fashion in the 17th and 18th centuries when the high-heeled shoe came into fashion after Catherine de' Medici requested that her cobbler add 5 cm (2 inches) to her wedding shoes. Heels went out of fashion quickly after Marie Antoinette walked to the guillotine in a pair of heels. Functional shoes: sandals, boots, and flat shoes prevailed in the 19th century. Ballet flats took off again when Audrey Hepburn wore them with skinny jeans in Funny Face in 1957.
More recently,[when?] variations of ballet flats have returned as a current fashion trend, often referred to as ballet pumps or ballet sneakers and designed for outdoor wear, using a variety of fabrics and usually with a rubber sole.
Ballet flats are increasingly popular for women and girls of all ages, both in the dancing environment as well as for casual wear. Extensive research shows flats to be a healthier alternative to heels, as high heels can cause both short and long-term pain in the wearer's upper and lower body. Ballet flats stepped onto the fashion scene in the 16th century, though throughout history their popularity has ebbed and waned in the shadow of stiletto heels. In the 20th century, ballet flats have considerably grown in function, fashion, color, print, texture and trend.