Friday, June 13, 2014

The Care and Feeding of Repettos

Stringing me along
Note: It's Marsi, Tish’s now and again guest blogger, reporting for duty while Tish is offline for a bit. This summer, I’ll be posting some new and original content here, as well as republishing posts from the archives of LuxeBytes, my former blog about “the pursuit of the greater goods.” I originally published today’s post about Repettos on LuxeBytes on June 6, 2010, and have tweaked it a bit to bring it up to date.

So, I’m sitting here with a pedicure in progress (Essie Wicked) this morning and writing about close-toed shoes that I can’t possibly wear today: Repettos. Ah, well, c’est la vie, as they say. The sooty, sinister red on my toes demands to be seen in sandals anyway, especially in this ghastly 90-degree heat.

One way to be Wicked . . . .

But let’s talk Repetto, shall we? What gives you French street cred more than the ultimate ballerine? Repetto is the original, the one to whom others pay homage with their knockoffs, both high and low. Created at the behest of Brigitte Bardot, who wanted the comfort and style of of a ballet slipper in a street shoe, the ballerine quickly became a classic.

And God Created Repetto . . . .

But I don’t have to tell you this: if you admire French style, of course you know about and want Repettos. Of course you feel stymied by their exclusivity, which makes them rather difficult to find. And once you do, of course you balk at the price. Oh, I’ve been there, friends, so listen to me when I say this:

If you aren’t ready to pony up the dough, I urge you, do not — do not — try on Repettos. Just don’t, because once you do, there’s no going back. It’s a bell that can’t be unrung, toothpaste that can’t be sucked back into the tube, for Repetto is, bar none, the most comfortable shoe you’ll ever wear. Repetto truly puts the “slipper” in “ballet slipper.” If your feet have known Repettos (if even for a moment in the shoe store), they’ll never let you forget it.

A black, lace-patterned ballerine. Unavailable, of course.

Last summer, my husband and I made our annual food-foraging trip to San Francisco, and in the weeks before, I began to hear Repetto’s siren song. For days on the Bay, I re-directed my attention toward other, less costly ballerines. “There can’t be that much difference,” I told myself as I contemplated stylish offerings from French Sole and J.Crew. But the soles felt stiff in my hand and inflexible on my feet. Toes cramped and heels pinched, alas, I just had to say non.

At last, I could no longer the resist the pull. My husband and I found ourselves in Hayes Valley, a smart and very San Fran-style neighborhood that Gimme Shoes calls home. One touch of Repetto’s lightweight shoe, with its buttery, hand-hewn leather, and I was a goner. I wore the shoes — classic ballerines of black lambskin with an ostrich-skin embossing — out of the store and on a three-mile walk to dinner and back to our hotel. My feet could not have been happier.

Smörgåsbord? I’m on board!

There is truly a difference between Repetto and wannabes. It’s not just that they cost nearly three times that of a similar J.Crew ballerine. It’s not just that so many stylish women have worn them in the 60 years they’ve been around. It’s not just that Repetto releases limited edition styles each season that become a sartorial snapshot in time (because “once they’re gone, they’re gone”).

It’s a simple matter, really: they’re well crafted from the finest materials available, and your feet know the difference. Repettos are made by hand, one pair at a time, by artisans in France’s Dordogne region, using old-world techniques sadly in decline in retail. The leather soles are sewn (never glued) to the vamp and dexterously turned inside out to create a flexible shoe that perfectly conforms to its wearer’s foot. This video shows beautiful craftsmanship alive and well at Repetto. 

If you’ve taken the plunge with a gorgeous pair of Repettos, you’ll want to take the utmost care of them to maximize your investment. Though they feel delicate in the hand and on the foot, they’re so well made that I don’t find that they need to be especially babied. However, here are my suggestions for keeping your Repettos (or any good shoe) looking their best for years to come.

  • Wear them for a few weeks to rough up the leather soles, then take them to your cobbler for a preemptive resoling. I’ve had a leather sole placed on each of my four pairs, and it’s just extra insurance that the shoe will last and the toe box won't be stubbed by every little crack in the sidewalk. It’ll run you $25 to $35, depending on your location, but it’s money well spent. 
  • When your ballerines are brand new out of the box, apply a drop or two of Dritz Fray Check to the cut ends of the bows to keep the cord from unraveling. Fray Check is a liquid sealant used by seamstresses to seal raw edges and prevent fraying. It’s only a few dollars and is available at fabric and craft stores. Splayed bow ends cheapen the look of your ballerines. Don’t let it happen. 
Fray Check? Check!
  •  Keep the leather cleaned and moisturized. Lately, I’ve been using Apple leather cleaner and moisturizer, but there are many top-notch brands to choose from. Patent and suede need to be treated differently. You can dust off your patent leathers with a damp cloth, and gently freshen the nap on suede with a boar bristle brush. 

In the course of retooling this post, I came across some lovely special editions of Repettos available at Colette, the hipper-than-thou, too-cool-for-school tastemaker in Paris, that I had to share.

Marbled, like Florentine endpapers.

Crackled, like an Easter egg.

Spotted, like a leopard . . . or a cheetah . . . or is it a jaguar?


grechen said...

ah, repetto. i too am an addict, and it's true that once you've bought a pair, you simply cannot stop at one. i have several pairs, and while i wear them less than i used to, they will be in my wardrobe forever.

the good thing is that they are relatively easy to find on sale at the end of seasons, for under $200, and many times for around $100 if you're lucky and either have a large or very small foot!

and a note on the sizing, i've generally liked to size up one size to a 39 where i normally wear a size 38 in other european brands (although not robert clergerie, so i guess french sizing is different?) and i've heard that other women size up 1/2 size instead.

i try to keep the page on my site devoted to repetto updated with the latest sales, etc., since now there are so many places to buy them online - - and i'll add a link to this page as well, if you don't mind, it's a wonderful resource for fellow repetto lovers!

thanks so much for this post!

Anonymous said...

I don't mind spending the extra $$$ for a quality, long-wearing shoe. This extra work is a bit much for this price point.

Eliza said...

I'm reading this post wearing a pair of cognac leather Repettos. I do love them, but like Bloch equally well for much less:) Both brands are far better than J. Crew. I have yet to try French Sole, but given my love for ballerinas, it's just a matter of time!

Tish, hope you're doing OK~

Jennings and Gates said...

I have always loved ballet shoes, and am forever in search of the perfect one. Are Repettos actually comfortable? xo, N.G.

Jacqui said...

This was the best explanation for why Repettos are 1. so coveted and 2. so expensive. But question: how do you get them resoled or reheeled if they are all hand sewn? Do you really just take them to the shoemaker for soles?????

Eleanorjane said...

Those shoes look absolutely beautiful! The style pages are trying to tell us that ballerina-style flats are out and it's all about chunky sandals, pointy-toe flats and smoking slippers but I've never had comfier flats than some good ballerina slippers (never tried Repettos, though).

I have usually put insoles in to give me a bit of arch support.

Marsha Splenderosa said...

I have 10-year old pairs of sequined ballerinas, black, cream & magenta.
They always look fabulous, even if a bit unexpected, and for me they go anywhere.

Duchesse said...

Know them, yes, but love them, no as I need more arch support than these pancake flats. The jazz oxfords work better for me, but ballerines from other brands- which actually have arches- are better for me.

mette said...

What an info package of the Repetto ballerinas!
I´ve seen them in person, but somehow they look very odd, as do the ones with a bit of heel.

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