Even though I have always liked the concept of Ferragamo shoes  with their iconic bow and the classic almond-shaped toe, it took a while before I committed myself to purchasing the first pair. I was simply dubious that they would be compatible with my personal style. With Varas, the reservations revolved around the small block heel projecting a slightly matronly feel whereas in Varina ballet flats I was concerned that the bow embellishment might look overly cutesey and not quite me. Eventually, I settled for Varinas and, in retrospect, I have no idea how I could live without them. Elegant and feminine, they have become an inseparable part of my shoe collection and an absolute wardrobe essential.

While Varina ballet flats have become one of the most recognisable shoe designs, there is still a lot of discussion among the Internauts surrounding the merits, fit and comfort of these stunning ballerinas. On these grounds, as a dedicated follower the Varina cult, I decided to write this review to hopefully help those thinking of investing in their first pair and to shed some light on the pros and cons of this little Italian shoe marvel.

Varina flats black and white background

Fit and Sizing

From the experience I have had with Varina ballet flats so far, they seem to run true to size. In the patent leather option, I usually choose size 7C which corresponds with my regular size 37.5 (UK 4.5) in brands such as Chanel or Gucci. The letter “C” reflects the width of the ballerinas which normally ranges from AA to D, with the As being more suitable for narrow feet. 

To me, “C” seems compatible with an average-width foot and measures 7.5cm in the widest part of the shoe, the same as Chanel ballet flats. However, judging from other reviews it sounds as if it may be possible to get away with different widths and still end up with perfectly wearable shoes albeit the sizing may need to be adjusted (don’t take my word for it, though!).

Varina ballet flats close up

While the shoe sizing is not an issue, the aspect which causes more controversy is the tight-fitting nature of these flats, mostly noticeable in the beginning. Based on my previous encounters with this model, a brand-new pair of Varina ballet flats in patent calfskin tends to pinch the toes and rub the heel so much at first, that it raises serious questions over the rationality behind the purchase. Still, anyone who has survived this baptism of fire will know that this is just a temporary phase before these gorgeous flats become the ultimate shoe.

With the benefit of time, I have learnt that all is needed is a bit of patience and stretching.  Therefore, each time I buy a new pair I always put my Ferragamo ballerinas through a “boot camp” consisting of a few days of relaxing and expanding of the toe box with a wooden shoe stretcher as well as using fingers to loosen the heel to make it softer and stop it from causing blisters.

What also helps is wearing them around the house with a pair of very thick socks (e.g. skiing socks) to allow them to mould to the shape of the foot. Although this may sound like hard work, a bit of stretching and a short break-in period is a small price to pay for creating a perfect pair of super-comfortable flats. [Back to Menu]

shoes and Chanel bag close up

How comfortable are Varina ballet flats?

Disregarding the initial break-in period mentioned earlier, Varina ballet flats have become one of my favourite shoes due to their level of comfort. Thanks to the padded footbeds and good support for the arches, they can be easily worn for long periods of time without putting too much pressure on the foot. That is why I have always considered them to be my go-to flats for a busy workday or for occasions where a lot of standing around or walking is involved but where trainers are not suitable.  They are also one of my favourite flats to wear on longer-haul flights because they slip on and off very easily and can even handle my slightly swollen foot upon landing.

One additional observation about these gorgeous ballerinas is that the leather used for their outer sole is very soft and smooth. Even though the sole incorporates a rubber patch, initially they may feel a bit slippery on some surfaces, for example wet and smooth pavement slabs or on carpets. This will improve as the sole becomes naturally scuffed while the shoes are worn and so, overtime, they will have more traction. [Back to Menu]

Varina ballet flats and nvy chanel bag

Aesthetics

I absolutely love the romantic but classy look of Varina ballet flats and how they can make any outfit look effortlessly elegant and stylish. The rounded, almond-shaped toe, and the small stacked heel measuring circa 1cm are not the only feminine aspect of these ballerinas. There is of course “the” bow! The hallmark Ferragamo bow, first introduced in 1978 with the creation of the iconic Vara shoes, has become a signature of the brand and was later incorporated into the Varina shoe in 2007. The iconic grosgrain bow measuring around 7cm with a gold-tone metal plaque at its centre engraved with Ferragamo’s logo make Varina ballet flats an instantly recognisable design and an absolute fashion staple.

Close up on the Ferragamo bow

The continuing popularity of Varinas is also attributed to the fact that the shoes have been available in a variety of finishes including calfskin, patent, suede as well as a myriad of colour options updated throughout seasons.

My personal favourite is the patent leather version in New Bisque i.e. pinky-beige colour which is extremely versatile but it is definitely worth investing in more than one colour of these stunning flats because they are such an iconic piece, perfect for running errands around town and for occasions requiring understated glamour. [Back to Menu]

Varina ballet flats on a staircase

Are Varina Ballet Flats Durable?

Varina ballet flats are most likely to become a heavy rotation shoe due to their great comfort and effortless elegance. Because of this, they will require a dose of TLC to help them stay in a good shape for as long as possible.

To that effect, it is important to ensure that the grosgrain bow remains dry and clean. The fabric used on the bow, by virtue of being so close to the ground, will be continuously exposed to dust, puddles, mud etc. so after a while it is bound to start showing signs of discolouration and dirt. This is most likely to be the case if you opt for the lighter option but will apply to all Varina ballet flats in general. The metal buckle will also need to be wiped regularly to keep it clean and shiny because it has a tendency to collect dust and show finger prints. The same applies to the patent leather to help it retain the beautiful high-gloss finish for many happy outings. 

Shoes viewed from the side

When the shoes are not worn, it is highly recommended for the ballerinas to be kept in their original dustbag or in a box, ideally with a shoe filler inserts helping to maintain the structure of the shoe. While the patent calfskin is of a superb quality, my experience with one of the Varina pairs shows that the leather may become slightly misshapen if inappropriately stored so an adequate support for a “resting” pair will be key.

There is also another issue which may affect Varina ballet flats subjected to extensive use. It seems that one of my pairs developed small cracks in places where there was most impact on the leather while walking i.e where the leather bends. These cracks only started becoming visible after a couple of years of frequent use and I suspect that this is due to the delicate nature of the patent leather. Although I have not tried the suede or the calfskin versions of Varinas, I suspect that the cracking is not going to be an issue there.

Varina ballet flats crack in patent leather
Picture showing a small crack which developed in one of my Varina ballet flats

Hence, for anyone thinking of investing in their first pair of Varinas this aspect may be something to think about when deciding whether to opt for patent or regular leather, especially if you hope for the shoes to last longer than a couple of years.

In addition, for anyone wondering whether the gold Ferragamo stamp on the insoles of the shoes fades with time, the answer is yes. But even though this is the case, realistically it should be expected and I would not dwell too much on this aspect.

example of fading logo innside Varinas
An example of a fading Ferragamo logo in used Varina ballet flats

While the inner printing wears off gently, the shoes still look outstanding even after heavy use. In fact, it is remarkable that the flats show no significant scratches, scuffs or any other marks associated with considerable wear which attests to the exceptional craftsmanship and high-quality materials used in their construction. Therefore, in the grander scale of things, the fading of the golden print is nothing to worry about. [Back to Menu]

Shoes and Victoria Beckham bag

Good Investment?

Ferragamo shoes have been celebrated for decades by everyone from Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn to modern muses such as Meryl Streep or Jenifer Aniston. If it is good for them, who else would not want to taste a bit of the Ferragamo magic, right?

Having tried Varina ballet flats, it is easy to understand why this iconic Ferragamo design has gained such immense popularity. They have quickly become one of my favourite flats because the blend of elegance and comfort (excluding the initial break-in period, of course!) means that the shoes can be worn for hours on many different occasions and, as such, constitute a good value for money. It is true that where the expectation of longevity and heavy-duty wear is at stake, Varinas in patent finish may not be the best option but there are other leather varieties to select from to enjoy the model for longer.

Although not the cheapest, retailing in the region of £425 (as of 2019), the extra perk of Ferragamo shoes is that, unlike many other luxury brands, they are regularly on sale though the Ferragamo website so from time to time it is possible to purchase a pair of these beautiful ballet flats without breaking the bank, at around 30-40% discount.

In addition, I have spotted discounted Varinas in Ferragamo outlets in Bicester Village in the UK and in The Mall near Florence albeit the classic colours are hard to come by and they frequently only have a small selection of sizes. Overall verdict: Can’t live without them! [Back to Menu]

Photos by Badiu Photography and Unwrapped

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