There's a certain magic to an unconventional shoe. Maison Margiela's hooved-toe Tabis are considered a holy-grail find by fashion folks. Bottega Veneta's cartoonish Puddle rain boots celebrate the glamour of a galosh. Even the beloved Birkenstock taps into the ugly-chic spectacle: the granola slip-on shouldn't work as high-fashion footwear, but against all odds, it does. And now there's a new polarizing shoe to ponder: behold—mesh flats, as in sheer shoes that play peek-a-boo with your pedicure. And the technicalities aside (does it really count as a shoe if it's more of a see-through sock?), the best mesh flats demonstrate precisely what's so fascinating about head-scratching footwear.
It began with The Row, as most recent all-consuming trends do (e.g., 2023's take on quiet luxury). In 2019, the high-end label revealed its Mesh Sock Flats, a pair of diaphanous slippers that mimic the sensation of walking on air. But it's not just Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen embracing barely-there footwear. Sandy Liang now offers baby pink mesh Mary Janes, and Khaite carries sheer slip-ons bedazzled with Swarovski crystals. Dear Frances' see-through Balla shoes have all but clinched the title of summer 2023's top trending shoe, and Jennifer Lawrence wore the perennially-sold-out Alaïa fishnet flats on a recent New York City stroll (grime? murky and mysterious puddles? J.Law doesn't concern herself with such plebian woes!).
But what spawned the advent of the translucent flat? Jane Frances, founder and creative director of the eponymous footwear label, says mesh shoes live at the intersection of two trends: sultry sheers and ballet flats. "Ballerinas have been a key style in recent seasons, and mesh options offer a unique and sophisticated update," she shares with Marie Claire. "[Mesh flats] are delicate and feminine, but also feel sharp and modern—a strong combination." Frances touches on what is so intriguing about an unusual and whacky shoe: it's the paradox it presents. Surrealist yet simple. Earthy-crunchy and somehow elevated. Barefoot but not.
Ahead, find our picks for the best mesh flats to add to your summer shoe rotation. A gentle note, though: if you find a pair you like, act fast because the trendy shoe sells quickly across all retailers.
The Best Mesh Flats
- Best Overall: Dear Frances Balla Mesh
- Best Designer Mesh Flat: The Row Mesh Sock Flat
- Best Black Mesh Flat: J. Crew Zoe Ballet Flat in Mesh
- Best Crystal Mesh Flats: Khaite The Marcy Flat
- Best Cap-Toe Mesh Flat: Reformation Wesley Flat
- Best Mesh Flats for Work: PEDRO Rina Mesh Ballerina Flats
"Our Balla shoe is designed with a classic silhouette," explains Frances. "The upper is cut low on the foot and trimmed delicately in soft tonal leather, so they're easy to style and feel light and breezy in the warm summer months." The shoes are hand-made in Italy and designed to fit snuggly to the foot for a glove-like feel. Offered in both white and black colorways, the minimal mesh shoe is a sartorial testament to a less is more philosophy.
Best Designer Mesh Flat
The mesh flat that started it all. The Row's sock-like style comes in black and beige and offers an unexpected sultriness akin to the effect of lingerie. Plus, given their no-fuss silhouette and design, they feel like you're not wearing a shoe at all. "Feel like slippers, look like shoes," writes a pleased Nordstrom shopper. "These are incredibly comfortable and surprisingly cute. They don't have any support, but they fit like a glove (true to size) and look very cool."
Best Black Mesh Flat
Leave it to J. Crew to hop onto a trend in a way that offers you a chance to join in on a buzzy fashion moment but still feels in line with their classic, un-fussy aesthetic. The Zoe flats in mesh are a quintessential example of the sheer shoe trend: the black mesh delivers a translucent effect while the silhouette remains streamlined and simple. This pair boasts a higher vamp (which gives your toes more coverage) and a plushy sole insert to ensure your comfort.
Best Crystal Mesh Flat
Khaite's Marcy Flat is another pair that is instrumental to the sheer shoe trend as a whole. You'll see that the breathable shoe it's offered in a gamut of mesh options, including beige with floral embroidery and dark black netting with crystal embellishment. (The style is also available in neutral Nappa leather or begging-to-be-touched shearling). This is also another mesh flat that, if you see your size is available, don't hesitate to input your credit card info, as it's selling out across the internet at exponential speeds.
Best Cap-Toe Mesh Flat
Jennifer Lopez recently wore Christian Louboutin's mesh cap-toe flats on a walk around Los Angeles. And what should come as a surprise to absolutely no one is that the style instantly sold out at every retailer imaginable. There's a silver lining here, though: Reformation's Wesley Flat offers a very similar cap-toe look (which is a great stepping-stone style for people just warming up to the idea of peek-a-boo toe footwear) and is about 75 percent less expensive. Snag them in the trendy metallic silver shade or classic black.
Best Colorul Mesh Flat
If you're not a fan of neutrals, or perhaps you are hoping to push yourself out of your color comfort zone this season, take a gander at Loeffler Randall's Leonie mesh flats in sky blue. With their dainty toe bow and elasticated front strap, the shoe leans into the classic look of a ballet slipper—but with a 2023 twist, of course. And their sizable glass rhinestones will catch and reflect the light, ensuring you stand out as the statement dresser you naturally are.
Best Mesh Mary Jane
Sandy Liang is known for her girlish designs that balance freshness and sentimentality. Case in point: these adorable Mary Jane shoes done in a soft baby pink mesh. This saccharine style features a pin-buckle adjustable strap, a padded leather footbed, and a 9 mm stacked heel. Scoop these up while you still can (as you can see, they're selling out like hotcakes), and you'll automatically be inducted into the cool-girl club. Consider styling them with leather separates for a sweet-yet-tough clash of aesthetics.
Best Mesh Flats for Work
If you've been itching to add more pizzazz—a little extra dose of drama—to your summer work outfits, consider adding PEDRO's sparkly mesh ballet flats to your virtual cart. They're ideal for elevating your in-office style, as they boast rhinestone embellishments and a subtle sheer look. And while, yes, they're undeniably trendy at the moment, they also promise wardrobe longevity due to their timeless flat silhouette. Opt for the beige pair instead if you prefer more of a nude illusion look.
Best Lace and Mesh Flat
If you want to tackle the mesh shoe trend but don't have the budget for the Khaite or Sandy Liang iterations (rent must be paid, after all!), try Charles & Keith's see-through Mary Jane flats. Offered in black and blush pink, this shoe utilizes floral lace and mesh to create a sheer effect. They feature a front strap and snap-button enclosure, keeping with the iconic Mary Jane silhouette. Plus, they're an effortless way of tapping into summer 2023's lace trend if you don't think a frilly dress or broderie anglaise blouse will find its way into your seasonal collection.
Best Mesh Loafer
Feeling collegiate and ready to ace a challenge? Try a mesh loafer—like TOGA PULLA's—for an unexpected take on the already unconventional trend. Designed by Yasuko Furuta, TOGA PULLA is a shoe line known for its grunge-forward design and slight Western influence. Its lace-up Oxford loafers with ornate mesh paneling and buffed leather represent the brand's aesthetic to a T. Plus, a loafer style offers more trans-seasonality than just a summery flat—you can definitely keep this pair in your fall shoe rotation.
Best Mesh Mules
Aquazzura is a brand known for its high-quality footwear that offers easy glamour and refinement—and its Spy Suede flat mules perfectly encapsulate the label's signature modus operandi. The swirling mesh and suede in a sun-burst graphic create visual intrigue, while the classic open-back mule design keeps the shoe grounded with its straightforward silhouette. Furthermore, this is another shoe for those not yet enthused by the prospect of constant pedicure upkeep: the closed-front form and half-suede look keeps your toes relatively hidden.
Meet the Fashion Expert
London-based designer Jane Frances studied in London and Milan, where she learned from some of the most accomplished shoe designers in the world. After graduating, she spent her formative years in Milan, learning the intricate art of Italian craftsmanship under the guidance of her teacher and mentor, before moving back to London to establish Dear Frances. With a strong design aesthetic and great respect for artisan detailing, Jane brings a fresh approach to shoe design, with a clear and consistent focus on pared-back modern classics.
Marie Claire Newsletter
Celebrity news, beauty, fashion advice, and fascinating features, delivered straight to your inbox!
Emma Childs is the Fashion Features Editor at Marie Claire, who writes trend reports, long-form reported features, and style guides. She previously wrote for TZR, Editorialist, Elite Daily, and Mission Magazine and studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University. When she's not writing fashion deep-dives, you'll find her stalking eBay for designer vintage and perusing HBO Max (in her heart, it'll always be *HBO* MX).
The Anthropologie Black Friday Sale Feels Like Stealing
Some of these sales are so good, the mind reels.
By Alicia Lutes
Chrissy Teigen and Daughter Luna's Hairstyling Bonding Moment Is the Cutest Thing
The Legend girls are big fans of the Dyson Airwrap.
By Sophia Vilensky
Dolly Parton’s Cheerleader Glam Was the Highlight of Thanksgiving Game Day
We know exactly who won this one.
By Sophia Vilensky