There are trends and then there are trends that are so big, that even normally fashion-impervious people like me become spellbound. I give you the next “core” to replace Barbiecore of 2022. In 2023, we’re living in balletcore era. The trend officially started in fall 2022 (during spring 2023 runway shows), and has since taken over fashion magazines, TikTok, and Instagram alike. But a lot of these explainers and accompanying photos have this balletomane shaking her head.
How is a black leather trench coat paired with stiletto heels “balletcore” because of the pair of black tights? And a baggy dress with tiered tulle skirt is more Harajuku-Greenwich-Village-doll-core than balletcore. I may not be able to do a gazillion pirouettes like Tiler Peck, but I do know what real balletcore aesthetic is, if that means something an actual dancer would wear! So here’s how I—amateur ballet dancer for 2.5 decades—interpret this trend, using vegan and sustainable ethos.
History of balletcore
Ballerinas have inspired trends and aesthetics long before 2023. The first ballerina to dance en pointe, Marie Taglioni, was also the one who popularized the “pure” “chaste” “ethereal” look of a romantic ballerina. She wore longer, soft tulle white skirts in ballet blancs such as La Sylphide, and her style and mannerisms were copied by the fashionable women of the day. In Belle Epoque France, ballerinas became idolized and immortalized through the art of Degas. Later, Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes inspired a legion of fashion designers such as Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, and Elsa Schiaparelli. Today, designers from Miuccia Prada to Rodarte to Chanel create collections heavily influenced by ballerina signatures: satin, tulle, tights, ballet flats, cardigans.
How to wear balletcore in 2023
Have you noticed how ballerinas are always in wrap sweaters? It’s because they get cold and warm so quickly! Before class: freezing, must layer! 15 minutes into barre: so hot! Must take off! This cycle repeats itself throughout the day, and so getting the warm-up layer on and off should be easy. This ballet pink wrap sweater is as balletcore as it gets, made from cotton-acrylic (non-wool) blend by the storied maison Repetto. It looks as good in the studio as out on the streets.
Ballet flats—but make it vegan!
For those of you who actually dance ballet, did you know you can get vegan ballet flats? Try Cynthia King for vegan suede / canvas flats that come packaged in compostable mailers. You can also special order vegan ballet flats from Sodanca and Nikolay. For pointe shoes, you can special order Nikolay / Grishko shoes with vegan materials. This all sounds tough, but if you go through your local dance store (which you should, given how you need to be properly fitted for pointe shoes), it’s rather easy. (I wear Nikolay 3007 Pro Flex.)
But say that you just want to wear ballet flats for the streets. My favorites are again by Repetto, the iconic Parisian house that makes pointe shoes to the stars. Their Cendrillon (Cinderella) flats were made at the request of Brigitte Bardot, a former ballerina / French style icon. They also make it in vegan leather. Having had Repetto shoes (not this style, but heeled loafers), I can attest that they’re comfortable and long-lasting. If you’re looking to invest in enduring balletcore, try these!
Why do ballerinas love leotards? Because they make holding your posture tall and straight actually easier than separates. Also, when you turn or do jumps, leotards don’t fly off revealing your midriff! If you have dance leotards, go ahead and wear them under your jeans, pants, skirts, shorts. But non-dance bodysuits are a great option that are also a lot easier to breathe in and don’t create a bazillion panty lines. Trust me, “ballet cut legs” and “jazz cut legs” are both synonymous with “cuts right through your bum.”
Off the shoulder everything
Ballerinas love an off the shoulder neckline. It’s genetically embedded! But also probably because this neckline elongates one’s line of the neck, shoulders, and arms, which is crucial in ballet. This dress is made with Naia Renew, a sustainable vegan silk alternative created using wood pulp and repurposed waste. Paired with sheer black tights and Mary Janes, it’s balletcore perfection.
Hair in a bun, braided bun, or French twist
Ballerinas feel their best when their hair is all out of their way. Pull it up with this chic high bun (tutorial here). Ballerinas also love dainty earrings for class and rehearsals, which brighten their face without getting in the way of dance. Big rings, bracelets, and necklaces are a no-no as they are too distracting.
Soft pink blush and lipstick
No surprises here. Soft pink inspired by satin ribbons and pink tights are the way to go with your makeup. Most ballerinas do wear color makeup to class—when they’re having to stare at the mirror all day, it makes sense. Try this cult-favorite and editor-favorite illuminating powder from Hourglass, a vegan and cruelty-free brand. A sweep of Moodlight (a pearly cool pink) over my cheeks is just the perfect amount of ballet glow.
How do you wear balletcore?
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Photo: Kevin Lee via Unsplash; Respective brands; Mary Hood Luttrell