Natalie Portman on the set of “Black Swan”. Photograph courtesy of Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic

Comfort meets drama in this 2010s-inspired style resurgence.

At a time when life is less like Nutcracker and more like Swan Lake, channeling the off-duty ballerina can feel like an elegant escape. Enter balletcore.

For months balletcore has been gaining ground on TikTok, the undeniable pool of aesthetic sub-genres. Consisting of leotards, wrap-over sweaters, turtlenecks, shrugs, flared leggings, tie-up skirts, ballerina flats and fitted coats, the feminine aesthetic might evoke the image of a draped ballerina pearls, perfume and light pink hues en route to repeat.

Balletcore draws heavily on the 2010 noir thriller Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers opposite Mila Kunas as Lily. (A CliffsNotes guide: In a production of Swan LakeNina is overwhelmed by the pressure of her competition with Lily and descends into madness.)

But the relationship between the fashion industry and ballet goes back centuries.

Throughout history, designers love Christian Lacroix, Vivienne Westwood and Valentino have collaborated with ballet productions on dancers’ costumes. Not to mention that fabrics associated with ballet – such as lace, bows and tulle – cyclically resurface on the floor. However, the styles we associate with balletcore today were not always accessible to dancers.

First performed almost exclusively by male aristocrats, ballet became a female-dominated field as it was popularized throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the early 1900s, there were no ready-made ballet clothes, and the dancers practiced adapted streetwear. Over the decades, dancewear became more accessible and in the 1970s and 1980s one-piece stretch leotards, jumpsuits, leggings and tights were popularized.

TikTok Trend Forecaster Biz Sherbet (@thedigifairy) recently predicted that balletcore will be one of the biggest trends of 2022. “In many ways, ballet-inspired fashion is a natural evolution of athleisure,” she says. “It offers the same comfort and stretch but it’s undeniably more glamorous.”

And some brands have taken notice. Zara recently teamed up with New York City Ballet for her own ballet-inspired collection, composed of bodysuits, tulle blouses and fishnet pieces. Shoe brands also offer revisited versions of the classic ballerina. New designs include ballet slippers with heels, platforms, pointed toes and split toes.

Trend forecaster Mandy Lee (@oldloserinbrooklyn) calls ballet-inspired fashion “Parisian ballet” and says it combines traditional ballerina attire with Parisian streetwear, such as knee-high socks, bows and berets. It’s no surprise given that our adoration for Parisian style is stronger than ever thanks in part to popular media like Emily in Paris.

Lee adds that the trend also aligns with other revivals of the early to mid-2010s, such as the Twee style. Balletcore embraces hyper-femininity and youthfulness, but along with other Tumblr-era styles, it has a complex history. The ballet profession has long been synonymous with the white, slender, ingenuous dancer.

But, to a certain extent, balletcore should not be confused with today’s profession. In her recent video exploring aesthetics, fashion critic Mina Le said that the art form and deep meaning of ballet has been appropriated by those who treat it purely as a fashion trend. “Critics have long argued that letting a little girl wear a tutu devalues ​​ballet as a serious profession,” she says.

“When an aesthetic like balletcore is so hyper-focused on the aesthetic elements of a culture, it can actually coalesce into this notion that princess and ballerina culture are inherently tasteless pastimes for ‘girls’. “, she continues.

Still, modern balletcore is likely to stick around, thanks to its mix of comfortable streetwear and theatrical costumes. At its core, aesthetics are all about comfort and beauty, and who couldn’t use more beauty right now?

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