Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Take a Bow: Saying Goodbye to Balletcore.

Photo from Reformation.

I didn’t realize until I reached for my decade-old leotard to make a “fashion statement” that I had fallen victim to the pastel, ribbon-adorned teeth of the balletcore fashion trend. Clothes that used to spark screaming matches with my mother (I hated ballet as a child) have infiltrated my closet and Pinterest boards, as well as everyone’s social media feed. 

The hashtag #balletcore has amassed over 1.2 billion views on TikTok, 100k posts on Instagram, and yields over 4.2 million results on Google. However, long gone are my days of torturing myself with meshy ballet-pink tights and copious globs of gel in pursuit of the slicked-back bun—an aversion that appears to be a rarity amongst teens and 20-something-year-olds. 

Hallmarks of balletcore include satins and silks, ribbons, lace and other sheer materials, and a very broad color palette: pink and white. This long-standing fashion trend surged in 2022 when Miu Miu’s ballet flats went viral on TikTok, it-girls, and celebrities-alike. According to The Lyst Index, these pseudo-pointe shoes were the “hottest” item of the latter half of the year, experiencing a 1,100% increase in searches from July to September. A full year later, Miu Miu earned the top spot for hottest brand, attributed to the success of their 2023 Fall Winter line. Featuring a multitude of colored tights, sheer overlays, and an abundance of briefs, it’s clear Miu Miu continues to draw inspiration from the studio, and consumers are eating it up.

However, the high-end Italian fashion brand isn’t the only one enthusiastic to spotlight ballet-inspired fashion. This ballerina-esque look has been in the media for decades—Carrie Bradshaw’s ever iconic tutu in 1998, and more straightforward iterations that graced Natalie Portman’s wardrobe in the 2010 movie “Black Swan.”

Nowadays, searching #balletcore opens a door to a land of opportunity—or inadvertently, insecurity, which I’d argue is the only similarity between balletcore and the ballet world. Browsing between Urban Outfitters, Fleur du Mal’s collaboration with American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) Isabella Boylston, and Reformation’s collaboration with the New York City Ballet (NYCB), there is a visible disconnect between what balletcore aspires to do versus what balletcore actually does.

So, what is balletcore doing?

Fleur du Mal’s collaboration with ABT’s Boylston claims to “combine Fleur’s seductive design aesthetic with the technicality of a premiere ballerina.” Fleur du Mal is a woman-owned brand that sells lingerie, swimwear, and sex toys, while Boylston is a principal dancer. In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, founder and Chief Executive Officer, Jessica Zuccarini, boasts of their “true, ballet-core capsule collection.” The line that dropped this December includes three wrap skirts, three bodysuits, and a long, ombre robe. These products, marketed as a “nod to the ballet-core trend,” fail to pay homage to any facet of ballet whether it’s rehearsal wear or performance attire. With a minimal size range that stops at large for most items, and a price point starting at $295, the collaboration reinforces the exclusivity and unattainability of ballet as a fetishized concept, rather than a complex tradition. 

Reformation’s collaboration with the NYCB that dropped in October is a nearly successful attempt at encapsulating the aesthetic of ballet—that is, until they said “you’re basically a ballerina” with scarily similar pointe shoe inspired ballet flats. In their advertisements and promotional imagery, Reformation teeters the line between standard modeling and trying (and failing) to recreate traditional ballet positions.

Riley MacMoyle, a junior theater and performance major at Emerson College, has danced her entire life and continues to perform and choreograph for Emerson Dance Company. 

“I feel like it’s an injustice to like the dancers that have worked so hard their entire lives to kind of earn those costumes and earn those shoes,” MacMoyle said. “That’s quite literally blood, sweat and tears.”

An Instagram account called @modelsdoingballet has gained a following of 94.4K people since starting in March of 2020: the owners, professional dancers Suzanne Jolie and Katie Malia, use this platform to call out campaigns making a mockery of dance as a sport and an artform. By using models with little to no technical training, it promotes the ideology that dance, especially ballet, is easy and accessible, when any level of technique class will teach the average person otherwise. 

As Reformation’s marketing team put it: “No, you can’t pirouette. Yes, you can pretend.”

Urban Outfitters reserves a featured category on their website for all things balletcore, including 84 products that range from accessories to jewelry and articles of clothing. The curated selection is saturated with sheer and lace fabric, ribbons galore, and romantic details such as pearls and rosettes. Their Kimchi Blue collection, released in the fall of 2023, is the star of the show—that is, if you were attending my baby ballet class in 2007. The dominating color scheme is pastels: from baby pinks and blues to sage green and lavender. The limited color scheme mirrors a challenge the ballet world is currently combating: the matter of inclusivity in dance wear for dancers of color. Pantone’s “Ballerina” is a shade of light pink, reminiscent of the tights and shoes crafted specifically for white ballet dancers to extend their lines. The association of ballet with these light colors and tones inherently excludes dancers of color, a discrepancy the ballet world is actively trying to break down.

The reality of a dancer can be determined by the following formula:


If: Wearing leggings

Then: Wear big baggy sweatshirt

If: Wearing sweatpants

Then: Wear the weirdest t-shirt you’ve ever thrifted


“I roll up to class in sweatpants and a hoodie and honestly so does the majority of the dancers that we have,” MacMoyle shared. “Those that do come in their leggings or tighter tops—we all grew up doing it. It’s never been like this, ‘Oh, I’m claiming to be a ballerina,’ it’s just the way we’ve been taught to wear our rehearsal clothes.” 

However, her performance classes tell a different story.

“Something as simple as taking a white sweater and putting it on but then taking it off your head so it’s just on your shoulders is very ballet to me…I’ve done that in ballet class, but I’ve seen actors do it and like that was their outfit for the day.” 

No bows, no lace, no sheer, no pastels. I often pull up to my rehearsals in my boyfriend’s pajama pants that you know haven’t been washed in a couple of days and a random sports bra. But whenever I share the fact that I am a dancer, it’s like I’ve announced I can fly—calloused feet, bruised knees, greasy hair and all. There seems to be something whimsical, fantastical, and unserious about being a dancer

I grew up in the studio five out of seven days in the week. Leotard, tights, slicked back hair, rinse and repeat. I suffered from tendinitis in my knees, a stress fracture in my ankle, and detrimentally low self esteem that has followed me six years outside of the studio. Balletcore was never pastels, ribbons, and cute bolero tops. It was KT tape, icing between rehearsals, and crying on the car ride home with my mother. 

“[Balletcore] is glamorizing something that is not in any way glamorous,” MacMoyle said. “It’s pretty monstrous looking.”

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