Whether it’s a fashion trend on TikTok or a certain style taking over Instagram, internet aesthetics are always changing. Our series ‘Core Club breaks down the looks that you’re starting to see a lot on social media and highlights the people and brands channeling it best. Next up: balletcore.
Ballerinas have been the object of cultural fascination for centuries, as far back as the 1800s with Edgar Degas’ Impressionist paintings to Darren Aronofsky’s riveting 2010 psychological thriller Black Swan. Now, thanks to social media, ballet has a new way to permeate our lives: the balletcore aesthetic. Racking up more than 9.5 million views on TikTok seemingly overnight, #balletcore is the latest style to take the internet by storm. Even Euphoria’s Barbie Ferreira is a fan.
From tulle skirts and sheer tights to ballet flats, wrap sweaters, cardigans, and hair bows, balletcore is defined by graceful, feminine fashion. Moodboards for the aesthetic are filled with pictures of impossibly flexible dancers, leaping across a stage in dazzling costumes or practicing at the barre. Besides giving people the chance to live out their childhood dreams of being a ballerina, balletcore also helps adoptees explore a different side of themselves.
“For me, balletcore means a chance to embrace femininity and softness, because so often these characteristics are gatekept from plus-size women,” says Monique Black, a 26-year-old fashion influencer from Detroit. “We’re not allowed to be delicate and soft because the world won’t perceive us that way.”
Black, who posts under the handle @moeblackx, has built a loyal 100,000-strong fan base since she started posting on the app in 2020. In her videos, she shares commentary on trends and fashion news, shows off her outfits, and reminds women of all sizes that they deserve to love how they look. As the balletcore trend began to gain traction, Black uploaded a series of TikToks titled “Balletcore Outfits As A Size 20.” The videos have been viewed a cumulative 59,000 times, with many comments thanking Black for proving that the aesthetic isn’t exclusive to one body type.
“It’s really about showing young, plus size people that there is no limit on what you can wear just because you’re a certain size, which is why I share my size — so they have a frame of reference,” Black tells NYLON, noting her surprise at the “amazing” response to her balletcore videos. “I didn’t know if people would like the trend or find it silly, but it’s been a big hit.”
For Chazlyn Yvonne (@chazlyn.yvonne), a 20-year-old blogger and college student, the aesthetic has been a way to fuse her love of fashion with her passion for ballet. Yvonne danced for 12 years, starting at 2 years old and making the transition to pointe in her teens. As such, she has an inside perspective on the aesthetic’s relationship with ballet. “Some people may argue that the aesthetic isn’t 100% authentic to the clothing of an actual full-time dancer,” she acknowledges. “However, the goal of balletcore is simply to have fun with the version of ballet that we see from an outside perspective.”
In Yvonne’s case, this means adding accessories, like leg-warmers, tights, and ribbons, to her regular wardrobe, as well as balletcore staples, like tulle skirts and satin dresses. “I love this aesthetic because I feel like you can find it almost anywhere,” she says, listing Selkie and LoveShackFancy as some of her go-to sources.
Besides inspiring a wardrobe refresh, balletcore has also been a place for Yvonne to find a community. “I am in group chats with girls of the same aesthetic who all have completely different backgrounds, ethnicities, shapes, and sizes,” she shares with NYLON. “Being a woman of color in this space is very important to me, and I always love when I can provide representation for my audience [who are] like-minded individuals.”
It’s this representation by Yvonne, Black, and other creators like @angelmilkdreams, @camrihewie, and @crepeprimluck, that allows balletcore to move beyond the limitations of the exclusive culture that inspired it. Like any sport, ballet favors those who start as early as possible, which means paying for years of expensive classes and private lessons. It has also historically struggled to promote diversity and size inclusivity amongst dancers — even those in its highest ranks. It wasn’t until 2015 that Misty Copeland became a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater, making her the first Black woman to be promoted to the role in the company’s 75-year history. Balletcore aims to combat these limitations to what a ballerina can or should look like. In embracing the aesthetic, dancers and non-dancers alike are able to channel the strength and poise that make ballerinas like Copeland so admirable.
Balletcore aims to combat these limitations to what a ballerina can or should look like.
At the same time, the aesthetic owes a debt to its inspiration — one it might be repaying by re-introducing the dance style into the mainstream (and the mostly-Gen Z audience on TikTok). Many ballet companies took a hit during the pandemic, when show cancellations and studio closures interrupted the livelihoods of their dancers. “If the exposure to ballet in media can bring a larger audience to support the industry and the plethora of professionals who have struggled due to the pandemic, that would be a positive outcome,” says balletcore influencer Eli (@faeriehearted), herself a former ballerina. “Especially because for them this is a profession, not solely an aesthetic, and I think that's important and respectful to note.”
The 22-year-old content creator, who hails from Helsinki, Finland, has always dressed femininely. When she discovered the balletcore aesthetic, it was simply a way to expand on the style she had already fallen in love with during her time as a ballerina. Aesthetics are often co-opted by fast-fashion companies looking to cash in on trends, but Eli sought out brands that fit the aesthetic while also being committed to ethical fashion and sustainability practices. Her favorites include Murlong Cres, Kitteny, and independent lingerie brand Dollymilk.
Like others who have been enchanted by balletcore, Eli is grateful for the chance to connect with fellow fans of the trend from around the world. As someone who’s been involved with ballet all her life — “I actually still have my first pointe shoes,” she shares — the balletcore community is as meaningful to her as the aesthetic itself. “My adoration towards ballet has continued into adulthood, though I’ve now switched roles to being in the audience rather than the stage. [Balletcore] has helped me connect with people who share the same interest and adoration towards the art of ballet, as well as the themes around it.”