"I'm kind of a collector of clothes," says Natalie Varnum. The Houston Ballet corps member turned a spare room in her home into a walk-in closet and fills it with eccentric pieces. "I love big, clear oversized sunglasses; or a high-waisted pant, socks and loafers; or a newsboy hat," she says. Varnum is inspired by icons from the '60s and '70s—Jimi Hendrix, Jane Birkin, Elton John—and she finds endless ideas on social media. She'll search Pinterest for photos, follow up-and-coming stylists on Instagram or update her own blog with "outfit of the day" posts. It was through Instagram that she recently met South Korea–based designer Sandra Meynier Kang, who reached out in hopes of collaborating and sent her a sample from her new leotard line. "It's the best way to make faraway friends now," Varnum says.
In the studio, Varnum takes a more conventional approach—sometimes. "I like a classic ballerina look, like light pink, long sleeves," she says, "or I go for something completely crazy." She commissions fun patterned leotards from her friend, former company dancer Jordan Reed, who now runs Lone Reed Designs. Her collection includes leos printed with pizza and doughnuts. Whatever she's wearing, Varnum is not afraid to stand out. "There's a time and place for a classic little black dress," she says, "but I tend to go for the more out-there pieces and colors."
Rachele Buriassi loves leotards: In her 12 years as a professional dancer, the Boston Ballet soloist estimates that she's accumulated over 150 of them. "Maybe it's because we spend most of the day in ballet clothes," she says. "I like to have many options." Her collection includes leotards bought on tour in France and Spain, ordered online and designed by Buriassi herself, with the help of Kenneth Busbin in BB's costume department. "You can choose the color and design it, and then he will make it for you," she says. Routine is important to her, and she tries to get to the studio at least half an hour early to choose her outfit, tape her toes and start warming up. "But I never do my hair for class," she laughs, preferring to wear it down or in a braid.
Outside the studio, Buriassi goes for a stylish yet low-key vibe, often choosing designer brands. "I don't want to look like I've been thinking too much about it," she says. Don't let that attitude fool you, though: She loves to shop, especially while traveling. "Whenever I go somewhere, I like to have a day to shop and look for different special things," she says. That desire to find unique and meaningful pieces is characteristic—Buriassi isn't interested in looking like anyone else. "I like to be myself and wear what I feel comfortable in," she says.
Photo by Liza Voll
There’s one accessory Brittany Stone doesn’t leave home without: her headphones. “I’m always listening to music, usually something from the ‘90s,” she says. “It just makes your day better, especially in the morning when you don’t really want to get up and take class.” Her playlist is full of “good walking music”—upbeat songs that get her moving and motivated. The rest of her street style is characterized by cozy standbys: T-shirts and jeans, white sweaters, overalls and her favorite shoes, Dr. Martens. “They’re basically my staple,” she says. “I have three pairs. I wear them all the time, especially in the winter.”
In dancewear, Stone’s priority is seeing her lines. “My style in the studio is very simple, very classic. I almost always wear pink tights,” she says. For essentials like toe pads and tights, she turns to Discount Dance Supply: “A lot of times the girls in the company will coordinate when we need stuff and make a big order, because the shipping’s cheaper.” Outside the studio, too, Stone notes, shopping is a great way to bond with new friends—something she’s been doing a lot of since transitioning from Boston Ballet to The Washington Ballet last fall. “Everyone in the company is so nice and welcoming. It’s been really good,” she says.
Leather jacket: “I got it at a secondhand store in Connecticut, where I’m from. I love vintage shopping.”
Urban Outfitters jeans: “I love high-waisted things. I think they’re really flattering.”
Dr. Martens: “They make everything look cooler than it is. The red ones are my classic ones; they were my first pair.”
Discount Dance Supply leotard: “It had a liner in it, but I cut it out because it was a little too hot. It’s a great color and a great line, I think.”
RubiaWear legwarmers: These were designed by Boston Ballet principal Ashley Ellis. “She’s always been an inspiration to me; her dancing is so beautiful.”
Bloch Inc. slippers: “I used to wear leather shoes, but I think you can feel the floor better with the canvas. I’m hardly ever in flat shoes—just sometimes for barre.”
What is Céline Cassone’s favorite thing to buy? Cowboy boots, to add to her growing collection. “I’m just crazy with boots,” the Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal dancer says. “Always the same style, some short and some longer.” It’s also the one part of her outfit where you might find a pop of color, as most of her wardrobe is black and gray. She has boots in pink and purple, as well as more neutral shades of black, brown and white. “I’m looking for a nice red,” she says. She tends to do most of her shopping when the company is on tour. BJM travels five or six months a year, and Cassone has been everywhere from New York City to Israel to Italy.
In the studio, she’s never without her bright-green, peanut-shaped exercise ball, which she uses to work on her abdominals. “You can do Pilates exercises with that,” she says. “It’s super-light and it’s always with me.” She’ll even use it as a pillow on the bus. Cassone favors long, loose layers and fun patterns in her dancewear—but she makes sure to keep her look practical, especially if she needs to dance on pointe. “For center, I want to see my legs and I want to see my feet,” she says.
COS top: “I bought it in Los Angeles.” Cassone rarely shops at home in Montreal.
Levi’s jeans: “I always wear jeans, never dresses.”
Boots: “I bought them in Guadalajara, Mexico. We were on tour, and they had so many boots. I bought five pairs because it’s so cheap there.”
Lululemon top: “I’m a crazy Lululemon fan. I like that it can be for dance but also for the street.”
Wear Moi legwarmers: “I like flashy colors in the studio.”
Socks: These were made by Daniil Simkin’s mother, and given to all the dancers during the premiere of his INTENSIO project, which Cassone danced in.
Don’t expect to catch Simone Messmer wearing a leotard—at least, not for company class. “Ballet class is for me,” she says. “It happens every day, so it turns into a major part of how you set yourself up for the day and how you’re feeling. I think it’s really important to take control of that.” In class, the Miami City Ballet principal prefers comfortable separates with clean lines and long sleeves. When it’s time for rehearsal, she’ll bring out her leotards and tights. “And I tend to bring the skirt or tutu that’s appropriate for the role. I try to start right away, to get a feeling for it,” she says.
Messmer, who joined MCB in 2015 after dancing with American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet, has been embracing her new home—and adjusting to Miami’s warmer climate. Lately, she gravitates towards looser, flowy pieces and lighter colors. “It’s a process after my New York garb for 13 years,” she says. “Everyone’s like, ‘You’re still all in black,’ and I’m like, ‘It’s all I own!’ ” Still, even amidst change, Messmer has a strong sense of who she is, and her style reflects that. “I think if the clothes are wearing you, it’s the wrong outfit,” she says.
Trench coat: “I’ve had a best friend in New York since I moved there. There were a couple years I lived with him and his parents, and that’s his father’s army trench.”
Sweater: “I have a favorite store in New York’s East Village, Tokio 7, which is a consignment store. It’s a hit-or-miss place, but you can get great stuff.”
Lanvin shoes: “These can dress up easily, especially post-theater.”
RadetskyWear top: “I don’t do patterns. I think they’re distracting in the mirror. This is kind of as far as I go with them.”
Leggings: “When Twyla Tharp did Rabbit and Rogue for ABT, I was part of the group that created it with her. Norma Kamali did the costumes, and these are Norma Kamali leggings.”
Capezio pointe shoes: “They have been making me these pointe shoes for 10 years now.” Because of the humidity, Messmer goes through shoes more quickly in Miami.
When it comes to style, James Whiteside likes to push the limits. “Conforming isn't really my thing," says the American Ballet Theatre principal. He chooses pieces that express his personality, while always leaving room to experiment with new ideas. “I haven't really married myself to one aesthetic, and that gives me a lot of options," he says. “One day I'll be preppy, next day I'll be super-urban, then I can be all tattered and '50s. I like to keep an open mind." In the studio, he sports knits and crop tops, and dyes his hair funky colors when the repertoire allows. It works well for ballets like The Sleeping Beauty (in which he wears a wig) or contemporary work. “But if I'm playing Romeo, this wouldn't make sense," he says. Whiteside is influenced by everything from Japanese anime to '90s boy bands to New York City itself, a place he's always wanted to live. “It's so inspiring walking around the city," he says. “Some people are just killing it. Anybody can buy fashion, but having style is a completely different thing."
Marc Jacobs jacket and bag: “Marc Jacobs is the brand I have the most items of. I'm a huge fan. It's classy and sort of irreverent, and it just looks good."
Sandro turtleneck: “This is from a Parisian fashion house and I really like their stuff. It's feminine and butch all at once."
Club Monaco pants: “I call these my Bing Crosby pants. They're a really retro fit—wide hips and high waist, pleats, slightly cropped. It's a shape I really appreciate."
Crop top: “I adore crop tops for ballet, I think it's hysterical. And I get so sweaty that it's nice to have a little bit of extra air."
Yumiko shorts: “I like to wear light-colored clothes for ballet."
Bubenicek booties: Far right. “These booties are amazing. The name of the color is Avatar, like the movie."
Dores André doesn’t like shopping, but she loves clothes. Her favorite source of style inspiration is the 1964 comedy What a Way to Go!, starring Shirley MacLaine and a closet of over-the-top costumes. “It’s just crazy—she wears, like, thousands and thousands of outfits,” André says. “I wish I owned every single piece in that movie.” When it comes to her own personal style, “I’d say it’s a little like Natalie Wood meets Pussy Riot,” she says. Black is an easy go-to, but when she has time she puts together more eclectic, colorful ensembles, and she likes a bit of punk edge. In the studio, André dresses for the work she’s rehearsing. “I don’t like wearing pink tights in general, but if I’m doing a classical piece I’ll wear them,” she says. “Or if it’s a little more contemporary, I’ll wear shorts instead of a skirt.” She looks for pieces that are flattering (long-sleeved leos are one favorite), while still allowing her to dance her best. “You have to look good, but also make it so you can look good dancing,” she says.
Yumiko unitard: “Yumikos are the best. This one’s, like, 10 years old—they’re so sturdy.”
ASOS jacket: “I like big sweaters and pants before class, and then I usually take them off quite fast.”
Freed of London pointe shoes, Heart maker: “I love that I wear Hearts.” André typically puts on her pointe shoes for center. If it’s a new pair, she’ll wear them at the end of barre.
C/MEO Collective kimono: “It’s an Australian brand. I own many things from them. I like how their clothes can be flowy but also very structured, and the materials are a little thicker.”
T-shirt: “This was a present from a friend, and I made it a crop top. It’s from the planetarium in Puerto Rico.”
Jeans: “I got these at a vintage store in San Francisco called Afterlife—best name for a vintage store.”
Hoop earrings are a trademark for Melissa Anduiza. “They remind me of my Cuban side,” she says. The Complexions Contemporary Ballet dancer draws inspiration from the bright colors and warm climate of her Miami hometown, and her Cuban and Filipino heritage. “I have a white pantsuit that I rock every once in a while—I feel like I’m part of ‘Miami Vice’ or something,” she says. “And I like that islandy feel in the summertime. Whenever I go home, I’m always in a romper or a sundress.” Anduiza prefers a casual yet polished look and gets ideas from fashion icons like blogger Marianna Hewitt, whom she follows on social media. “I like to dress kind of edgy, but classy at the same time,” she says. In the studio, the company’s contemporary rep calls for pieces that show off her lines. “At Complexions, we always wear things that are fitted to the body. Just our warm-ups are loose,” Anduiza says. She’ll often balance basic shorts with an unusual top to add flair for class or rehearsal. “I dress to make myself look great,” she says. “It’s comfortable, but always a clean look.”
Blazer: “I ordered it from Wish, the fashion app. They have a bunch of stuff that I don’t usually see in the stores.”
Busch Gardens T-shirt: “My brother is an artist and he used to wear this when he painted. I stole it from him and cut it off at the shoulders. It has a huge white tiger on the front, and I just thought it was beautiful.”
Forever 21 leggings: “I think you can never go wrong with a pair of black leggings and some kind of cute top.”
KD New York shirt and legwarmers: “I recently modeled in a photo shoot for KD, and they gave me these as a gift.”
Shorts: “At Complexions, everyone’s always wearing black shorts. We don’t even really wear tights.”
Freed of London pointe shoes, Crown maker: “I put them on at barre because I want them to feel like my own feet. I keep them on for center for a little bit, and then I’ll take them off for jumps to give my feet a break.”