Candy Tong is Complexions Contemporary Ballet's resident fashionista. "I'm known in this company for bringing too big of a suitcase," she says. Tong shares her style tips (and life on the road with Complexions) on her vlog, Candy Coated, and notes that her style is always changing. "I like to switch up my look depending on my mood or where I'm going to be or what city I'm in."
Whether she's working in the studio with Richmond Ballet or on her fashion blog, Felix & Flora, Lauren Archer's sartorial motto is "Fearless, feminine fashion." Archer's interest in fashion began when she was a little girl, and it took off two years ago when she began sharing her day-to-day looks on Instagram (@felixandflora). "I started my blog for fun, but I've been really passionate about creating new looks, finding new inspiration and reaching a new demographic," Archer says. "I want to encourage people to wear what they like and be less conscious of what others might think—at the end of the day, it's just an outfit."
First State Ballet Theatre company dancer Rie Aoki was documenting her fashion choices long before Instagram was around. "When I was 8, I used to dress up my little sister and take pictures of her outfits because I loved styling," she says. Aoki grew up in Japan, and started her own fashion blog in high school before coming to the U.S. to pursue a ballet career. After joining FSBT in 2013, Aoki's pictures of her outfits on Instagram (@rievictoriaaoki) took off. Now with a following of over 10 thousand, Aoki has also started a new style blog.
"I love warmer colors like reds, yellows, oranges and browns," Aoki says. "And I'm all about mixing patterns and textures—if you stick to the same tones, you can wear totally different patterns and it looks fashionable," she explains. "But I don't think there are really rules for fashion. It's 2019. You can wear what you like and try something funky or a little crazy."
Nardia Boodoo has the perfect remedy for the winter blues—a colorful wardrobe. The Washington Ballet company member favors a dressy athleisure style that's as comfortable as it is vibrant. "I love to play with bright sweaters because it's just fun when it gets cold and gloomy out," Boodoo says. In addition to her multicolored style staples, Boodoo counts high-waisted skinny jeans as another part of her off-duty uniform. "I love to pair my Madewell jeans with a long-sleeve crop, a jacket and my Reebok Classics," she says.
In and out of the studio, BalletX's Skyler Lubin pays as much attention to the quality of her clothing as she does the style. "I like brands like Yumiko and Adidas when I'm dancing because they have cute designs, but they hold up well, too," she says. Lubin saves her brighter colors for summer and likes to keep things seasonal with earth tones for fall—muted blues and greens are her go-tos.
"I love Zimmermann, Reformation and Zara," Lubin says of the staple brands in her off-duty wardrobe. "Lately, I've been into secondhand stores because you can get designer clothes for much cheaper. And, I've been using the Poshmark app because I can buy and sell clothes." She adds with a laugh, "I usually spend the money I make, but it's a good trade." Being able to sell items on the app comes in handy, as Lubin enjoys staying on top of fashion trends. "I really like Arielle Charnas from the blog Something Navy, but just scrolling through Instagram is a fun way to get new ideas and see different styles," she says.
San Francisco Ballet soloist WanTing Zhao counts Old Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn and current "it" model Bella Hadid as her major style icons—something which comes across in her own sartorial looks. Choosing classic pieces with on-trend elements (like her black turtleneck dress with its lace-up sleeves), Zhao also has an eye for detail, adding pops of bold color and accessorizing with delicate hoop earrings. "I usually wear turtlenecks, high-waisted jeans and sneakers," Zhao says of her off-duty style. "It's chic and comfy."
That description carries over to her studio look, too, which Zhao says is always a leotard with pink tights. "I usually wear my hair in a low bun with either a side or center part, and I like to wear a little bit of foundation, eyeliner and mascara—all from Tom Ford," she says.
New York City Ballet's Miriam Miller prefers a pared-down look when she's not onstage or on the runway. The corps member and DNA Management model has established her own off-duty uniform, often made up of various items from her travels. "When we're on tour, I'll get something at a consignment shop just to have a little memory of being in a new city," Miller says, adding that she buys most of her clothes from consignment and thrift stores. Though she doesn't stick to any particular brands, Miller does have a few favorite styles, like her high-waisted bell-bottoms. "I like the way the relaxed flare looks," she explains, "plus, they're more comfortable than skinny jeans after a show. And color-wise, I like neutrals with an accessory pop of light pink or purple or blue."
"I'm all about comfort and easy clothing because I'm always on the go," Jasmine Perry says. But that doesn't keep the Los Angeles Ballet company dancer from looking stylish. Favoring dresses and athleisure wear, Perry also prefers classic lines and neutral colors like white, black, navy and gray, which are easy to mix and match. The finishing touch: a pair of sneakers from her extensive collection. "I had ankle surgery four or five years ago, so I need a good walking shoe," she explains. "I have a ton of Nikes and running sneakers from Brooks for when I've had a long day at work and need something that feels like clouds on my feet."
But in the studio, you won't find any of the yoga pants or loose-fitting T-shirts she loves so much. "I don't actually have that much attire for layering," Perry says of her strictly leotards-and-tights class style. "It doesn't get that cold here," she explains. "I have a few legwarmers and things for when I'm rehabbing an injury, but they're not part of my daily attire."
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Dorothée Gilbert doesn't subscribe to a single sartorial look. "I love to wear a beautiful dress or something very sophisticated for a night out or a party after a show," the Paris Opéra Ballet étoile explains during a tour to New York City. "But for a casual day, I have more of a boyish style, like jeans with a beautiful jacket." Gilbert likes to pair online finds with pieces she collects while traveling or shopping at Parisian vintage stores.
She even finds inspiration from designers that she works with through POB, like Balmain's Olivier Rousteing, who created costumes this past spring for Sébastien Bertaud's new work, Renaissance. "We wore these beautiful jackets with diamonds and pearls for the ballet," Gilbert says. "But I also love Olivier's everyday designs."
Gilbert's twist on classic style translates to her studio look as well, where she adds fun warm-ups to her traditional rehearsal wear. "I prefer leotards—or tunics, as we call them in French—because they're easier for partnering," she says. Another staple? Her black knit pants with a multicolored print down the right leg. "I always wear them before a performance, especially on tour."
Photo by Kyle Froman
Fabrice Calmels has his studio look down to a science: a warm vest, traditional ballet tights, his favorite Lululemon yoga pants and—most importantly—the piece he calls his "accent T-shirt," which acts as the focal point. "I don't like anything too flashy," the Joffrey Ballet dancer says, "but I will always have an accent T-shirt, and it's always a cartoon character that is really well known." His collection of shirts features Pokémon, Transformers and Lilo & Stitch, among others.
Accents play a role in his streetwear, too. "It depends where the accent color is," he says. "If I pick whiter shoes, then I try to keep my jeans and my upper body a little bit darker, plain. If it's my shirt, then my shoes are going to be much more simple." Calmels gets some of his ideas about fashion from friends he's made in the modeling world. After participating in a Versace campaign in Chicago, he signed with IMG Models. He favors an urban vibe—well-cut leather jackets, classic T-shirts, jeans and sneakers. But even with staple pieces, he has an eye for quality and detail. "I'm looking for cool, slightly different, but still simple," he says. "Not just a plain T-shirt you can find anywhere."
Photo by Quinn Wharton
For Zhong-Jing Fang, being an artist extends beyond the studio or stage. "Being a ballerina is such a creative thing, and that gives me permission to be creative in my own life," says the American Ballet Theatre corps member, who's known for her collection of whimsical hats. She discovered her love of hats a few years ago while recovering from an ankle injury, when she came across a shop full of them. "I used to go there and try different hats on and the designer would tell me, 'This hat was inspired by Audrey Hepburn,' or 'This was inspired by Liza Minnelli,' " she says. "It gave me an idea that hats can capture some spirits." She enjoys the process of browsing vintage stores and boutiques and crafting her own outfits.
In rehearsal, Fang's look varies depending on her mood and the repertoire, but she especially loves practice tutus, leotards with lace and mesh detailing, and French brands like Chacott. "I want to look classic and clean because ballet is such a sculpting art—everything is about lines and sculptures," she says. In or out of the studio, fashion is an opportunity to show her individuality. "I think it's very encouraging for ballerinas to think outside of their box," she says. "It's so inspiring because everyone has different style."
"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."