Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller Black Swan catalyzed the popularity of ballet flats, wrap tops, bodysuits, and leg warmers in the 2010s. While ballet style boomed, dance-inspired workout classes offered a body to match. Barre studios sprung up overnight, promising metamorphosis into Odette, Giselle, or Kitri. Though barre classes were even around during Balanchine’s day, the American Council on Exercise credits its 2010s renaissance to Black Swan’s popularity. Soon enough, a subset of pro-anorexia Tumblr blogs posting photos of ballerinas and glamorizing disordered eating began proliferating online. Today as balletcore returns to the zeitgeist so do mounting concerns that the trend will once again inspire unhealthy habits and discriminate against those who don’t already fit the prescribed mold. “Fat, BIPOC, and E.D. recovering babes be safe out there,” Beanie Bowman, a burlesque dancer from Athens, Georgia, wrote on TikTok. “You’re allowed to like [balletcore] too. Don’t let them tell you you’re not.” Bowman recalls the mental toll the last wave of the style took. “I’ve always been a larger person, so when it came around the first time, my skinnier friends would start incorporating it and I couldn’t,” she says. “It didn’t feel good. Being excluded for your body sucks.” Those who remember the trend’s last iteration don’t want history to repeat. For many, that starts with size inclusivity.
Fashion and ballet have long gone hand in hand, and the present day is no exception. Christopher John Rogers, Zac Posen, and Anna Sui have designed costumes in recent years for the New York City Ballet’s annual Fall Fashion Gala, and in 2021 the company itself released a collection with Zara. Between Rodarte’s It girls posing for balletic portraits and Bella Hadid’s shoot at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, tastemakers have endorsed the aesthetic’s return. But it’s not as easy for plus-size people to participate. Monique Black, an influencer from Detroit, decided to don ballet-inspired attire and attend dance classes as a method of self-care. Black opted to incorporate elevated lace-up ballet flats, chiffon circle skirts, ruffled bloomers, and silk hair ribbons into her style. But, frustrated with the trend’s inaccessibility, she began posting her curated looks to TikTok in a series called “Balletcore outfits as a size 20.” “So often these dainty, girly, really sweet styles are reserved for smaller bodies,” she says.