It's True: This Ballerina Prefers Jeans to Leggings

>Ballet and fashion have historically had a strong connection, and recently, ballerina style has been holding strong across high-fashion runways and fast-fashion stores alike. But no one's a better authority on how to actually dress like a ballerina better than someone who walks (or pirouettes or bourrées…) the walk. Enter American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Isabella Boylston.

>This week, the dancer is gearing up to kick off her latest major project, the inaugural Ballet Sun Valley, a festival for which Boylston serves as creative director and has recruited a team of major talent, including choreographer Gemma Bond and costumers Reid and Harriet. But ahead of the festival’s kick-off tomorrow, the ballerina and major fashion fan filled us in on what a professional ballerina really wears—and what she doesn't.

I’ve always liked and had a sense of fashion. Even when I was a little kid—I lived in Sun Valley, Idaho, this little ski town—and my parents let me wear whatever. One day in the middle of winter, I went to school wearing a bathing suit, an inflatable tire around my waist, and no winter coat. The tire was basically subbing in for a tutu at that point.

When I was 15, my mom got me a subscription to Vogue. I had no money when I first moved to New York and joined American Ballet Theatre, so I would shop at thrift stores and put together some pretty out-there, wild outfits. I would wear bright-blue high-heeled pumps with a zebra-print dress from H&M and then tons of beads. I would also pretty much wear Converse with anything, like a short skirt or a fancy dress. Well, I still wear Converse.

When I became more successful, I started investing in nicer stuff. The first really expensive thing that I ever got was a Chanel bag—just the classic, quilted Chanel bag with gold hardware. I saved up all my overtime from the Met season—which is when we do eight shows a week—and I bought that bag and wore it every day for years. I still have it.

I think it’s great if people are inspired by the ballet aesthetic. Personally, I probably wouldn’t wear tulle or anything that I felt too much resembled a ballet costume, and I would prefer jeans over leggings if I’m stepping out onto the street. In my real life, I stay away from things that look like ballet attire. For years, I wouldn’t wear anything pink because I felt like it was too much of a cliché. But now I wear pink again. I don’t really care.

Dancers, because we spend so much time in front of the mirror, we are super aware of how certain clothes flatter our bodies. I dress more for comfort because I have to take care of my body, and a lot of times I’ll be dealing with injuries, so I wear Nike sneakers a lot with shorts or a short dress. I think ballerinas in general really like to show their bodies, so I wear a lot of short hemlines. And I’ll totally wear a leotard with some cutoffs or jeans.

When it comes to shopping, I’m good friends with the designers of Cushnie et Ochs—they designed my two wedding dresses—so I usually get one or two of their pieces every season. Right now, I also like Jacquemus, Opening Ceremony, and I just got a bunch of dresses from Réalisation Par. Zara’s good for shoes. The collections turn over so quickly, so you won’t necessarily see everyone wearing the same thing. Recently, I bought these purple satin boots that are really pointy and have a small stiletto heel. I also like & Other Stories—they have really great T-shirts.

>Below, shop from some of Boylston's favorite brands. And if you're not in the area for Ballet Sun Valley this week, check out the ABT performance calendar for more upcoming events.