Studio to Street: NYCB’s Gilbert Bolden III on His Ever-Evolving Sense of Style

June 8, 2023

For Gilbert Bolden III, fashion is more than just a form of expression; it’s also become an opportunity for him to delve into the design world. “During [the pandemic] lockdown, I started doing drag, so I began sewing with the intention of making outfits for my drag persona, Ivy Profen,” says the New York City Ballet corps member. He eventually decided to create his own high-fashion–inspired looks—most recently, a white satin corset top, wide-leg pants, and a veiled hat for NYCB’s 2023 spring gala. “The oversized hat is very Schiaparelli 2021 runway, but my inspiration for the outfit was the principal ballerina in Balanchine’s La Valse, with costumes by Karinska,” he shares. “It’s fun taking a classic costume and making it more accessible.”

Red carpet looks aside, Bolden’s day-to-day style depends on his mood. “There are days when I try to meld my masculinity and femininity together, but other days when I pull up to work in baggy pants, a hoodie, glasses on, and I’m just a pile of clothing,” he says. But ultimately, Bolden sees his style choices as an authentic representation of himself. “As I’ve grown older, I’ve slowly developed what I think is my personal style—but it is ever-changing.”

Gilbert Bolden III wears a burgundy, long-sleeved biketard and tan ballet slippers. He poses in a large dance studio with windows near the ceiling. He lunges to the right on his right leg, stretching his arms into a first arabesque line and pointing his left foot in tendu derriere.
Gilbert Bolden III. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe.

In the studio, Bolden takes a similar approach, apart from two items he’s never without: his mini panda backpack and his custom-leather Bloch shoes. “I love pandas and, for a while, all of the gifts I was getting were panda plushies and things. I got this little panda backpack in maybe 2016, and I’ll bring him along to class and rehearsals with me,” he says. Finding the right shoe was more complicated. Dissatisfied with canvas slippers, he worked with the company’s shoe manager to develop a customized leather pair. “I took a lot of inspiration from NYCB principal Sara Mearns’ pointe shoe—how they’re cut and how they’re shaped on the foot when it’s pointed or on pointe.” The only time Bolden switches out his flats is when he’s taking pointe class. “I started in 2017,” says Bolden, who wears Bloch European Balance pointe shoes. “It really helps me with my day-to-day dancing, because there are all of those little muscles that you need for pointe shoes that aren’t as easily accessed on flat.”

The Details—Street

  • Gilbert Bolden III walks along a grassy knoll outdoors in New York City on a sunny day. He wears a black blazer, large white T-shirt, black mini-skirt, and high-top white boots with black laces and chunky soles. He looks over his right shoulder and carries a hot-pink bag in his left hans. A large high-rise building looms in the background.
  • Gilbert Bolden III walks down a white marble stairway outdoors in New York City on a sunny day. He wears a black blazer, large white T-Shirt, and black mini-skirt. Wearing sunglasses, he looks down as he walks down the stairs, keeping his arms in close and carrying a hot pink bag in his right hand.

Jacket: “I bought this suit jacket for our first fall gala coming back from the pandemic, but it didn’t work out.”

T-shirt: “I’m really into oversized right now. This is a XXL white T-shirt that I got for $8 at Target.”

Uniqlo skirt: “This sat in my drawer for about a year before I finally started wearing it,” Bolden recalls. “One day I paired it with the suit jacket and I fell in love with it.”

Calvin Klein boots: “My friend who works in fashion got these samples through work and gave them to me. They’ve been my faves since.”

Telfar bag: “When I wear an all-black-and-white outfit, the pink is a nice pop, but it’s not an outrageous pattern or something that’s hard to style,” Bolden says.

Sunglasses: “These are my Iron Man sunglasses that I found on Amazon. People don’t always know what they’re from, but when they do recognize it, I feel like it’s a little inside joke between us.”

The Details—Studio

  • Gilbert Bolden III is shown from the thighs up in a portrait. He poses, curling his right arm around his ribcage and curving his left arm above his head, looking down over his right shoulder. He wears a burgundy, long-sleeved biketard unzipped at the top to show some of his chest.
  • In a large dance studio, Gilbert Bolden III wears a burgundy, long-sleeved biketard with black warm-up pants, black socks and black leather ballet slippers. He poses at the barre in an attitude derriere in croisé with his left leg raised and left hand on the barre.
  • Gilbert Bolden III wears a burgundy, long-sleeved biketard and tan ballet slippers. He poses in a large dance studio with windows near the ceiling. He pops his right foot up onto demi-pointe while lunging his left leg out, and stretches his right arm high, looking up towards his hand, and his left arm low and out the side.

Elevé biketard: “I got this during my third year at School of American Ballet. I was collecting things that weren’t just the usual white shirt and black tights that I could eventually wear in a company space.”

Sweatpants: “I picked these up at Marshalls during the pandemic. They’re my favorite pair of sweatpants—there are actually two giant holes on one side because I wear them almost every day.”

Bloch slippers: Bolden’s leather shoes, based on Bloch’s Pump design, have customized split soles. “The original shape has a teardrop sole on the front pad, but they switched it out for what almost looks like a crescent-moon shape cut out of [the bottom of] it. The way my toes are, it just fits perfectly.”

Gilbert Bolden III is shown from the knees down, tugging on his right ballet slipper with both hands as he points his right foot. The other black, leather slipper lays on the floor. Against the wall is a white and clear water bottle, phone, a slumped over panda backpack, black headphones and white ankle bootie slippers. Bolden III wears a burgundy top, black tights and black socks.
Bolden III’s custom Bloch slippers, panda backpack and booties. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe/

Panda backpack: “It literally only carries my phone, one pair of shoes, and a ChapStick—it’s so small, I can’t even fit both straps on my back.”