We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what’s “you”? These are some of the questions we’re putting to prominent figures in our column “How I Shop.”
“Fashion and ballet actually have a lot of crossover because, well…,” says New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck — because the children’s book author (of the “Katerina Ballerina” series), documentary star and producer (“Ballet Now” on Hulu) and Jennifer Garner‘s favorite dance partner is an example of that very intersection.
After a brief pause, she continues: “I’m lucky enough to be very good friends with Valentino.” (To be clear, she means avid ballet fan Mr. Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani himself.) “He’s always talking about the movement of the fabric and how it’s so amazing to see fashion dresses in movement. A model can walk and move, but to see [fabric] also in fluid movement when you’re dancing is a beautiful thing. There really are a lot of similarities there.”
Adding to her multi-hyphenate status, Peck — who originated the role of Marie in The Kennedy Center’s production of “Little Dancer,” pirouetted the Kennedy Honors twice (with the Obamas in the audience) and is the first-ever woman to be asked to curate The Music Center’s “BalletNow” program — also has a foot, so to speak, in the fashion category, thanks to an ongoing collaboration with Los Angeles-based Stateside of ballet-inspired athleisure and a self-named line of leotards, dresses and separates with Body Wrappers. But she’s not asking her friend Valentino for advice or pointers.
“We don’t really talk about anything like that,” says Peck. “We just have fun and try not to talk too much about work.”
The two did first meet at a work event in 2012, when Valentino custom-designed the costumes for the annual New York City Ballet gala. Paying homage to George Balanchine, the evening shared three roles amongst eight lead dancers, with Peck as the centerpiece, performing the famed choreographer’s “Rubies” in the designer’s signature hue.
“I got to be the [only] one in red, so I felt like I was standing out, that’s for sure,” says Peck. “That definitely made me feel confident, empowered and just beautiful.”
Interestingly, their initial bonding moment involved an instance when fashion and ballet costume did not converge, when she had a lesson to impart to the legendary designer — via a third party messenger, at least: Mr. Valentino was fitting and adjusting delicate straps for another dancer’s bodice, while attempting to forgo the compressive, flesh-colored panel that usually provides dancers with coverage and support needed for complex movements on stage; for Peck’s sweetheart neckline, he originally imagined it as strapless, but the company’s costume team quietly augmented the bodice with illusion panels, per her request.
“I just saved that for the costume person to have to tell his people,” says Peck, with a little laugh. “I had to have something [supportive] or people are going to get more of a show than they want to.”
But the two clearly hit it off from the first fitting, and fast-forward to 2019, Valentino and Peck walked the Tony Awards red carpet together. The muse wore the retired designer’s namesake brand, now designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli and owned by Qatar-based Mayhoola for Investments. (Peck is also also a regular guest on Valentino’s yacht, NBD.)
These days, Peck has her schedule stacked. She recently shared a bill with Billy Porter at the opening celebration of the Rhimes Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (named for the “Bridgerton” and “Inventing Anna” producer) and guest-starred in the return of “Josh Groban’s Great Big Radio City Show” earlier this month. Still, she gamely discussed walking the red carpet with Valentino, being the best marketing tool for her own balleisure collections and finally shopping at her favorite store after nearly two years with Fashionista — read on for the highlights from that conversation.
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“My number one most favorite memory was obviously when I got to walk the red carpet in [Maison] Valentino with him. That was very special to me. I remember they sent me five dresses and I knew instantly it was this black tulle one. It just felt perfect because the tulle resembled the tulle that we use in ballet, with a very nice V-neck front and tulle on the shoulders.
“I remember when I put it on — I forget exactly the words, but he was like, ‘Have you ever worn a more gorgeous dress than this?’ He’s always talked about how he loves making things to make you feel even more beautiful and definitely, whenever I wear a Valentino, that’s how I feel. He loves women so much and just wants them to feel their best. He always talks about watching old movies and being so inspired by the old dance films and the big costumes.
“I’m in a leotard more than I’m in street clothes. I’m probably in street clothes like two hours of the day. So for Tiler Peck Designs, we need to make leotards that make us feel beautiful and comfortable and not having to pull down things. This fit is smart because I know where I’m normally tugging on the fabric. I thought, ‘Nobody knows how to make something like that more than somebody who’s in it all day long.’ I started with three leotards, and now I don’t even know how many we have — it has to be like 100-something. But it’s just a way for us to express our personality, just like people do for street clothes.
“Fashion people call leotards ‘bodysuits,’ which cracks me up because I’m like, ‘Really? You’re just wearing a leotard.’ A lot of the ones that I make are black with long sleeves, and I put them on with jeans all the time and wear them out. That’s the way that I get to feel like myself, being a ballerina. But also, it’s really cute when you put them on with jeans and add a pair of heels. People are like, ‘Oh my god, where’d you get that bodysuit?’ And I’m like, ‘Actually, it’s one of my leotards that I wear for ballet.”
“I love a high heel, honestly. Shoes are definitely my weakness. I love the Christian Louboutin heel. The last pair that I bought was a gift, actually — the tan ones. I’ve always wanted tan ones because they just go with everything, but I do wear the silver heels a lot because I love to add a pop of color whenever I can.
“I like to go into the store to shop. I’m not an online shopper because I really need to try something on. I love Aritzia. My favorite brand at Aritzia is the Wilfred line. It feels like it’s been a year since I’ve been there. [I go in and] feel like I’m buying the whole store because I don’t really shop that much. I really do keep my clothes and wear them a lot, and and I’m just not one to shop all the time. But when I do shop, I shop.
“The last time I went to Aritzia was in California, in July 2021 — so it was a long time ago — but my sister was laughing, like, ‘I think you just bought the entire store.’ It was just one bag, but it was a full bag. Or maybe two bags. Like, it felt like two years worth of no shopping during COVID.
“Valentino loves anything I wear from Aritzia and Wilfred. He always thinks it’s super fancy. If only he knew.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.