History in the Making

History in the Making

How to Dress for the Theatre, Style File Friday

Dressing for the ballet or theatre is rather a hot button issue in the recent past. You will see anything from sweatpants to gowns, depending on the show and the audience- where should you fall? If you’ve never attended, I know that it might feel overwhelming or even confusing but I’m here to help! I firmly believe that your wardrobe is an important part of life and can help set the tone for whatever you are doing- the right clothing can help make your theatre experience!
How to Dressfor the Theatre

I find that a lot of people argue that theatre dress codes are elitist and serve as a barrier to people attending. However, I don’t believe that it has to be an expensive or overly elaborate outfit. The clothing we wear does make an impact on how we are feeling and what we experience, and the theatre is no different.

Check the Website and Program Beforehand 

Some theatre and show sites will list a dress code with suggestions of what to wear (and in some cases, what not to wear)! I would always start there- if there is a true dress code (and not just a suggestion) it will be publicised. You will also be able to get an idea of what kind of show it is. What you would wear to We Will Rock You probably isn’t what you would wear to Madame Butterfly. Take a few seconds and get an idea for what to expect!

Plan Ahead 

If you are anything like me, I usually have to head straight home after work, change quickly, and then head straight out to make sure that I have enough time to get to theatre early! Having what I will be wearing picked out and ready to go makes everything easier. You can steam and iron anything ahead of time, make sure it’s weather appropriate (if that is a concern), and check to see if you are actually comfortable in what you are planning to wear! (That goes double for footwear that you might be deciding to try out for the first time- if you’ve got a lot of walking to do, it might not be the best time to try out those new stilettos, blisters and blood could ruin your experience…)

Enjoy the Excuse to Dress Up 

You might have the opportunity to wear the nicer pieces in your wardrobe all of the time, but if you are anything like me, it’s not a daily occurrence! So, when the opportunity comes to maybe wear the dress that mostly lives in your closet or that blouse that is just a little “too much” for work, take it and run with it. I do wear dresses and skirts to work on a daily basis, but usually with flats and very minimal make up- going to the ballet gives me the opportunity to look a little bit nicer, put on actual make up, and throw on some heels! I would argue that everyone needs at least one nice outfit- one that would work for a wedding, or a retirement party, or an evening out. It doesn’t have to be expensive, or even a dress- a suitable blouse and pants (that aren’t jeans or leggings) are perfect!

RWB Princess and the Goblin crowns

The way that I like to think about it is that dancers, actors, musicians, stage crew, costumers, directors, and everyone else involved put their heart and soul into creating a production that you could completely immerse yourself in- putting a little effort into what you are wearing to enjoy it! Dress like you plan to make a night of it and get lost in the theatre.

When is the last time you went to the theatre? 

Until tomorrow,
The Historian!
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15 thoughts on “How to Dress for the Theatre, Style File Friday”

  • I am in Northern California and I have mostly been to community shows (but a few SF shows as well). In our community, I was always the only one to get dressed up to go see a play. I never understood why some people wore sweats to the theater, even if it’s only a show at a school in a small town. Theater is such a great opportunity to go out, have fun and wear something nice!

    • I understand that not everyone has something somewhat formal to wear, but surely everyone must own something that isn’t entirely casual?? The opportunity to get dressed up is quickly fading from life, we have to embrace it! Sweats are never appropriate for the theatre (except in cases on injury) ?

  • I was actually at the theatre last night! I subscribe to one of the theatres in Chicago with my mom, sister, and aunt. I’m with you; I like a good reason to get a little fancied up! And, I’d rather be overdressed than underdressed! 🙂
    PS Love the picture you shared!

    • Aww thank you, haha- when it’s The Princess and the Goblin, you need a crown!! I love having season tickets to the ballet and the theatre, it guarantees that you will have a reason to dress up and get out there! 😀

  • In August we went to see a circus show. Human only, circus show – so lots of trapeze and acrobatics, Pole work, tight rope work. Lots of people in the audience were doing the leggings thing. We so rarely get warm weather here, I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t embrace the opportunity to break out a sun dress.
    I always feel like the performers are making a ton of effort to entertain me. The least I can do is show a bit of respect in return. Turn off my cell phone. Be early to the show. Or at least not late. Take a shower that day and put on clean clothes, that are a step nicer than what I’d wear to the grocery store.

    • That’s exactly it- they don’t just wander onto stage in the sweats and t-shirts that they wear to lounge in, so why are we?? We have a super short summer (2 months), so I don’t understand either why they wouldn’t want to embrace the little bit of time to dress up without insane layering. Respect is a two way street, even when you are “just” in the audience!!

  • We have a subscription to our local musical theatre, so we attend shows at least six times a year (more if the opportunity presents). What we wear depends so much, as you point out, on the show. Recently we attended a matinee of “Million Dollar Quartet,” so my husband was pleased to wear the shirt I got him at Memphis’ Sun Studios. Most of the time, it’s nice blouse and dark jeans for me. Matinees are a more casual crowd here than nighttime performances; that’s when I tend to dress up more.

    • We don’t have a ton of matinees here, but I think that evening performances are the more formal staging and event! I think that a blouse and dark jeans falls into business casual (perfect for the theatre)- it’s when I see ripped jeans, dirty sneakers, and a t-shirt that I start wondering!

  • The last time I went to the theatre was to see Mary Poppins back in December. I know what you mean about how do you dress to go to the theatre! It’s always weird you see people properly dressed up to people in jeans. I went to Les Mis for my 18th birthday with mum followed by afternoon tea at the Ritz so I was all dressed up while watching Les Mis. I didn’t half get some funny looks!

    • Mary Poppins would be so much fun on stage!! I am all for dressing up and enjoying it, especially with a tea after it ? I would rather get looks for being overdressed than underdressed!! The world is sinking into an abyss of casual ?

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