How To Dress For A Play

Dress for a play

How To Dress For A Play | Darling Magazine

Recently I spent a few glorious days in my most favorite place and to the rest of the world, the well-known capital of Broadway productions, New York, New York. There is something about that glorious city that electrifies my soul; once I’m there, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Although I did not have the pleasure of seeing a play this time around, being there reminded me of how special the theater is, and as a theater lover and appreciator, sometimes it’s hard to decide what’s appropriate to wear to a playhouse.

Call The Theater
Most theaters do not have a dress code, but it might be a good idea to call ahead, just to make sure. The last thing we want would be getting turned down at the door because of a poor shoe choice. Tsk-tsk.

Matinee vs. Evening
For a matinee show, it is much more acceptable to be slightly casual. I might get hassled for saying denim at the theater is apropos, but for a day-time showing, choosing a black or a very dark blue wash of denim with a nice top and heels can be considered. Also for an early show, most people have plans afterwards, thus keeping your look more towards the evening side will be beneficial to both the actors and your happy hour patrons.

For an evening look (especially an opening night show), you always want to dress up. Not only is it fun, but it’s also highly respected. A dress, skirt or trouser pant with a cute patterned blouse is always great. Heels are a must, but be careful of a slippery floor when trying to find your seat.

And always remember a jacket, for those air-conditioned places are never easy to forecast.

Don’t Block The Spotlight
Yes, hats are super cute and most of the time complete an outfit, but in consideration of others, keep your hats at home. Nothing is worse than not being able to see the production you paid for.

Even though New York is the homeland of dramatic productions, don’t let that stop you from seeing anything and everything at your local playhouse. Any tiny theater can transform into a magical place and allow you to feel transported. We encourage you to explore the arts and when you do, as they say in the entertainment world, “break a leg!”

Image via What I’d Wear


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Cathleen is a writer, stylist and works for one of the leading fast fashion companies in the world. Based in Los Angeles, she and her husband enjoy quality time with friends, traveling and random dance parties. Find more of her work at cathleensimmons.com.

7 COMMENTS
  • Bryan April 29, 2017

    thanks for sharing this.

  • Elodie December 20, 2016

    You forgot the most important thing: be comfortable!!

    You’re going to be sitting in the same seat for quite some time and the last thing you want is a piece of clothing digging into you or shifting uncomfortably into places it shouldn’t venture. You want all your attention to be on the stage, not that cut off tag that won’t stop scratching you!

    I always try to choose a soft, breathable material with as few seams as possible: A nice, non-rigid dress for example, immediately eliminates the trouble of a pant or skirt waistband falling down to expose your ‘plumber’s crack’ or riding up to dig into your ribs while you sit. A comfortable bra is a must! Add soft tights and a cute cardigan to cover your shoulders in case of over-zealous theatre air-conditioning and you’re nearly set… The only other thing I never go to the theatre without, is a nice, wide pashmina scarf. They come in so many beautiful patterns and can dress up any outfit while keeping your neck warm outside, then taken off and draped over your legs or shoulders during the show if you need a little extra warmth!!
    Comfort is so so so so so so so much more important than looking good, but there’s no reason you can’t have both!

  • Colleen November 18, 2016

    Thanks for this. This is good information to have.

  • Elsa October 26, 2014

    I love your striped shirt!! I’m desperately looking for one like this, could you tell me where it is from
    Thank you!

  • Danielle August 7, 2013

    I’m from NYC too, and I was going to make the same point as Melinda! My family loves the theater and has always instilled in me that dressing up is a must whenever you go. It just makes sense! Unfortunately, people just don’t seem to do that anymore. A few months ago, I was at a show sitting next to a guy wearing khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. It kind of broke my heart! But, as Melinda said, there is always Lincoln Center if you need your dose of classy theater dressers!

    • Anonymous March 30, 2014

      Were you in Hawaii or maybe that guy was from Hawaii? In Hawaii, aloha attire IS considered formal wear

  • Melinda's Musings July 19, 2013

    I love dressing up for the theater. Just a note though, I live in NYC and Broadway shows have become very casual. I don’t agree with wearing jeans to an evening show, but many theater-goers do. If you are attending the Metropolitan Opera, the Philharmonic, or the Ballet however, you can get much more dressed up! Definitely glam it up in a sophisticated way for those three. Jeans are not seen at Lincoln Center, but long black dresses and sequins are!

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