Broadway Dress Code: What to Wear to a Broadway Show
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What is the Broadway Dress Code?
What can I wear to a Broadway show?
The simple answer is anything. Most theatres no longer have dress codes, so it doesn't matter what you wear. As long as you have a ticket for your performance, you'll be allowed into the venue. Both formal and informal clothing is accepted.
From casual t-shirts, jeans and flip-flops to a cocktail dress or tuxedo, the spectrum of audience style is so broad that there is no specific dress code. However, for special performances, including first previews, opening nights and gala nights, it may be worth polishing your dress shoes and ironing a shirt for an effortless "smart-casual" outfit.
If going to the theatre is a special occasion rather than a regular occurrence, you may want to dress up in a formal outfit and shoes. Overall, it’s best to be in an outfit you feel comfortable in, though — you don’t want to spend a few hours sitting down with blistered feet.
Are You Seeing a Matinee or Evening Show?
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Do certain shows require certain outfits?
Again, you can wear anything you want to a show. There are some productions in which you may want to consider if your outfit could impede on the full experience. For example, if you're seeing an immersive show in New York, you may want to wear clothes that you can move in. Some immersive shows even encourage you to dress for a certain theme or time period to feel fully part of the atmosphere. That said, it can even be fun to wear a show-inspired outfit to a non-immersive show; for example, wearing a pink or black dress when seeing Wicked to emulate Glinda or Elphaba.
Certain venues also have specific, long-standing traditions for dress, even though there's no explicit dress code. At the Metropolitan Opera, for example, formalwear has always been the standard and continues to be. Conversely, if you're going to a small venue or especially an outdoor performance, a casual outfit is usually best. You don't want to get a fancy outfit muddy or wet! Use your judgment.
What Time of Year Are You Attending the Show?
How Dressed Up Should You Get?
Ladies’ Dress Code
I love dressing up a bit, even if it’s a matinee. I treat going to the theater like a date—I want to feel good about my outfit. My default ensemble always includes layers but varies depending on what time of year it is.
My biggest tip is always have a
If it’s summer, I always wear a dress (nothing too short—you aren’t going to the club). You can wear sandals, heels, chic flats, or even sneakers if they’re fashionable enough and you’re heading to a matinee. I’ve even linked a few of my favorites below to help you out. My main advice would be to make sure your shoes are comfortable.
Just don’t wear filthy athletic shoes, and for the love of God, don’t wear leggings! It’s a big pet peeve of mine seeing girls show up to the theater in them. Leggings are not pants, ladies!
If it’s cold out, I’ll typically wear some dark skinny jeans and a turtleneck with booties to matinees. For evening performances I’m fond of wearing a dress with tights and high black boots or wide legged trousers with booties like the ones linked below.
Also, if you know you’ll need to keep an eye on the time, please wear a watch! Nobody likes seeing someone’s screen light up (or god forbid phone ring) during the show.
Apple watches are just as distracting as a phone screen, stick to a classic time piece like the one below in order to keep track of time.
Gentleman’s Dress Code
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a men’s fashion expert. Over the years, I’ve seen men wearing different levels of outfits at the theater.
Please either leave the baseball cap at home or take it off once you’re inside the theater.
If it’s summer, please don’t wear shorts and sandals to the theater—even if it’s 100 degrees out. It annoys me to no end seeing sloppy dressers at the theater, and a lot of the culprits are men.
Also, wear nice pants and a button-up shirt or chic sweater. Or if you want to be a bit more casual, wear a T-shirt and put a jacket over it for an upscale vibe.
Instead of sandals, opt for a pair of classy and clean sneakers or loafers during the summer and a pair of nice boots during the colder months. I’ve even linked a few of my boyfriend’s favorites below to help you visualize what’s appropriate for the theater.
Also, if you’re going to be checking the time during the show, please just wear a watch.
Nobody likes being distracted from the show when their neighbor is checking the time or text messages on their phones.
When in Doubt, Follow These Outfit Rules
- Dress respectfully
- Dress comfortably
- If you wear jeans, make sure they’re a dark wash with no holes
- Don’t wear any hats or hairstyles that may ruin the view of the person behind you
- Avoid wearing too much perfume (some people are allergic)
- Bring an extra layer to combat the aggressive air conditioning
Broadway Dress Code Exceptions
If you’re lucky enough to get tickets to a special performance like opening night, a gala or even The Tony Awards expect a different dress code.
Most events will include a dress code description with the tickets. You’ll absolutely want to avoid wearing casual attire.
The Tony Awards
When I went to The Tony Awards for the first time, I went all out in a dramatic vintage cocktail dress with heels and an evening bag. The second-year I attended I wore this feathery number below.
A lot of women, especially nominees, will wear full-on gowns. The choice is yours depending on what you have in your closet.
Men should absolutely rent a tux. This isn’t the time to look underdressed.
I always default to heels and a cocktail dress that’s unique but not too over the top. If it’s wintertime, I’ve worn chic jumpsuits and long-sleeved dresses without looking out of place.
Gentleman can get away with a suit or skinny dress pants paired with a nice top and sports jacket.
Galas and Special Performances
I enjoy thinking of these events as opportunities to wear more sparkle than I would on ordinary nights. My last gala outfit was a chic black jumpsuit with heels and a sparkly clutch.
Ladies, when in doubt, always default to heels and a little black dress (just not too short).
Men, you have it easy—just wear a nice suit and you’re set.
Even though there isn’t a set dress code on Broadway it’s important to arrive put together.
A Broadway show is a unique treat for most, so make it a night you won’t forget.
Just writing this, I’m getting antsy for my next chance to head to the theater. Dressing up and going to a show may be my all-time favorite way to spend an evening.
To me, there’s truly nothing like the magic of sitting in an audience and being transported by the actors.
Just remember, fashionably late doesn’t exist in the theater. So put on your Sunday clothes (Hello, Dolly, anyone?) and get to the theater on time.