Broadway Dress Code: What to Wear to a Broadway Show
Perfect Broadway Outfits for Men and Women
I could simply tell you that a perfect outfit for a “Broadway Show” and Off Broadway is anything from smart casual to dressy casual. However, even smart or dressy casual could mean many different things.
I have seen several shows and I have always felt the need to be dressed up for the occasion. Usually a broadway show is preceded by a nice dinner or lunch and maybe followed by a fun dessert. Like me if you like dressing up and making a special evening out of a Broadway night then keep reading…
Nowadays going to a broadway show may also include Off broadway Let choosing a show to see, and getting your Broadway tickets be the hardest part of enjoying the whole experience. Don’t let dressing up for the show be a tricky decision. You want to make a good impression in front of friends and family and maybe the crowd, but what's the perfect outfit for a Broadway show?
I think a lot of you have probably noticed by now that I have massive love for all things creative especially theater. I have seen everything from a stunning live performance at Shakespeares Globe by banks of river Thames in London to Hamilton in Los Angeles to Cirque du soleil in Vegas and many more.
I’ve easily seen many Broadway shows in the US, London and India.
So you can probably imagine how many audience members’ “Broadway outfits” I’ve seen over the years.
Deciding what to wear to the theatre can seem daunting — you want to strike a balance between sophisticated and practical. If you're struggling to pick out your upcoming theatre outfit from your wardrobe, we've got great advice on what (and what not) to wear to a show. Luckily, nowadays people wear all types of clothing to the theatre, so the cardinal rule is: If you feel great in whatever you're wearing, it's probably a perfect fit.
I love checking out the audience’s fashion and outfit choices. People watching always makes for great fun before the show and at intermission. Considering theater-going used to be a formal affair, some of the outfits people think are appropriate are shocking.
Here’s my advice on how to dress appropriately for a night at the theater.
What is the Broadway Dress Code?
Broadway dress code or outfits can range anywhere from smart casual to dressy semi formals. Broadway shows don’t have a specific dress code nowadays. Some people go in jeans and others make a special night of it and dress up.
As long as you’ve got a ticket they’ll let you in the door. But that doesn’t mean you should show up looking like you’ve just rolled out of bed.
Below are some things to consider when planning your outfit.
What can I wear to a Broadway show?
The simple answer is anything. Most theaters 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?
Half the fun of going to a Broadway show is picking out the perfect outfit. Depending on what time of day you’re attending, the dress code shifts a bit.
If you’re catching a matinee (afternoon) performance, the audience is more casual. People still dress nicely for matinees, but it’s mostly families and people visiting the city on day trips.
Evening performances attract a more upscale audience. Most people will either have dinner plans before or after the show, so they are more put together compared to the matinee crowd.
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 white or black dress when seeing Van Gogh.
What Time of Year Are You Attending the Show?
Always dress for the weather. It’s great to be fashionable, but your outfit also needs to be functional.
I’ve made this mistake too many times and ended up watching shows with soaking wet shoes, or even freezing because I forgot that Broadway theaters are arctic cold even during the summer when the city is sweltering everywhere else.
If the weather is terrible, it’s okay to dress down a bit in favor of being prepared for the weather.
How Dressed Up Should You Get?
Use your judgment based on the performance time that you’ve selected.
I think a safe general way of looking at a theater dress code is to dress business casual when in doubt. The last thing you want to do is look underdressed.
Ladies’ Broadway Dress Code
I love dressing up no matter if I am watching a show at night or in the daytime. I treat going to the theater like a date night. The aim is to feel good about my outfit.
I love to wear a dress to the theater and depending on what you are comfortable with anything from a mini to midi a to maxi dress will work.
A good piece of advice is always have a shawl, warm scarf or a jacket with you, even some summer nights can get chilly. Air conditioned theaters can be cold especially at night.
Anything that makes noise or flashes light (Phone, smart watches, iPad) is distracting at the theatre, avoid them.
Gentleman’s Broadway Dress Code
I’m not a men’s fashion expert. However, I do know what an appropriate man's broadway dress code should look like.
Avoid wearing shorts and flip-flops. I wouldn't say its against the law but at the same time you do want to make some time to look and feel good.
When in Doubt, Follow These Broadway Outfit Rules
- Dress respectfully
- Dress comfortably
- 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 an event specifies a dress code that calls for black tie or a very formal dresscode then avoid all my above suggestions.