What should I wear to the theatre?

By | Posted on 22-Nov-2018

What should I wear to the theatre?

Deciding on the perfect outfit to wear to the theatre can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have never been to the West End before. With our tips on what and what not to wear to the theatre, you’ll be heading to the theatre in a fashionable outfit that’s stylish, comfortable and works best for you.

What to wear to a West End show

What am I allowed to wear to the theatre?

The simple answer here is anything. From a casual t-shirt, jeans and trainers to a tuxedo or formal dress, but there are no dress codes at any theatre or opera house in the West End, so you can turn up to the theatre in any clothes and you won’t be turned away.

For some theatrical events, such as opening night, a press night or a performance at an opera house, it may be worth donning a “smart-casual” outfit.

Going to the theatre is a special occasion, so you may want to dress up. But, it’s best to be in a comfortable outfit, as you don’t want to spend a few hours sitting down with blistered feet after walking around the city or sitting in an outfit that’s too tight!

Why do people dress smart for the theatre?

In previous eras, the theatre was regarded as a social event for the wealthier people in society. As people wanted to impress, patrons would attend a performance wearing a gown or a suit, with a 1950s guide stating that those who see a show in the West End should wear their best evening outfits.

As the West End has become accessible for a wider audience, the dress code has become wider too. There is no formal dress code for a West End theatre, but you don’t have to dress up just because you are going to a theatre.

Can I wear what I want to the theatre then?

Essentially, you can wear anything that you want to the theatre, but you should try to dress sensibly for the weather and your surroundings. To make things a bit easier, we’ve put together a list of do’s and don’ts when deciding what to wear.

Pack flat shoes if you are going to wear heels. You don’t want to be hobbling to your seat and then walk around London with aching feet.Wear something that’s too short. If you are sitting in an auditorium that’s in the round, consider the length of your shorts or skirt when you sit down so you’re not revealing too much.
Dress for the weather. When attending a show at the Globe Theatre or Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, pack a raincoat or umbrella so you don’t get caught out in the weather.Have too many layers on. While you can dress how you wish to, there may be limited space under your seat for coats and jumpers. Consider the practicality of what you want to wear before going to the theatre.
Buy merchandise! Many shows will have official clothes and accessories that you can buy, so why not pick up some merch before the show and wear it in the auditorium. It’s a great way to show your support for the show while being fashionable and comfortable inside the theatre.Wear materials that might stick to the seat or leave you too warm. It’s best to avoid leather and pleather clothing, especially in the summer months.

Are fancy dress outfits okay to wear to the theatre?

On the whole, wearing fancy dress to the theatre is acceptable. Some shows actively encourage it, such as Nice Fish which gave away free tickets for each performance if you were the first to attend the theatre dressed as a fish or a fisherman.

There are some productions which encourage people to dress up more than others. Shows such as Six have gained cult followings, with audience members dressing up as characters from the show. The “Heathers” scrunchies in Heathers the Musical became an iconic hair accessory in the show, that audience members may throw scrunchies onto the stage at the end of the show as a token of appreciation.

Photo credit: Tradlands (Flickr) under Creative Commons 2.0