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What Should I Wear To The Theatre?

Updated on September 13, 2009

What's appropriate for the theatre?

With attire standards becoming more and more loose in our culture - with casual workplaces and jeans on everyone - it can be hard to know what's appropriate for the theatre.

Are jeans appropriate? Are t-shirts appropriate? Who is the theatre to dictate what I wear, anyway? Learn the answers to these questions and more!

Photo credit: Derrick Mealiffe

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Business Casual Attire

When in doubt, dress business-casual for the theatre. This includes khakis, slacks, button-up shirts, nice blouses, and knee-length skirts and dresses.

This attire is what you would wear to a nice party with your mother or something that would work equally well for a date and church. Stay classy, but you can be creative.

Why Should I Dress Up For Theatre?

Many theatres don't have written dress codes. They don't mind if you wear jeans and t-shirts. However, it is seen as disrespectful to the actors and crew.

The theatre is the workplace of performance artists, and dressing up signifies your respect for their space and their efforts. You wouldn't show up to an event at a law firm in a tank top, so use that same respect for the theatre.

Different Dress Codes For Different Events

The most formal theatre event is opening night at the opera, and the least formal is a mid-run show of college theatre. However, it is still considered good taste to have a minimum of business casual attire.

Opening Night

For the opera, this is generally long formal gowns for women and tuxedos for men. For other productions, cocktail dresses for women and a button-up shirt and slacks for men.

Evening Indoor Shows

Business casual to cocktail attire is acceptable.

Evening Outdoor Shows

Choose comfortable clothes. If there are chairs, dress like you're going to a nice summer party. If you are going to be sitting on blankets or the grass, it is permitted to be completely casual. However, wear nice casual clothes - not your painting-the-house clothes!

Morning/Afternoon Shows

Dress like you are going to church. Khakis and nice shirts are the norm for this show.


Operas tend to be formal. Wear a long dress or long skirt, and men wear suits or tuxedos.

Closing Night

This event is a celebration and a funeral, all in one. Dress in conservative cocktail wear.

Remember, the theatre is a creative place. Feel free to wear funky shoes and accessories. Have fun with your clothes - but do be advised that costumes are considered poor taste.

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