What to wear to the theatre: All the outfit inspiration to keep you looking stylish through the show

Wondering what to wear to the theatre? From Broadway to London's West end, we've got your outfit covered

what to wear to the theatre street style inspiration
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You’ve bagged the best tickets in town and now you’re wondering what to wear to the theatre. Fret not, we’ve got all the styling inspiration you need to ensure you’ll be the star of the show.

Deciding what to wear to the theatre can be a daunting task. But there’s no need to break into a sartorial sweat. A great excuse to don any of your best dresses, theatres as a general rule do not have dress codes, but similarly to choosing what to wear on a first date, you'll want to feel like you've made an effort for a night out in town. Historically seen as a formal occasion saved for the rich and famous, theatre goers really dressed up, however, nowadays, the theatre is a lot more inclusive and accessible to a wider audience so there’s no need to bring out the ball gown - unless you want to of course. “Going to the theatre is still an event so you may want to dress up a bit in the best midi dresses and your best designer heels. Opening nights, previews and press events can often be a bit dressier so it’s worth going for a smart/casual look on these theatrical occasions,” says woman&home fashion director, Paula Moore.

If you're struggling for a place to start, if you've nailed what to wear to a bridal shower, then an outfit for the theatre is on the same track - you're not looking to go OTT but you do want to feel like you've made an effort. And, better still, it's perfectly acceptable to wear your best jeans and some comfortable flats. Some shows, particularly musicals, can be long so the most important thing is that you’re comfortable and your outfit causes minimal distractions. No noisy sequins!

Whether you’re hitting the West End or Off-Broadway, we’ve rounded up some foolproof fashion tips to help you work out what to wear to the theatre.

What to wear to the theatre: Outfit ideas from a fashion editor

1. Light Layers

what to wear to the theatre street style influencers wearing light layers

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Many theatres are old buildings and do not have air conditioning, especially in London’s West End so a packed-out theatre can get very warm. Even if you’re wondering what to wear to the theatre in the winter, you don’t want anything too thick and woolly. Some theatres may not have a cloakroom either and with minimal space by your seat, you won’t have much space to de-layer. This is where the transitional cover-up comes in. Think the best blazer, or a chic lightweight trench, to protect you from the elements outside but can also be rolled up neatly and placed under your seat. 

A styling tip…

Try to avoid bulky bags too, look to compact styles such as the best crossbody bags and neat shoulder styles that will store the essentials without taking up all the legroom.

2. A stylish midi dress

what to wear to the theatre street style influencers wearing midi dresses

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We’ve been harping on about the midi dress for a while now but there’s no denying that it really does work for every occasion and the theatre is no exception. The perfect throw-on and go style, a midi dress solves every fashion dilemma, plus it can easily be dressed up or down so you can call the shots on how fancy you want to go. The modest length is also delightfully comfy and won’t ride up when you sit down, unlike a shorter dress or skirt.

A styling tip…

If you need an extra layer, try wearing a fine knit roll neck under your midi dress for extra warmth without the added bulk.

3. Jeans + Blouse

what to wear to the theatre street style influencers wearing jeans and a blouse

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When it comes to what to wear to a wedding, jeans are a big no-no, but for theatre outfits, jeans are a perfectly acceptable choice. If you want to dress up your denim, consider teaming your go-to style with a flouncy blouse or smart shirt, and throw on a blazer for extra polish. The darker the wash, the smarter the jean so black jeans will work like a charm too (our handy guide on what to wear with black jeans will help!) You can even try a white jeans outfit, just beware the red wine during the interval.

A styling tip…

Offset looser jeans with a more fitted top to help balance proportions and vice versa.

4. Relaxed trousers + Tee

what to wear to the theatre street style influencers wearing

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With the comfort of the best leggings but with a smarter edge, a pair of relaxed or wide-leg trousers are a stylish choice for what to wear to a Broadway show. Super flattering, wide-leg trousers highlight the waist and elongate your legs. Breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen will keep you cool in the summer and in stuffy theatres. The next best thing to stepping out in the best loungewear.

A styling tip…

Look for luxe materials such as satin and silk to give this look a high-end finish and team with a classic white cotton tee or a go-to Breton top for a chic Parisian-inspired look.

5. Comfortable footwear

what to wear to the theatre street style influencer wearing comfortable footwear

(Image credit: Getty)

Comfort is key when dressing for the theatre so steer clear of any shoes that will rub or give you blisters. Seats up high in the Circle can involve a lot of stairs too so you don’t want to be wobbling in sky-high heels either. Of course, you’re welcome to wear trainers - especially if you want to dress down your frock but we would recommend a sleek loafer or fancy flat - just some of the big shoe trends 2022 has on offer. If you want to wear a heel, opt for a low kitten or block heel. Check your tickets too - some theatres have standing seats which means you’ll definitely need to treat your feet to something comfortable.

A styling tip...

A pointed toe shoe not only looks extra elegant but will help lengthen legs too, especially in a neutral hue.

Charlie Bell

Charlie is the Deputy Fashion Editor at Future plc across multiple women’s magazines including Woman & Home, Woman and Woman's Own.

She bagged her first magazine job in 2009 and has previously written for titles including Stylist, Closer and Dare. Over the years Charlie has embraced anything that was thrown at her from styling celebrities to testing out the best jeans on the high street to writing about must-have beauty buys.

With a weakness for a printed midi dress, Charlie is on a mission to shop more sustainably and loves finding new ethical brands and second-hand buys.