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
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.
Zara Jewel Button Structured Overshirt
RRP: $69.90 / £49.99 | This jazzy jacket will really up the ante on a simple tee and jeans combo. The jeweled buttons add an extra luxe touch and the cropped length makes it easy to throw over dresses and high-waisted jeans.
Whistles Slim Jersey Jacket
RRP: $179 / £89 | The jersey fabric gives this tailored jacket a more casual spin. It has a slim fit that nips in at the waist for a flattering finish. We love the green for a pop of color but you can also snap it up in 12 other shades.
2. A stylish midi dress
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.
& Other Stories Cut Out Waist Midi Dress
RRP: $119 / £85 | The cut out detail gives this dress a modern update, tapping into the fashion trends 2022 and helps highlight the waist too. It has a relaxed fit with voluminous sleeves and a pretty floral print that’s perfect for the warmer months.
Cos Pintucked Midi Dress
RRP: $135 / £79 | Cos are masters at understated style and this peach dress is a wardrobe winner. It has a simple t-shirt style with a nipped-in waist for added structure and a swishy skirt for extra movement. Style with tan accessories.
3. Jeans + Blouse
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.
J Crew Collection Tie-Neck Cotton Poplin Top
RRP: $138 / £154 | This bold top just screams summer in its mood-boosting, sunshine-drenched hue, and pretty paisley print. Considered details such as the tie-neck and delicate shirring on the shoulders give it extra style credit.
Rag & Bone Rosa Mid-Rise Straight Leg Jeans
RRP: $225 / £245 | Made from premium denim, these fashion-editor-approved slimming jeans have a faded finish for a vintage edge and a comfy mid-rise fit. Roll up the hem and team with some on-trend pumps.
Ted Baker Top With Stand Collar and Balloon Sleeve
RRP: $195 / £110 | An all-year-round winner, this chic top looks equally stylish worn with jeans or denim cut-offs. The swirly print adds a retro spin and the voluminous sleeves offer extra drama. Team with blue jeans in a dark wash.
4. Relaxed trousers + Tee
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.
H&M Wide Linen-Blend Trousers
RRP: $24.99 / £17.99 | These sleek pants have an elasticated high-waist for extra comfort. Finishing just at the ankle you can show off your shoes too. Available in three muted tones, they’re a pocket-friendly buy with lots of potential.
Everlane The Linen Way-High Drape Pant
RRP: $118 / £126 | Made from 100% linen, these are breathable and lightweight with an elegant, drapey style. There’s a coordinating shirt if you want to go for a bolder look, or tone it done in the best t-shirt and sneakers.
5. Comfortable footwear
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.
Mango Braided Shoes
RRP: $99.99 / £59.99 | Add extra punch to a simple jeans and tee combo with these red hot pumps. The braided detailing adds texture, giving the flat a summery feel. The slingback keeps them in place.
Jimmy Choo Loafers
RRP: $850 / £675 | Flats can be dressy and who better to prove it than Jimmy Choo. The crystal-encrusted horseshoe buckle gives the loafer design a party-ready finish that’s ideal for the theatre.
Dune Loyalty Tan
RRP: $99 / £70 | Every shoe-drobe needs a tan leather sandal and we love the contrasting colors on this pair. It has a low block heel for added height without compromising on comfort all summer long.
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.
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