Keeping Broadway Fashionable

What do you wear to the theatre? This is an important question for many first time theatre-goers who have only ever seen news reels from opening nights where all attendees are dressed to the nines. And surprisingly this is a very divisive question when it comes to theatre audiences!


There are two main opinions in answer to this question.

Argument No. 1: The theatre needs to remain a place for high-society style entertainment where audiences doll themselves up and make an occasion of visiting the theatre.

Argument No. 2: It is fine to turn up to the theatre in shorts and thongs (in warmer climates of course, I don’t think anyone would be doing this in the middle of winter in New York or the West End).

I must admit that I was previously a believer in the first argument where people should dress up in their best clothes to come to the theatre. While I much prefer wearing shorts and a t-shirt compared to a fancy shirt and a tie, my motivation for agreeing with this idea of a dress code came back to marketing. If you want people to pay $120+ for a ticket then they need to feel that the experience is worthy of that royal sum.

And by encouraging audiences to dress up in their finest attire, then they are going to feel that the experience they received was much more decadent. Especially compared to the cinema and many other entertainment options where you can wear whatever you like.

But over the last year I have done a complete 180o!

That is not to say that those people who support the first argument are wrong – my opinion of the matter has just changed. And it has changed for one reason.

If you are shelling out such a high price for a ticket, should you also be expected to pay a lot of money for a fancy outfit? Not only does the extra money for fancy clothing knock a whole segment of the market out of attending the theatre, but it also cements theatrical entertainment in the high-class market.

By removing this association of wearing your finest clothes to the theatre, one less barrier remains in the way of new people trying out the theatre. And let’s be honest – once the lights go out, who knows what you are wearing!

Regardless of the arguments for or against a theatre dress code, it is the theatres that are actually influencing the way people dress when they engage. And they seem to have worked out the perfect answer to the question ‘What do I wear to the theatre?’ that does not offend any potential patrons and makes backers for both arguments completely comfortable.

‘There is no specific dress code. Attire should be appropriate and comfortable for the occasion’

With this answer it all comes down to the individual’s interpretation of appropriate. If you think that appropriate theatrical attire is a suit . . . then dress your best and enjoy your experience in a tie. If you think that appropriate theatrical attire comes with thongs . . . then dress your most comfortable and enjoy the extra breeze across your toes.

Because no matter what your audience wears, let’s not forget that everybody is there to enjoy the show. And whether they do that in a tie or in thongs doesn’t really matter!