I think a lot of you have probably noticed by now that I’m a massive theater nerd.

I’ve easily seen over 400 Broadway shows while living in the city.

So you can probably imagine how many audience members’ “Broadway outfits” I’ve seen over the years.

I love checking out the audience’s fashion choices. It always makes for great people-watching before the show and at intermission.

Considering theater-going used to be a formal affair, some of the outfits people think are appropriate are shocking.

You can always spot the New York locals among the sea of tourists based on their outfits.

Here’s my advice on how to dress appropriately for a night at the theater.

What is the Broadway Dress Code?

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ally Travels (@allytravelsofficial)

The Quick Answer 

Broadway doesn’t have a specific dress code (anymore). Some people go in jeans and others make a special night of it and dress up.

As long as you’ve got a ticket they’ll let you in the door. But that doesn’t mean you should show up looking like you’ve just rolled out of bed. 

Below are some things to consider when planning your outfit.

timessquare

Are You Seeing a Matinee or Evening Show?

Half the fun of going to a Broadway show is picking out the perfect outfit. Depending on what time of day you’re attending, the dress code shifts a bit.

If you’re catching a matinee (afternoon) performance, the audience is more casual. People still dress nicely for matinees, but it’s mostly families and people visiting the city on day trips. 

Evening performances attract a more upscale audience. Most people will either have dinner plans before or after the show, so they are more put together compared to the matinee crowd. 

Britt Sisseck Anima Blouse

This silk crepe de chine shirt with gorgeous detailing along the sleeves and neck is a blouse you're guaranteed to get compliments on!

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

What Time of Year Are You Attending the Show?

Casual Broadway Dress Code 2

Always dress for the weather. It’s great to be fashionable, but your outfit also needs to be functional. 

I’ve made this mistake too many times and ended up watching shows with soaking wet shoes, or even freezing because I forgot that Broadway theaters are arctic cold even during the summer when the city is sweltering everywhere else. 

If the weather is terrible, it’s okay to dress down a bit in favor of being prepared for the weather.

How Dressed Up Should You Get?

ALLY BROADWAY 2 1

Use your judgment based on the performance time that you’ve selected. 

I think a safe general way of looking at a theater dress code is to dress business casual when in doubt. The last thing you want to do is look underdressed.

Ladies’ Dress Code

Ally and Ryan Rooftop

I love dressing up a bit, even if it’s a matinee. I treat going to the theater like a date—I want to feel good about my outfit. My default ensemble always includes layers but varies depending on what time of year it is.

My biggest tip is always have a pashmina or jacket with you, even in the summer. I’ll say it again—Broadway houses are chilly.

SUMMERY Copenhagen Celine Long Sleeve Dress

This chic cotton dress is a must-have for transitioning into spring.

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

If it’s summer, I always wear a dress (nothing too short—you aren’t going to the club).

You can wear sandals, heels, chic flats, or even sneakers if they’re fashionable enough and you’re heading to a matinee. I’ve even linked a few of my favorites below to help you out. My main advice would be to make sure your shoes are comfortable. 

SUMMERY Copenhagen Holly String Dress

How gorgeous is this vivid green dress? I love the flattering square neckline and length.

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Just don’t wear filthy athletic shoes, and for the love of God, don’t wear leggings! It’s a big pet peeve of mine seeing girls show up to the theater in them. Leggings are not pants, ladies!

Oliver Cabell Dream Flat

These elegant flats are comfy and go with almost any outfit. Their cushioned soles make walking around the city all day a breeze!

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

If it’s cold out, I’ll typically wear some dark jeans and a turtleneck with booties to matinees. For evening performances I’m fond of wearing a dress with tights and high black boots or wide legged trousers with booties like the ones linked below. 

Britt Sisseck Kennedy Trousers

How chic are these highwaisted denim trousers? They're the perfect addition to any wardrobe!

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
Eco Ballerinas Pointy 2.0

How adorable are these recycled ballet flats? With 3D stretch technology, they're easy to squeeze into even the most overpacked luggage.

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Also, if you know you’ll need to keep an eye on the time, please wear a watch! Nobody likes seeing someone’s screen light up (or god forbid phone ring) during the show.

Apple watches are just as distracting as a phone screen, stick to a classic timepiece in order to keep track of time.

Nordgreen Unika Brushed Metal Watch

This gorgeous timepiece by Nordgreen is the perfect accessory for any outfit.

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Also, this should just be common sense, but don’t roll up to the theater with a massive bag, or even worse, tons of shopping bags.

Broadway theaters are pretty old, meaning the seats are going to be super close together with minimal leg room.

Maverick & Co. Eloise Bucket Bag

This chic vegan leather bucket bag is perfect for any outfit this summer and large enough to store all the necessities in style!

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

The last thing you’ll want is to crowd what precious space your legs have with a big bag(s). Not to mention, if you’re near the aisle, you’ll have to move your bags every time someone needs to walk across to their seat.

I always opt for a classic tote bag if I’m coming after a day of errands or sightseeing, or ideally, a small purse, this way I’ve got my essentials and can easily place my bag on my lap.

Gentleman’s Dress Code

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ally (@ally1600)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a men’s fashion expert. Over the years, I’ve seen men wearing different levels of outfits at the theater.

Please either leave the baseball cap at home or take it off once you’re inside the theater.

Luca Faloni Elba Linen Jersey Polo
Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

If it’s summer, please don’t wear shorts and sandals to the theater—even if it’s 100 degrees out. It annoys me to no end seeing sloppy dressers at the theater, and a lot of the culprits are men.

Also, wear nice pants and a button-up shirt, polo, or chic sweater. Or if you want to be a bit more casual, wear a T-shirt with nice jeans (dark wash, no holes!) and put a jacket over it for an upscale vibe.

LUCA FALONI Lava Red Pure Cashmere V Neck
Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Instead of sandals, opt for a pair of classy and clean sneakers or loafers during the summer and a pair of nice boots during the colder months. I’ve even linked a few of my boyfriend’s favorites below to help you visualize what’s appropriate for the theater.

Aurélien Navy Nubuck Resort Sneaker
Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Also, if you’re going to be checking the time during the show, please just wear a watch.

Nobody likes being distracted from the show when their neighbor is checking the time or text messages on their phones.

When in Doubt, Follow These Outfit Rules

  • Dress respectfully
  • Dress comfortably
  • If you wear jeans, make sure they’re a dark wash with no holes
  • Don’t wear any hats or hairstyles that may ruin the view of the person behind you
  • Avoid wearing too much perfume (some people are allergic)
  • Bring an extra layer to combat the aggressive air conditioning

Broadway Dress Code Exceptions

fancy broadway dress code 2

If you’re lucky enough to get tickets to a special performance like opening night, a gala or even The Tony Awards expect a different dress code.

Most events will include a dress code description with the tickets. You’ll absolutely want to avoid wearing casual attire.

The Tony Awards

When I went to The Tony Awards for the first time, I went all out in a dramatic vintage cocktail dress with heels and an evening bag. The second-year I attended I wore this feathery number below.

IMG

A lot of women, especially nominees, will wear full-on gowns. The choice is yours depending on what you have in your closet.

Men should absolutely rent a tux. This isn’t the time to look underdressed. 

Opening Night

Opening Night Outfit The Last Ship

I always default to heels and a cocktail dress that’s unique but not too over the top. If it’s wintertime, I’ve worn chic jumpsuits and long-sleeved dresses without looking out of place.

Gentleman can get away with a suit or skinny dress pants paired with a nice top and sports jacket.

Zizzi Floral Dress

How gorgeous is this dress? I love that it can be dressed up with heels or down with cool white sneakers.

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Galas and Special Performances

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ally (@ally1600)

I enjoy thinking of these events as opportunities to wear more sparkle than I would on ordinary nights. My last gala outfit was a chic black jumpsuit with heels and a sparkly clutch. 

Ladies, when in doubt, always default to heels and a little black dress (just not too short).

Men, you have it easy—just wear a nice suit and dress shoes and you’re set. 

Curtain Call

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ally (@ally1600)

Even though there isn’t a set dress code on Broadway it’s important to arrive put together. 

A Broadway show is a unique treat for most, so make it a night you won’t forget.

Just writing this, I’m getting antsy for my next chance to head to the theater. Dressing up and going to a show may be my all-time favorite way to spend an evening.

To me, there’s truly nothing like the magic of sitting in an audience and being transported by the actors.

Just remember, fashionably late doesn’t exist in the theater. So put on your Sunday clothes (Hello, Dolly, anyone?) and get to the theater on time.


Check out some of these popular Broadway shows and tours!

My Favorite Thing This Month
LUCA FALONI Leather Weekender Bag

This chocolate brown Italian leather weekender bag is the ultimate investment piece that you'll have for years to come.

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Leave a Comment