I can still remember seeing my very first show on the West End.

It London during the first ever solo trip I booked as a birthday gift to myself.

All my closest friends and family can attest to my being a total theater nerd.

So nobody was surprised when I announced my first solo trip would be to go see a show on the West End.

I went to see the latest revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, which would later earn multiple Olivier and Tony Awards over the years.

The show was about a woman who was celebrating a milestone birthday as a single person.

As someone who was celebrating their birthday, as a single woman, and facing a lot of the same things that the main character did, this was the perfect musical.

I can even still remember dressing up in my sage green, very fitted, long sweater dress from Reformation, complete with a slit and Stuart Weitzman boots—I felt so ready to take on a new year, and my first West End show in style!

Still wondering what to wear to a West End show?

If my first London theater outfit didn’t give you the inspiration you needed, keep reading to figure out the perfect outfit to pack for your West End show, plus some other theater tips!

Understanding Theatre Etiquette

The Basics of Dressing for the West End

Ally in Black slacks and turtleneck london

When heading to a West End show, it’s important to understand and follow the basics of theatre etiquette.

If you’ve never been to theater, the basics are dress appropriately, arrive on time, and keep quiet during the show.

This ensures that both you and your fellow theatergoers have an enjoyable experience.

Most people opt for business casual attire, such as a suit and tie or a nice shirt with jeans.

Comfort is key, so wear something that makes you feel good, and warm, since most theaters are chilly.

Turn off all your mobile devices or switch them to silent mode to avoid disruptions.

Also, if you have an Apple watch, that’s going to light up every time you move, please leave it at home or put it away for the performance.

If you need to leave your seat during the show, do so quietly and at an appropriate moment, like while the audience is clapping at the end of a scene or act.

Finally, be mindful of your noise level, absolutely do not talk or sing along, and give your full attention to the performers.

Respecting the Theatre

Six on Londons West End Marquee

Besides basic etiquette, there are some unwritten rules you should keep in mind when attending West End shows.

For example, don’t eat noisy or strong-smelling food during the performance.

If you must snack during the show, unwrap candies before the performance starts, and don’t pick anything crunchy!

Also, if you’ve got a drink, don’t make noise with ice, and please don’t slurp through your straw.

Avoid wearing strong fragrances, as they can be uncomfortable for some people, especially those with allergies.

It’s also important to be respectful of the performers and crew.

Clap at the end of the performance or scenes, but avoid excessive cheering or standing ovations unless it feels right.

Remember, the theatre is a shared space, and your actions impact the experience of those around you.

Etiquette on Opening Night

Sunset Blvd. West End London Marquee

On opening night, the stakes are higher, as critics, sponsors, and the creative team often attend the event.

So you won’t want to embarrass yourself by making a faux pas.

I’ve never been to a West End opening night, but I have been to multiple opening nights on Broadway.

In fact, I’m currently packing to head to NYC for an opening night performance this weekend!

It’s crucial to uphold an even higher level of etiquette and respect.

Dress on opening night is absolutely more formal, but still be comfortable, keeping in mind that the theatre will probably be chilly.

Being on time is crucial for this important event, as it can disrupt performers and audience members if you arrive late.

Plan your travel and parking in advance to avoid unforeseen delays.

It’s also a good idea to read up on the show beforehand so you’re familiar with the performance and can better appreciate the work on stage.

Plus, having this knowledge comes in handy when chatting with other people in the audience, or at the after-party (if you’re invited).

It’s also important to remember not to make any negative remarks about the production until you’re at least ten blocks from the venue.

The last thing you want is for something mean to be overheard by someone who worked on that aspect of the show.

Choosing Your Theatre Outfit

Dressing According to Dress Code

Ally at West End Show Cabaret in London Nov. 19th 2021

When attending a West End show, you’ll want to choose an outfit that suits the occasion and venue.

Most shows don’t have strict dress codes, but it’s best to dress appropriately for the occasion.

For example, if you’re going to a first preview, press night, gala, or opening night, a smart-upscale dress code is usually appropriate.

Outfit Ideas for Men

Interior Gielgud Theatre What to Wear to a West End Show London

Men have a couple outfit options depending on the type of evening they have planned.

Heading to the theatre during the summer?

Opt for a lightweight, short-sleeved shirt.

A smart suit with a suit and tie is a classic choice, especially hot date nights or opening nights.

Or, if you’re going on a casual evening, I’d go for a dress shirt paired with jeans or trousers.

For shoes, depending on the season, I’d go between dress shoes, trainers, or nice boots, whatever works best for your outfit.

Outfit Ideas for Women

Ally in a dress at Kensington Palace london

Women have many outfit choices for attending a West End show, including dresses, skirts, or trousers.

If you’re going on a typical theater night, a nice dress, jeans or trousers and a stylish blouse are a great option.

Depending on the season, I normally wear flats or booties.

When I’m heading to an opening night, I always opt for a gorgeous dress. If I’m invited to the after-party, normally I’ll got for a cocktail dress.

I always wear heels to add a sense of occasion to my look.

Don’t bring a big handbag with you. Nobody wants to put their purse on the dirty ground, and it’s easier to place a small bag on your lap during the show.

Comfort and Practicality

Back to the Future West End London

Since you’ll be sitting for an extended period, it’s important to wear an outfit that’s comfortable.

A lot of West End theatres are older buildings that are chilly, so always keep a wrap with you in the summer, and layer in the winter.

While dressing, leave the Apple watches at home. Nobody enjoys seeing someone’s wrist light up during a show.

Also, avoid hairstyles and hats that might impede someone’s view.

And one final general reminder, make sure you put your phone on either airplane mode, or totally off before the show starts!

London’s West End Theatre Scene

The Rich History

The Lion King West End London

The West End in London is home to some of the most iconic theatres in the world.

So naturally, as a major theatre addict, I decided my first solo trip ever would be to London to see my very first West End Show.

In case anyone skipped reading the intro and was wondering, I saw the phenomenal revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

Even if you’re not a theatre fanatic, you’ll still feel an appreciation for the West End as you stroll around.

It’s amazing to see all the theaters, imagining all the history that’s taken place in them, especially and those which date back centuries.

Famous West End Shows

London West End Shows

I believe it’s a crime to visit London and not see at least one West End show.

There are so many shows to choose from! They’ve got popular productions like The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Frozen, The Book of Mormon, Hamilton, Mamma Mia, and The Lion King, plus lots of new ones to choose from.

Currently, Cabaret, Sunset Blvd. and The Phantom of the Opera are my favorite shows running.

Immersive Theatre Shows

Harry Potter Play London West End Theater

While you’re exploring the West End, check out an immersive show, where you’ll have a unique experience.

If you’ve never been to an immersive show, here’s what you need to know.

In immersive theatre, you’ll be a part of the story, interacting with the actors and influencing the narrative. This genre creates a dynamic, unforgettable adventure that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Anytime I go to one of these shows, I dress on trend with the theme of the show, and always wear comfy shoes.

If it’s a show like Sleep No More, you may be on your feet and running after characters, so the last thing you want is to be in heels for an immersive show.

Versus if it’s something like Faulty Towers that involves sitting throughout the show. In which case, wear the date night shoes.

These are some of the most popular immersive shows running in London:

Where to Go After the Show

Grab a Bite to Eat

BOB BOB RICARD LONDON 2018 2

If you’re like me, you prefer a late supper after the show.

Or maybe you’re looking for a place to grab a bite before the performance?

No matter what you’re eating habits are, I’ve got you covered.

These are the spots in and around the West End that I love.

Going for Cocktails

Noble Rot Champagne and Cheese in London

Are you buzzing from the magic of the theater and not ready to head home yet?

Grab a drink at one of my favorite post-theater West End bars:

Theatre Tickets and Recommended Places

Matilda West End London

Buying tickets to a West End show can be a bit intimidating if it’s your first time. At one point or another, we all think…

Where do you buy from?

What’s the best section to sit in?

What show to see?

Lucky for you, I’m a theater expert, and I’ve got answers.

If you’re stuck on what show to see, shoot me an email. I’m always happy to give theater advice!

When it comes to buying tickets, I always first check to see where the show’s official webpage sends me.

From there, I compare prices with TodayTix to see which has the better deal.

Honestly, often, I’m very spontaneous with my visits to London and end up testing my luck on TodayTix lotteries and rushes for cheaper tickets.

But if I know my dates ahead of time, I always pick at least one or two shows I know I absolutely would be devastated to miss and book those early.

Alternatively, for an even more spontaneous experience, you can try your luck at TKTS booth in Leicester Square. you’ll find discounted same-day tickets for several shows. Just remember to arrive early to get the best selection of shows.

TodayTix

Besides offering great prices, TodayTix also offers rushes and lotteries helping you score amazing deals on last minute tickets to some of the hottest shows in town!

Book a Show!
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Curtain Call

Ally in London at Kensington Palace

Now that I’m done writing this, I’m so tempted to reward myself with tickets to a West End show in the new year.

Hopefully I’ll get to London early in the spring, so I can enjoy all the best new shows just before the famous Olivier Awards (basically, the British Tony Awards).

Let me know in the comments below what show you’re planning on seeing, and what outfit you’re thinking about wearing!

 

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