What to wear on Broadway: How to dress for the theatre

What to wear to a Broadway show

You've booked your Broadway tickets. You've got the date in the diary. Now comes the next tricky decision — what to wear? You want to make a good impression in front of friends and family, but what's the perfect outfit for a Broadway show?

Deciding what to wear to the theatre can seem daunting. But, if you're struggling to pick out your upcoming theatre outfit from your wardrobe, we've got great advice on what (and what not) to wear to a show. Once you've mastered our tips, you'll be heading to shows every night of the week in outfits that are both sophisticated and practical. This is all only our guidance though, if you feel great in whatever you're wearing, then go for it!

What can be worn to a Broadway show?

The simple answer here: anything. It doesn't matter what you wear nowadays; as long as you have a theatre ticket for a specific performance, you'll be allowed into the auditorium. Both formal and informal clothing is accepted. 

From casual t-shirts, jeans and flip-flops to a cocktail dress or tuxedo, the spectrum of style formality is so wide that there is no specific dress code. For some events on the theatre calendar, including first previews, opening nights and gala nights, it may be worth polishing those shoes and ironing that shirt for an effortless "smart-casual" outfit. 

If going to the theatre is a special occasion, rather than a regular occurrence, you may want to dress up in a formal outfit and shoes. It’s best to be in an outfit you feel comfortable in though — you don’t want to spend a few hours sitting down with blistered feet. 

Do certain shows require certain outfits?

Like we've said, you can wear anything you desire to a show. There are some productions in which you may want to consider if your outfit could impede on the full experience. For example, if you're seeing an immersive show in New York, like the upcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby, you may want to wear clothes that you can move in. 

Why not wear an outfit that's in theme with the production? Obviously, the clothing decision is down to you, but don't be afraid to mark the fashion moment in a way you see fit.

Are fancy dress outfits allowed at the theatre?

Wearing fancy dress to the theatre is acceptable, and some shows promote outfits inspired by Broadway characters. In London, Six audiences have turned up in "royal" clothing similar to Henry VIII's wives, so expect to see similar outfits in the Brooks Atkinson Theatre audience. Some shows have even run costume contests, including the recent Broadway revival of Once On This Island, so it is encouraged.

Saying this, don't wear an extravagant outfit that looks like it should belong on the stage rather than in the audience. It'd be off-putting for theatregoers around you to peer over feathers, sequins and a tall headdress.

So you really can wear what you want to a Broadway show?

We really cannot stress this enough. Audience members can wear what they want to a Broadway show at the theatre. If you follow all these foolproof tips, you've got a great Broadway look.

Do wear clothes that are an appopriate length 

Consider the length of your shirt, skirt or shorts when you're sitting in your seat. If you're sitting in the front rows of the orchestra seating or in the round, you don't want the cast and fellow audiences to see more of you than the stage. Make sure you feel classy and comfortable at the same time.

Do pack flat shoes to wear or to change into after the show

If you can, stay away from heeled shoes. You don't want to be hobbling into your seat after a day of walking around New York. Or, if you're going to wear heeled boots or shoes, make sure you've got a flat pair of shoes in your bag to change into. 

Do dress for the weather and not for social media

Even though the vast majority of New York theatres have a rooftop, there are a few open-air venues in the city. When attending an outdoor show at Shakespeare in the Park, make sure you pack a rainmac and/or umbrella so you don't get wet if it rains.

Do buy official show merchandise

Want to change up your wardrobe, but keep it Broadway themed? Many productions sell official clothes and accessories in the lobby, so why not buy some merchandise before the show and wear it in the auditorium? It’s a great way to show your support for the show while keeping cozy. 

Do wear clothes that will keep you cool

With the possibility that you'll be spending an evening in an auditorium with thousands of fellow theatregoers, the venue can get warm very quickly. If you're seeing a Broadway show in the summer months, pick out an outfit that you can stay cool in. Steer clear of wearing clothes that will stick to the seat, or worse, yourself. 

Do keep the layers to a minimum

That being said, you may enter the theatre with many layers on, especially if you've walked in from the streets on a cold winters day. Consider the limited space for coats, jumpers and other accessories that may limit how much you could store under your seat. Even though Broadway theatres have cloakrooms to store coats and bags, there's likely to be limited space. If you're seeing a Broadway show on a chilly day, wear thicker but fewer layers so you can stay warm without leaving your entire wardrobe across the floor. 

Find out more about what's playing on Broadway and how to get theatre tickets in New York.