If you’ve never been to a Broadway show, you may be wondering about the dress code. Think of Broadway as a red carpet event. Whether you decide to go all out with your attire or dress casually, you will be the center of attention at some point. While there are no strict rules about what you should wear to a Broadway show, you should still dress appropriately.

This article will give you a general idea about what you should wear on such a glamorous occasion. I’ll also talk about how you can plan your Broadway outfit according to the season and the type of show you’re going to see.

What to Wear to a Broadway Show?

Guests at Broadway Attire Men and Women

It’s not every day you go to a Broadway show. You were finally able to get your hands on tickets for a show you’ve been meaning to see for ages. The next step is to decide what you’re going to wear.

When it comes to Broadway show fashion, it’s all about the balance between the practical and the sophisticated. Let’s be clear. No dress code will stop you from getting in. As long as you have a ticket, you can enter the theater in jeans and a T-shirt.

Men can wear trousers and a nice shirt, and no one will judge them. Sure, you can technically wear shorts, flip-flops, and a Hawaii-themed shirt, but this outfit isn’t really presentable for the theater. It’s also a good idea to skip cargo shorts or shirts with logos. On the other hand, nothing is stopping you from dressing up. If you’re going to a premiere, you can dress more formally and wear a suit.

For women, there are many more options when it comes to Broadway fashion. Dresses and skirts are always a good option, but you can also wear trousers and a blouse, or a button-down shirt. Definitely skip clothes that may be too revealing, such as miniskirts or crop tops. While some women like tight clothing, remember that you’re going to have to sit for at least two hours. It’s important to stay comfortable, or you may not be able to enjoy the show.

Broadway Dress Code for the Seasons

The outfit you choose for your first Broadway show should depend on the season. Here’s how you should dress for Broadway at different times of the year.

Summer at Broadway

Dressed for Broadway in NYC for Summer

Dressing for a Broadway show in summer may seem like you have more options. However, it’s challenging to find appropriate clothes that you won’t sweat in. The good news is that most theaters on Broadway have air conditioning, so you won’t have to worry about getting hot once you sit down.

Women can wear skirts and dresses that have appropriate lengths. If you want to wear pants and a shirt, the key is to choose clothes made out of linen and other light fabrics. Silk and cotton are also good options. The same goes for men, who have it harder during the hot months.

When it comes to footwear, sandals are fine, but you shouldn’t wear flip-flops to a Broadway show. High heels are also okay, just make sure they’re not too tall.

Winter at Broadway

Couple in Winter Going to Broadway Show Dressed Up

In winter, it’s all about layers. But since it’s usually freezing in New York in winter, you don’t have a lot of options. That’s exactly why it’s challenging to look stylish in winter. A long coat can always look good on both men and women. Paired with formal trousers, a long scarf, and the appropriate footwear, you can look great in three to four layers.

Keep in mind that you may have limited space when the show starts, so don’t overdo it. The theater will probably have heating, so you may get hot once you sit down. That’s why you should wear a nice cardigan or a jacket that you can take off later.

Spring at Broadway

It’s easier to dress for a Broadway show in spring since it’s not too hot and not too cold. The weather is usually pleasant in New York at this time of the year, which means you will have a variety of outfits to choose from. Whatever you choose to wear, make sure to bring a jacket with you, as the New York theaters can get quite chilly.

Autumn/Fall at Broadway

The same goes for autumn (or Fall) Broadway shows. You have more options, and you can add an extra layer to your outfit. When it comes to shoes, try to avoid wearing sneakers. Flats or even boots are far more appropriate. If you want to stay comfortable, you can wear a turtleneck instead of a blouse. Men can wear ties if they want, but a regular button-down shirt will suffice.

What to Wear to a Matinee Broadway Show

What to wear Matinee Show Broadway Dresscode

Broadway matinees are typically held on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. If you’re going to a Broadway matinee, you’ll probably be seeing more families with children. As opposed to evening shows, which require more elegant clothing, people at matinees tend to wear everyday clothes. Although others might still want to dress up, it’s entirely up to you.

If you’re going to a matinee, you won’t need to dress formally. Remember, this is a daytime show, so it’s okay to keep it simple. That being said, it’s important not to dress too casually either. You shouldn’t wear inappropriate, revealing clothing or look like you’re about to go to the beach. It’s all about the balance. Ask yourself what you would be wearing to work or a social event during the day.

Dress Code for Off-Broadway

Black Tie Men Clothing for Broadway

Off-Broadway shows are less formal events than On-Broadway (or just Broadway) shows. Although some people like to dress up for Off-Broadway shows as well. Just like for Broadway, there is no specific dress code for Off-Broadway. In other words, you can wear whatever you want to an Off-Broadway show.

Women can wear semi-formal clothing, like dresses, long skirts, or pants matched with a top. You’ll still want to refrain from revealing clothing or items that might look frumpy. The same goes for men. You can wear jeans or trousers and a nice shirt, or even a turtleneck. There is no need to go all out and wear a suit.

It’s also important to wear something you feel comfortable in. Shows can last for a few hours in the theater, not to mention the intermission. Don’t wear something stiff which you can’t relax in.

Dress Code for Specific Shows

Here’s a rundown of the 20 most popular Broadway shows and what you should be wearing if you’re going to see them: 

Broadway shows Women’s dress code Men’s dress code 
Hamilton Wear a statement piece for this show or something you wouldn’t normally wear. Try an elevated and edgy style; jeans and blazers are also okay.
Wicked For this show, you can tone it down. A blouse, sweater, and jacket are a good choice. It’s fine to dress casually for Wicked. No need to go over the top. 
Lion King Dress casually for this play. You can wear an everyday outfit for the Lion King. 
The Phantom of the OperaThis is a more serious musical, so you can wear a nice dress or a blouse and a jacket. You can wear a formal shirt and trousers for this musical. 
ChicagoDon’t go over the top for this play, and stick to the basics. It’s okay to wear an outfit that’s elegant and slightly fun for this musical. 
Mamma MiaIt’s okay to dress casually for this musical. But if you want to stick to the theme, you can wear a Greece-inspired outfit. Wear loose-fitting clothes for Mamma Mia. A white and blue combination fits the theme. 
Cats For Cats, you can wear something with an animal print. Just make sure it’s not too over the top. Don’t be afraid to go a little wild for this play. Wear something you normally wouldn’t wear. 
Les MisérablesFor this play, wear trousers and a nice blouse, or a mid-length dress. Business casual attire is fine. 
Beauty and the Beast Wear a lovely summer dress for this play, or a long, full-length dress. Since this is fairytale-inspired, don’t be afraid to dress like a prince. 
Jersey Boys It’s okay to dress casually. Tone it down but still look presentable. 
Oh! Calcutta!Wear something nice and comfortable. You’ll want to stay comfortable for this show. 
Rent Keep it simple, but don’t come under-dressed. Find the perfect balance between practical and elegant. 
The Producers A “little black dress” can be perfect for this event. You can wear a semi-formal outfit for this play. 
West Side Story Wear something that’s simple yet classy. It’s fine to wear pants and a nice shirt for this show. 
Kinky Boots Wear something dressy you would pick for a night out. Wear something nice for this show. 
Fiddler on the RoofDress casually. Keep it simple. 
Dear Evan Hansen It’s okay to wear normal clothes for this play. If you want a show-inspired look, wear a nice shirt a tie, and matching pants. 
Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildDress casually. If you want to be in character, you can wear a Hogwarts robe! Dress casually. If you want to be in character, you can wear a Hogwarts robe!
Moulin Rouge This show is all about Paris and cabaret, so you can wear a romantic dress to fit the theme. If you want a show-inspired look, wear a nice shirt with a tie, and matching pants. 

As you can see, there is no need to dress too formally for any of these shows. The only time you really should dress up is when you’re going to an opening night. The same goes for closing nights.

Look the Part for a Broadway Show

Although there are no strict guidelines about what you should wear to a Broadway show, you should still put some effort into your outfit. The key is to find the perfect combination of comfort, style, and formality.

Author

My full name is Gary Finklestein, and I’m what you might call a theater geek. But, for better or worse, I don’t have the formal education that often goes along with the title. My reviews and advice for Broadway are quick and too-the-point. Prepare to not be bored.

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