What to Wear to the Opera: A Guide to Elegant Attire
The opera is a classical art form combining live musical performance with theatrical acting and elaborate staging. Attending the opera offers a chance to engage with culture while dressed in your finest. Many people wonder – what is appropriate attire for an evening at the opera house?
Read on for tips, guidelines, and inspiration on what to wear to the opera.
Understanding Opera Dress Codes
Opera dress codes vary by city and by opera company. Some general expectations to keep in mind include:
Evening opera performances typically call for formalwear and your best formal dresses, suits, and accessories. Semiformal dresses may also be acceptable.
Dress Up a Bit
While true floor-length gowns and tuxedos are not required, “dressing up a bit” is encouraged. For women, opt for cocktail/knee-length dresses, dressy pantsuits, or skirts. For men, dark suits and jackets are recommended over casual separates.
Most opera houses discourage casual clothing like jeans, shorts, t-shirts, sneakers, and sandals. These are considered too informal.
When in Doubt, Overdress
It is always better to err on the side of being overdressed versus underdressed. Opt for dressier outfits and accessories.
Confirm Dress Code
Check the specific opera company’s website for dress code details. If still unsure, call and ask so you can dress accordingly.
What to Wear to the Opera for Women:
For women, suitable opera attire includes:
- Cocktail/knee-length dress – Look for wraps, sheaths, and A-line silhouettes in satin, taffeta, or velvet.
- Long evening gown – Formal floor-length gowns are always appropriate.
- Dressy skirt outfit – Pair with nice blouses, camisoles, or shells.
- Pantsuit – Choose sophisticated styles, not daytime business suits.
- Dress sandals, heels – Stilettos, wedges, or kitten heels in satin, metallic, etc.
- Dress flats – As an alternative, ballet flats and loafers can work.
- Nice handbag – Opt for clutches, wristlets, or small shoulder bags.
Complete the look with elegant hair, makeup, wraps, jewels, and opera glasses.
What Not to Wear to the Opera
Avoid dressing too informally in:
- Jeans or casual pants
- Graphic/band t-shirts
- Sneakers or flip-flops
- Short dresses or skirts
- Athletic shoes
- Backpacks or gym bags
Also skip revealing items like crop tops, mini skirts, or ripped distressed pieces.
Dressing for Daytime Matinees
Afternoon opera performances tend to have a more relaxed dress code:
- For women – Cocktail dresses, formal day dresses, dressy skirt suits
- For men – Dress in pants with a jacket, sweater, collared shirt
But formality is still encouraged over casualwear. When uncertain, call the opera house for guidance.
What to Wear if You’re Performing
If you are a performer or orchestra member at the opera, attire depends on your role:
Singers/Cast – Elaborate opera costumes and wigs
Orchestra – Typically white tie or black tie ensembles
Backstage crew – All-black outfits so as not visible
Follow your specific opera house or company’s guidelines for onstage wardrobe. Ask if unsure.
What To Wear to the Opera (FAQs):
Can you wear pants to the opera?
Yes, for women dressy palazzo, wide-leg, or ankle pants with nice tops are acceptable. Avoid casual pants. Men can wear formal suits and dress pants.
Do you have to wear a black tie to the opera?
Most opera houses don’t require strict formal black tie. But dressing up in cocktail attire or suits/evening gowns is encouraged.
Can you wear jeans to the opera?
No, jeans and other casualwear are generally frowned upon at the opera. Opt for more formal attire like dresses, skirt suits, and dress pants.
What shoes should you avoid at the opera?
Steer clear of casual footwear like sneakers, gym shoes, flip-flops, and worn-out boots. Shoes should complement your level of formality.
Can you take your coat to the opera?
Yes, coats and wraps can be checked at a coat check or worn over your seat at most opera houses. Avoid bulky outerwear if possible.
Dressing your best is part of the operating experience. While strict black tie is rarely required, opt for cocktail dresses, formalwear, suits, and elegant accessories. Avoid casual pieces, and check your specific opera house’s dress code when in doubt. With the perfect outfit, you’ll be stage-ready for an evening of culture and entertainment.