What to Wear to a Ballet

By Kathryn Walsh

Classy outfits to take along when a ballet performance is on your schedule

What to Wear to a Ballet

You don't have to know a soubresaut from a sissonne to find ballet captivating. Watching the dancers jump, spin and float across the stage is entrancing, and when you're sitting in the audience of a world-famous theater in a new city, it's possible to get completely swept up in the magic. But while the experience of seeing a ballet is extraordinary, wearing ordinary clothing suffices. Dress in a neat, respectful manner, and you'll fit right in with the crowd.

Wear: business casual dress

Most ballet companies, including those in the world's biggest cities like New York and London, don't have formal dress codes. They recognize that lots of visitors who come to the ballet are tourists who travel without very dressy attire.

Any outfit that you would wear to a job interview, nice dinner out or to religious services is suitable for a ballet. That might be a simple dress, a pair of khakis or dress pants with a dress shirt, or even walking shorts and a polo shirt or blouse in summer. Some audience members will dress up a little more, wearing suits and cocktail dresses, so you can take the dressier route if you wish.

Tip

Certain performances, like those that mark the beginning of a new ballet or feature a special guest star, tend to be dressier than the average ballet. If you get tickets to one of these events, play it safe by wearing a suit or cocktail dress. And if you're not sure how other audience members will dress, call the box office for guidance.

Wear: a light sweater or blazer

You may or may not need a warm layer, depending on the weather outside and the temperature inside the theater. Many theaters are kept chilly, but get warm once the audience is seated, so you may want to adjust your comfort level throughout the performance with a sweater or jacket.

Wear: dressy sandals or closed-toe shoes

Elevate your casual ensemble by wearing leather sandals, loafers or ankle booties. If you want to choose shoes that truly fit the theme of the performance, opt for ballet flats, and practice some moves on the way out of the theater at the end of the show.

Don't wear: flip-flops or athletic sneakers

Flip-flops and sneakers are just a hair too casual, even for the ballet. If you would wear them to the beach or the gym, they're probably not appropriate for this event. Wearing dressier shoes is easy enough to do, and in a small way, it shows that you understand decorum and have respect for the theater and performers.

Don't wear: message T-shirts

Even though casual dress is allowed, the ballet is still considered a fairly classy outing, so avoid wearing T-shirts advertising a beer brand or advocating your political views. Aim to look neat and put together, even if you're just wearing shorts and a cotton shirt.

Tip

All the clothes you wear to the ballet can serve other purposes on your trip, so they won't take up any extra space in your suitcase or carry-on bag. For example, wear your ballet shirt with jeans and add a sweater or jacket to create a casual sightseeing outfit.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.