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Home | What to Wear to an Opera: An Ultimate Guide to Opera Dress Code

What to Wear to an Opera: An Ultimate Guide to Opera Dress Code

One of the most intimidating aspects of opera is going to an opera! Knowing when to take your seat, when to clap, and especially what to wear can all be unfortunate barriers of entry for those looking to enjoy an art form they may not be entirely familiar with. We will cover what is appropriate to wear to opera’s in general, as well as cover the specific dress codes for some of the most famous opera houses in the world.

What You Need to Know

The most important thing to know is that every venue that is showing an opera, indoor or outdoor, Singapore or Seattle, will all have their own guidelines for attire. The best thing you can do is check the dress code prior to attending. We will help cover some popular opera house dress codes below.

Opera has come a long way since tuxedos and red-carpet dresses filling the seats. In fact, In a relatively recent move to make opera and musical arts more inclusive, almost all theaters in the US, and many abroad have either loosened, or completely removed their dress codes. However, as you probably guessed, you may want to stay away from a tank top and flip flops.

What to Wear

No matter what theater you’re going to see an opera in, it is always appropriate to dress in formal clothing, and most people who attend operas regularly will almost certainly be dressed in formal attire. This is especially true in large, famous opera houses or special events (opera season opener or a weekend performance).

For conventionally men’s style clothing, a suit and tie, a sport coat, or even a nice button-down or polo shirt with slacks or khakis are all acceptable. For conventionally women’s style clothing, common business-casual outfits or a cocktail dress is most common. In extravagant, world-renown theaters it is very common to see super-formal clothing such as a tuxedo, or an evening gown. It is also important to keep in mind that the theater, not uncommon to the movie theater around the corner, tends to get cold, so make sure to dress warm or accessorize with a shawl or scarf.

The crowd at a small opera house

A fun aspect of dressing for an opera that is common among opera regulars is to dress in the theme of the opera being performed. For example, if you are going to a production of Turandot, which takes place in ancient China, it is not uncommon to see traditional Chinese qipao dresses. Make sure to check out our Opera Guides to see if we have a guide on the opera you are planning to attend

For Outdoor settings, attire tends to be a bit more relaxed. Most important make sure you’re dressed for the weather. If it’s a hot day, a breathable button down, polo shirt, or lightweight blouse is the way to go. In the rain, go for the umbrella instead of a neon green North Face jacket!

An outdoor opera performance

What Not to Wear

As mentioned above, a general guideline for opera attire is business casual and up. This means that flip-flops and t-shirts are normally not suggested, and are often (especially in Europe) not allowed. Although clothing items like jeans, sneakers, or yoga pants are also not traditionally suggested, it is not at all uncommon to see, is not against any dress codes, and should never deter anybody from going to an opera.

Metropolitan Opera House (New York) Dress Code

As the Metropolitan Theater (The Met) is one of the most famous opera theaters in the world, it tends to be a bit more formal than many other American theaters. According to the Met’s official website, there is no dress code. See the exact quote:

There is no dress code at the Met, but a night at the opera can be a great excuse to get dressed up.

War Memorial Opera House (San Francisco) Dress Code

San Francisco tends to be a more casual place, and this carries on to the War Memorial Opera House. There is no dress code, and the majority of spectators lean business-casual, and many are in jeans as they come right from work. Here is the official statement from their website:

“We don’t have a dress code. Some opera-goers prefer suits and gowns, others jeans. Wear what makes you feel comfortable. But please avoid wearing strong scents. Many people (including singers) have allergies.”

LA Opera (Los Angeles) Dress Code

Like most American opera houses, there is no official dress code at the LA Opera. You do see a wide variety of attire, but LA does tend to have more super-formal gowns and flashy outfits than many other cities. The following statement is from their official FAQs:

Whatever you feel comfortable in, as long as it meets the standards of public attire. Most people dress up for evening performances—especially on the weekends—and people tend to dress nicer on opening nights (particularly the season opening).

Lyric Opera (Chicago) Dress Code

The Lyric Opera does not have a dress code. The popular Chicago theater tends to be a tad more informal than others. Jeans and T-Shirts are not uncommon to see. Their official statement is as follows:

Lyric does not have a formal dress code — you will never be turned away at the door for your clothes. That being said, a night at the opera is the perfect opportunity to dress it up a little

Bass Performance Hall (Fort Worth) Dress Code

Bass Performance Hall has the simplest dress code statement possible. The most common attire as described by many regulars is “church clothes”. Here is the straightforward statement from their website:

There is no dress code at Bass Performance Hall. Wear whatever you’d like.

Teatro La Scala (Milan) Dress Code

If you are lucky enough to see a performance at La Scala, you will have to obey a strict dress code. As arguably the most famous opera house in the world, you will see much more super-formal attire than other theaters. Here is the official dress code:

The public is kindly requested to dress in keeping with the decorum of the Theatre, out of respect for the Theatre and for other viewers. People wearing shorts or sleeveless T-shirts will not be allowed inside the auditorium; in this case, tickets will not be reimbursed.

Paris Opera (Paris) Dress Code

The Paris Opera does not have a dress code, and tends to be more business-casual and less tux and gown. They do have the following suggestion on their website:

“There is no particular dress code, but proper attire is required. For gala evenings, it is suggested that gentlemen wear a dark suit and ladies a dress.

Vienna State Opera (Vienna) Dress Code

Vienna State Opera does have a dress code, but a relatively easy one to follow. Like all opera houses, you will see mainly smart-casual, some super-formal, and some informal. Here is the official dress code as listed in English on their site:

Since you are sometimes in very close contact with other visitors at our performances, we ask for your understanding that people in incomplete clothing, such as no shoes or flip-flops, undershirts as tops, extremely wide holey jeans or shorts for men, may be denied admission by our audience or revision service despite having a valid ticket.

The Royal Opera House (London) Dress Code

The dress code for The Royal Opera House in London tends to vary a bit more than others based on the specific performance. It is common to be sent a performance-specific dress code prior to the show, but as far as an official dress code, on their website they state there is not, but then go on to explain there is. See below;

There is no formal dress code. We want everyone to feel comfortable and able to engage with what is happening on stage, and so we encourage audiences and visitors to wear whatever they feel comfortable wearing. We only ask that you are fully clothed and that your feet are covered.