A trip to the theatre is a quintessential London experience that is a must-do if you’re visiting the city. But West End theatre comes with its own etiquette that can cause outfit dilemmas for visitors. There’s a history of dressing up to go to the theatre but these days the whole occasion is a more casual affair. So what exactly should you wear to see a West End Show?
London Theatre Dress Code
There’s no official dress code for theatres in the West End. In theory, anything goes. In practice, most people do tend to dress up a little for the theatre, but as long as you’re presentable, don’t worry. There will be plenty of other theatregoers in jeans and t-shirts,
Jeans are fine if it’s all you’ve packed or what you feel comfortable in. But it’s fun for a night out at the theatre to dress them up a little. Add a nice shirt or top and opt for proper shoes rather than flip-flops. This is important if you don’t want to mark yourself as a tourist. “Smart casual” is the look that most people aim for.
However if you do want to go for a more formal look, you won’t look out of place in a suit and tie or a nice dress either. In fact many Londoners go straight to the theatre from the office, so you’ll be likely to see a few suits at an evening performance.
For some shows such as the Rocky Horror Picture Show, dressing up in wild and whacky outfits is encouraged, but not essential!
Dress Code for Opening Night
If you’re going to see a show on opening night, you should put a bit more thought into your outfit. In fact you may be informed of a specific dress code before hand.
If there aren’t any clothing guidelines, use your own judgment. A nice dress for ladies or a smart suit for men are sensible options. But remember this isn’t a wedding or Ascot – don’t wear a hat, for obvious reasons!
What to Wear to the Theatre
The most important aspect of your theatre outfit is that it’s comfortable. Remember you’ll be sitting down to watch for a couple of hours. You don’t want to be stuck in trousers that are too tight or a dress that’s digging into you.
Bring an extra layer such as a light jacket, cardigan, or shawl in winter, as some theatres can be quite draughty. The same advice applies in summer when some theatres turn the air con up.
Some theatres can get very hot in the summer as they don’t have air conditioning. Dress accordingly, and it’s a good idea to bring a portable fan and a bottle of water.