What to Wear to the Opera

I often wish it was socially acceptable to wear pajamas outside of the house. Some people actually do this and I commend them for their fearless “I can wear whatever I want” attitude. I somewhat circumvent this issue by taking it “up a notch” and wear workout clothes. I might not even have plans to work out that day but I grew accustomed to this clothing style while traveling around the world. You never know when you are going to want to climb hundreds of steps to reach the top of a temple or need to run to catch that metro. It’s comfortable AND practical and has stayed with me since.

When it is time to dress up, I do enjoy it. All too often though I find myself with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. This is especially true for when it comes to attending cultural events like the opera. The opera is NOT just for la crème de la crème of society. The stories are entertaining for general audiences and when you get past the fancy costumes, elaborate sets, and subtitles, you will often see that there is a lot of “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” at the core of these stories. Many operas have storylines that would rival any reality TV show.

Lincoln Center, home to The Metropolitan Opera, on a cold and rainy December night

Lincoln Center, home to The Metropolitan Opera, on a cold and rainy December night

Gone are the days of men in their tuxes and women in their gowns. While I think that is lovely, it is not practical if operas want to reach wider audiences. They have to be accessible and if going to the opera means spending more than the price of the ticket on a gown, that is going to deter a lot of people from going. So when someone excitedly purchases their nosebleed seats for their first opera, what should they wear?

This is all obviously personal opinion, but in general I would say absolutely no tennis shoes and no jeans. If you wear this, you might get some interesting glances from your fellow attendees. For men, I recommend a suit if you have it, especially if you are seated in orchestra seating. At the very least, a dress shirt and slacks with some nice dress shoes would do the trick. For women, I recommend a semi-formal dress or skirt and blouse. It does not have to be floor length but if you have something in your closet that is formal and want to wear it, then by all means! If you cannot “play dress up” to go to the opera then when can you?

The iconic starburst chandeliers at The Metropolitan Opera House

The iconic starburst chandeliers at The Metropolitan Opera House

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you just went on a run and have an opportunity to go see an opera while still rocking your Lululemon outfit, then I say go for it. The most important aspect is that you are witness to some truly breathtaking music and artistry. If you have a chance to make an evening of it and don that dress you wore when you were a bridesmaid a few years ago, then all the better.

With no foreseeable need for a "fancy outfit" when I packed, this is what I wore to go see Puccini's Madama Butterfly.

Black pencil skirt, black top, and a white vintage blazer to see Puccini’s Madama Butterfly


“Where words fail, music speaks.”

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