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How A Gentlemen Should Dress for the Opera or the Theater

There comes a time in the life of every gentleman when he will find himself at the theater or the opera. It may not be often, but knowing how to dress for the occasion is of the utmost importance.

If you don’t attend regularly, knowing what to wear can seem intimidating and maybe even scary. But, a night (or day) at the opera offers a special opportunity to dress up, show off your more formal style and have fun.

In the days of old, attending the opera meant finding your tux and dusting off your top hat, and dressing in the most formal attire you owned. This may still be the dress code at some opera houses and theaters, but many now suggest dress codes that aren’t quite so formal. Most today will list the dress code on their website; if they don’t, just give them a call and ask.

I can guarantee you that landing somewhere in the business casual to formal range will serve you well. Personally, I welcome any excuse to bust out my formal attire, so you’ll find me dressed to the nines for a night out at the opera.

If you are still unable to picture your outfit, let me give you a few ideas:

Khakis, a dress shirt and your best sport coat. This is a classic look, but not too formal — great for an outdoor opera or theater event, or an opera house with a business casual dress code.
A neutral suit and a shirt with a pop of color or pattern. A little more formal, this is the perfect look for any night out at the theater and lets you showcase your personality with a statement shirt. To make the look even fancier, add a tie or a bowtie and a pocket square.
Break out your tuxedo. For certain events at the opera, a tux may be the right choice. Pair it with your patent leather dress shoes and your dashing formal attire will be the talk of the town.
Hopefully, these looks give you some inspiration. Before you dash off, let me leave you with a few more tips:

Pay attention to the time of the event. A show happening at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday will definitely be less formal, while an opera on a weekend evening will require the most formal attire.
Know what not to wear. You shouldn’t be sporting jeans or athletic clothing to a formal event at the theater. Stay away from any clothing with rips. And flip-flops and baseball caps are a no-no.
Bring an extra layer. Theaters can get drafty and chilly, so be sure to bring a top layer in case you get cold. Whatever it is should match the formality of your attire — no sweatshirts or cargo jackets.
If you have a specific question about theater or opera attire, please send me an email. I should see you soon at a local theater.

Judah Estreicher is the CEO of JBD Clothiers in Baltimore. Reach him at judah@jbdclothiers.com.