How to Dress for a Broadway Show
Today’s Broadway shows are some of the best in the world, but they’re also more diverse than ever. There are shows aimed at families, teenagers, couples, professionals, or all over the above. Mean Girls and Frozen are shown alongside Hamilton and Phantom of the Opera. There are day and evening productions. Some people fly in just to see them. Others get a last-minute ticket and head straight from work.
All this can make it confusing to determine just how to behave when seeing a show, especially when it comes to dress. To get the best advice, we went to Jim Caruso. Not only did he make his Broadway debut alongside actress Liza Minnelli in Liza’s at the Palace, but he also hosts a Broadway-themed evening at Birdland Jazz Club and books the Broadway acts for the Birdland Theater. Here's everything you need to know.
1. Your outfit is ultimately up to you.
For Caruso, Broadway is always an affair worth dressing up for. “If you’re asking me (and you are!), I love being part of an audience that looks respectful and appreciative of the performers, their time, and their craft,” he says. “And if you think the cast can’t see you because of the bright lights, think again. They can see you, and what’s more, they can hear you.” But he will be the first to admit that he is always the most dressed up person in the room. “I’m old school,” he says.
The real answer is dress how you feel. If you are going to see a show for a special occasion why not don those dresses and ties? But if you’ve been running around all day seeing New York City’s great sights, feel free to come as you are, even if that means tennis shoes and jeans.
2. Keep the production in mind to stay appropriate.
Some productions invite audience participation. If you’re seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, for example, it’s hard to leave those Gryffindor robes at home. At Disney’s Aladdin, you’ll see little girls showing off their favorite princess outfits.
But Caruso reminds you to be sensitive to which production you are seeing. If it’s on the more serious side, dress accordingly. “Catching a Noël Coward play in cutoffs and an “I’m With Stupid” T-shirt seems inappropriate,” he says. “Similarly, wearing a cricket sweater and white bucks to a Brecht play about poverty might be off-putting.”
3. Consider how you're getting to the theater.
Broadway theaters in New York City are state-of-the-art and modern. There is ample heat in winter and air-conditioning in summer. But even though you’ll be comfortable temperature-wise inside, getting to the show can sometimes be the problem.
Many theaters won’t let you inside until right before the production, so you might be waiting outside for a few minutes. Make sure to bring hats, scarves, and gloves in winter and water in summer, all just for the wait. (Hydrate before entering—most venues don’t allow outside food or drink.)
4. Don’t worry too much about space.
Theaters can also be cramped, Caruso says. “Stuffing yourself, a puffy coat, and mukluks into a theater seat designed for a small 9-year-old can be a true test of mettle.” While you should bring as few items as possible, don’t worry if you feel squeezed in with the people next to you. It’s all part of the grand experience, and you’ll forget about it as soon as the curtain lowers.