A night out listening to classical music at the symphony is something special. While most orchestras and their venues want patrons to feel comfortable and enjoy the music, they also want attendees to dress appropriately. Striking a balance between comfort and elegance takes a bit of planning before you attend a symphony performance. A tuxedo and evening gown are typically not necessary, so check the facts before heading out to rent formal wear. The type of event, ticket price, time of day and who is going can help dictate how formally or casually you should dress.
Type of Performance
Special events such as the opening night gala for the symphony’s season require formal wear. In this case, a classic tuxedo and black oxford or wing tip shoes are necessary. Ladies should wear floor-length gowns with pumps or evening sandals. Benefit concerts for a foundation or special guest would also fall into this category. Other regularly scheduled performances have a very minimal dress code. Concert attendees arrive in everything from cocktail dresses to denim, and it’s more of a personal choice. While jeans are not frowned upon, they may not be as appropriate for an evening performance, as time of day also plays a role.
Time of Day
As with any matinee or daytime event, casual dress is appropriate. While denim is acceptable for both men and ladies, it never hurts to dress up the look a bit. Guys can pair a nice pair of dark jeans with a black blazer and button-up shirt. Ladies can wear heels and a nice silk or embellished blouse with jeans, and add sparkling jewelry. Cocktail attire is a standard for evening performances, yet can still be suited to personal comfort. Team a fitted cocktail dress with a cashmere cardigan and wedge heels for simple elegance. Guys can opt for a full suit or just the slacks with a sweater layered over a collared shirt.
Another cue as to how patrons should dress comes from the price of the ticket. Regardless of the type of event or time of day, hefty ticket prices often indicate a more formal affair. Stick with cocktail attire or better for expensive tickets closer to three figures. Create a polished look by relying on classics like a two-piece suit and oxfords for men, and at least a knee-length cocktail dress for women. If the ticket price is a bargain, chances are you don’t need to wear a fancy ensemble. Dress as you would for a nice business lunch, but don’t be afraid to have fun with color and accessories.
Another factor that can influence how to dress for a symphony performance is who you go with. Attending a performance with family members or a group of friends is certainly a more casual affair, unless it’s a gala or special event. However, a date night at the symphony, whether it be a first date or partner of 20 years, calls for sophistication. This is the perfect occasion for wearing the best suit or most flattering dress in the closet. Heels for gals are a must, and a blazer or dinner jacket keeps guys looking dapper.
References and ResourcesThe Austin Symphony: Tips for Beginners
Inside the Arts: What to Wear to the Symphony
San Francisco Symphony: First Timer's Guide
GQ Magazine: What to Wear to a Symphony Gala Event