Your ticket to the ballet might not come with a dress code, but that doesn’t mean dressing for the occasion has to be confusing. Dressing up rather than dressing down is a chic and smart way to attend the ballet. After all, you don’t want to show up in jeans when your fellow ballet-goers are styled in cocktail dresses and suits.

While ballet companies or performance halls, including the Kennedy Center, typically do not dictate a specific dress code, several dress code styles are safe choices for this event. You’ll be appropriately dressed in business casual attire, cocktail looks and even formal clothes. Attending the ballet is typically regarded as a dressy event, so your attire should reflect the formality of the occasion.

Consider two factors to determine how formally you should dress for the ballet.

  • Time of day. A matinee show is more casual than an evening performance. Afternoon affairs may call for business casual attire, while evening performances may require cocktail or formal looks.
  • Type of event. Ballet performances vary in terms of their formality. A local production put on by high school students is less formal than a holiday performance of The Nutcracker by an internationally renowned traveling company, for example.

Choose from a range of appropriate and stylish options for an afternoon or evening at the ballet. For less formal afternoon performances, opt for dressy slacks or a pencil skirt and a silk blouse. You can pair this look with a shall or blazer for fall and winter performances. Pumps or ballet flats are appropriate shoes for these looks.

For evening shows, don’t be afraid to pull that cocktail dress out of your closet. A little black dress is always a classic look and can be spiced up with a bold statement necklace, beaded clutch or colorful heels. Or use the occasion to have some fun in a knee-length taffeta or chiffon dress. For special events (like opening night or a gala performance), a floor-length silk or satin gown is appropriate.

Dapper Styles for Him

When dressing for the ballet as a guy, create an appropriate look by combining a blazer, shirt and pants. This clothing combination can be dressed up or down depending on the formality of the performance.

More casual events call for a pair of chinos or khaki pants, paired with a long-sleeved, button-down shirt and a blazer. Ties are always acceptable but not required. When wearing this business casual look, you may choose to ditch the blazer, especially if you’re attending the ballet when the weather is warm.

Dressier events require a suit and tie. Evening performances call for a dark suit—preferably black, dark gray or brown—and a conservative shirt and tie. For holiday ballet performances, consider a twist on the classic suit by adding a festive—but not over-the-top—tie or colorful shirt.

Choose patent leather, lace-up shoes for formal suits and leather loafers for more casual attire.