Audiences, Dress the Part

Liz Chirico

There’s a lot said these days about being true to yourself and not conforming to society’s ideals or standards. I support that whole heartedly. But sometimes it can go too far in the other direction. Take dressing for the theater for example.

In the glory days of the Great White Way, it was not uncommon for men to be in tuxes or 3-piece suits, for ladies to wear floor-length or cocktail dresses and show off their pearls and diamonds. The theater was a place to “see and be seen” and folks made sure they were ready for viewing. Today, it is not uncommon to go to the theater and wonder if someone actually wants to attend the show or if they were forced to the theater in the clothes they slept in and are under duress.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to look good. Even a pair of black leggings/yoga pants can look dressy paired with a tunic or heels. Men, jeans are totally fine provided those jeans are free from holes and dirt. I know matinee shows, especially in the summer, are full of folks enjoying the city for a day and are dressing more for comfort and ease of walking than sitting in the theater. I’m one of those folks. But even I’ll pack a comb to run through my hair or a different top in my purse. Little things go a long way.

When you dress well or at least better than looking like you just rolled out of bed, you’re saying “I want to be here. I’m excited to be here”. As someone who performs on stage, trust me when I say we can see you. If I look in the audience and I see a slew of people in sweatpants it’s a bit demoralizing. You wonder why they are in the audience, if they even care about what you’ve spent weeks, months of your life working towards.

We are all of us playing parts. Your role at the theater is that of engaged audience member. You’re no longer Grandma or Brother or Cranky Uncle. When you dress the part of engaged audience member, you’ll find it easier to forget your “real” life and let the show you’ve paid good money to see, you’ve spent weeks, months even envelop you.  And isn’t that what we come to the theater for in the first place? To forget about life and live in this dream world on stage?