BroadwayGirlNYC: Jeans on Broadway?

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This week, a bit of a scuffle broke out amongst Broadway fans on Twitter, when the question of wardrobe arose.  No, this wasn't a discussion of costuming; it was the issue of appropriate dress for the audience when attending a Broadway show.

One of my "lovelies" (as I call my followers), @ChenoAddict, is a huge theatre fan who is getting ready to attend her very first Broadway show.  In a tweet, she asked me, "What is the appropriate dress code for an evening Broadway show?"

When I answered her, I had no idea it would spawn so many impassioned responses -- or that there was such a wide range of opinions on what is, and is not, acceptable to wear when going to the theatre.

My answer was quick and simple: "Can be anything from jeans to fancy! I like to be 'festive'." 

In response, travel & fashion tweeter @FashionClassJet commented "when attending any show, jeans should not be in your fashion vocabulary." And when I retweeted that, the conversation really picked up. 

We've all seen photos from "the golden age of theatre" when patrons would dress up in evening gowns and tuxedoes, with ticketholders acknowledging Broadway as high-art and a truly special occasion worthy of fancy dress.  I have to admit, I'm attracted to the romance of those days; in its honor - especially for evening performances - I'll sometimes put on a sparkly little number with heels.  But there's no question that Broadway has become much less formal than it used to be (even though ticket prices are soaring).  So the debate began: Is it okay to wear jeans when going to the theatre?

I heard from twitterers all across the spectrum.

There are those who think that jeans are never okay:

@besssayshi "I try to dress like I am going to church."
@alainamonts "there are SO many ways to be cute, classy and comfy without wearing jeans. And it is more fun!"
@g8rlane "I think we owe it to the actors, the theatre and the craft to at least not wear jeans! Respect!"

And there are those who think jeans are the only way to go:
@kristofferdiaz "I wear jeans. it's a choice. theater needs to be democratized and treated as popular culture."
@dmw_directs "A Broadway Dress Code reinforces elitism. Short of nudity, people should feel good & comfortable. For the price of the ticket, come as you are."
@robintilejr "My jeans are gorgeous (& cost more than many entire outfits) so I wear them to many shows! Jeans are IN!"

But the vast majority of tweeters agree that there isn't a hard-and-fast rule.  Sometimes weather or circumstances dictate our clothing (a tourist who nabs last-minute tickets from TKTS on a 90 degree Wednesday afternoon might not have time to go home and change out of shorts). Other times the tone of a show tells us how to dress (rockers are welcome at American Idiot!).  And with increasingly available tickets for students and artists, Broadway is becoming more and more accessible to the masses - who, let's face it, favor their jeans.  (Opening night is an obvious exception, where formalwear is mandatory, but that's different because it's a red-carpet, invitation-only affair.)

There were some notable personalities who chimed in on the debate:

James Brown-Orleans (@PBImagination), an actor in The Lion King, opines: "I don't care what people in the audience are wearing, as long as they come and enjoy it!"
Adam Duritz (@countingcrows), lead singer of The Counting Crows, says: "I often go in jeans but I still love a truly dapper night out at the theatre. That's just me. Be who you are."
The American Theatre Wing (@thewing) - and after all, what better source could there be to chime in on the subject - just wants bodies in seats: "JUST GO".

After reading over 100 tweets on the subject (most tagged #BwayDressCode), I've been giving the subject a lot of thought.  And here are a few rules I've come up with:

  • Pay attention to the tone of the show. Dressing down is much more appropriate for Rock of Ages, which plays up its own casual nature, than it is for a higher-brow show like Sondheim On Sondheim or even The Phantom of the Opera.
  • Matinees are more casual than evening performances, especially during the summer when it's really hot outside. You can probably get away with shorts or flip-flops at a matinee.
  • Remember that the performers are there in the room with you, and might even see you. You're visiting them at their job - so wear clothing that says "I respect what you do".
  • Don't forget how special it is to have access to Broadway. Dress as you would to any special occasion.

But the number one rule of dressing for Broadway is to HAVE FUN! Don't be afraid to show a little flair or style.  That might include jeans, and it might not; you make the call, but make it  consciously. Make it festive, even if you don't get fancy.  After all, when you tweet photos from outside the stage door, you're going to want make sure you look cute.   

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From This Author BroadwayGirl NYC

A passionate observer of all things theatrical, @ BroadwayGirlNYC via her blog and on Twitter has helped to lead the way of interaction between fans, (read more...)

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