Glyndebourne Bound? Here’s How To Dress The Part

By Charlie Colville

4 weeks ago

The ultimate guide to operatic dressing


When it comes to live performance, opera sits pretty high on the list with regards to sophistication. It’s one of the few remaining theatre events that audiences still dress up for – but, for those who don’t visit on the regular, it can be difficult to know which clothes are the right fit. Read on for the C&TH guide on what to wear to the opera.

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What Is The Dress Code At The Opera?

While there isn’t necessarily a strict dress code at the opera, depending on the venue, audiences are generally encouraged to dress up for the occasion.

It also depends on the performance and your seating location. On opening nights and for more expensive seats, it’s also expected that attendees dress more formally – although the posh stalls and lower levels can get away with cocktail attire. For regular performances, and those sat in less expensive seats on the upper balcony, it’s a bit more relaxed, with people often wearing smart casual dress. Smaller and outdoor venues are also often less stringent on dress codes.

‘Many people dress up for our opening nights (the first performance of each opera), or for Gala performances and award ceremonies, when it is often black-tie. But for regular performances you can wear what you like,’ reiterates the English National Opera on its website. ‘Smart casual to high end couture, it’s your night and we want you to have a great time – all we ask is that if you have large headwear that you remove it for the performance.’

If you’re still unsure what to wear to the opera, then we recommend opting for cocktail attire; this will be your safest bet if you worry about looking under or overdressed.

What To Wear To The Opera


The Cocktail Dress

As we’ve mentioned, a cocktail dress is the safest option when it comes to dressing for the opera. This style of dress is typically shorter than an evening gown, resting anywhere between mid-calf and just above the knee – they also tend to be a lot more comfortable to sit in during long performances.

Pink dress | what to wear to the opera

Dolce & Gabbana

Pink Jacquard A-line Dress (Size L), £525

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Black and white cocktail dress | what to wear to the opera

Rebecca Vallance

Veronica Dress (Size UK 8), rent from £126.26

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Woman in black and gold cocktail dress | what to wear to the opera

Reformation

Irisa Dress, £298

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Green sparkly dress | what to wear to the opera

The Vampire's Wife

The Falconetti, £1,595

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The Evening Dress

If you’re determined to go all out on your visit to the opera, then a gown is probably a better option. These elegant dresses are usually floor-length and designed to exude sophistication; think red carpet style, but quietly refined enough to make it through two or three hours of sitting in stall chairs.

Model in red dress | what to wear to the opera

Misha

Evianna Gown (Multiple Sizes), rent from £61.13

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Silk dress

Hanna Fiedler

Beige Silk Levi Dress (Size S), £493

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Floral dress

Saloni

Rita Silk Gown (Multiple Sizes), rent from £186.66

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Woman in multi-coloured dress

Olistic

Sosu Ikebana Dress, £1,684

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Opera Gloves

As the name suggests, opera gloves were first worn by women attending opera performances in the 18th and 19th centuries – and they’re still a popular accessory at formal evening events today. Opera gloves are much longer than regular gloves, sitting above the elbow (often up to the bicep or full arm length) and crafted from luxurious materials like silk, velvet and lace.

Black dotted gloves

Cornelia James

Venetia Tulle Opera Glove, £270

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Green gloves

Gucci

Long Gloves, £210

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Black rhinestone gloves

Non Signé / Unsigned

Long Gloves, £21.08

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Blue opera gloves

Cornelia James

Issey Tulle Opera Glove, £140

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The Clutch Bag

You won’t find many formal dresses with pockets (but if you do, they’re a keeper), so a clutch bag is typically in order. It’s best to either opt for a style and colour that matches the rest of your outfit or for something a little more neutral and flexible enough to adapt to multiple outfits. If matching isn’t your thing, however, an artful clash always goes down well.

Purple clutch bag

Bottega Veneta

Purple Small Intrecciato Leather Clutch Bag, £669.76

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Green drawstring bag

LOEWE

Mini Flamenco Clutch In Nappa Calfskin, £850

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Black bag

Totême

Leather Clutch Bag, £287.50

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Blue bag

Max Mara Weekend

Small Nappa Leather Pasticcino Bag, £350

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A Glossy Heel

You’re going to spend most of the night off your feet, so why not go all out with some fancy footwear? Heels are always a good fit for formal events like the opera – especially if you’ve opted for a longer gown – and can help tie any other accessories in with the rest of your outfit.

Orange heels

Amina Muaddi

Orange Satin Begum Slingback Heels, £590.75

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Nude pink heel

Aquazzura

Tres Mondaine 105 Leather & PVC Pumps (Size UK 7.5), £250

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Black sling back heel

Jimmy Choo

Black Amel 50 Leather Pumps, £750

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White heel with corsage

Carvela

Corsage Sling-Back Heeled Satin Sandals, £139

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Featured image: Khaled Ghareeb, Unsplash