Should audience members be expected to dress up for the Theatre?

The MTAS Facebook page has recently been discussing something that I feel warrants a little attention. As someone who often goes to the theatre in leggings and a top it is hard to remain unbiased when presenting this blog; so I urge you to remain mindful of my biasness when reading this.


A post on our Facebook page (The Musical Theatre Appreciation Society) not criticising, but merely expressing an opinion of disappointment in the lack of traditional attire; inspired a light debate. Some felt making the physical effort of looking nice showed respect to the performers others expressed a carefree attitude. As for me? If the rules that define traditional theatre were never broken – well we wouldn’t have some of the musicals we have today! Rap? In a musical? Being this successful? Who would have thunk it!


Not only are musicals becoming more diverse in their form and in the execution of their content but as a result so are the audiences being drawn in. Theatre is becoming more expressive, accessible, dangerous, sexy and exciting; this for me is directly correlated to the audience members showing up. I personally do not believe dressing up for a performance shows respect to a performer. Not more so than turning up! Filling seats! Whether you’re sat upright in these seats draped in gold with your pinky out as you sip on champagne or whether you’re slightly slouched in a tracksuit – you showed up! As long as you remain respectful to the performers by excercising basic theatre ettiquette; who cares what you wear! There are more important ways to show respect to a performer than dressing up in my opinion. Being engaged, clapping; perhaps even a standing ovation if you feel it is warranted!

Now don’t get me wrong this blog is not an attempt to suggest you shouldn’t make the effort if you want to. By all means if you want to dress up, dress up! Some of our members have even mentioned gaining special attention from the performers at stage doors because of their dressy attire. I think that’s awesome! My issue lies not with an individual who dresses up, but with an individual who shines light on those who dress down. One of the things I personally love about theatre is how welcoming it is. Theatre by nature is filled with the most expressive outcasts who have never felt more at home on or behind a stage. I attended the Brit School at my college level and prior to attending I had this saddening feeling that this college would be a commercial photocopier. I imagined I would be taught how to fit in. With my huge hair, huge glasses and thick lenses aiding my terrible eye sight; I stand out. Thankfully, within just moments of my first day there I knew my own quirks were not only appreciated but encouraged.


There are some occasions where I know the majority of audience members will dress up for. Press nights and anniversaries to name a few. I too make a special effort for these nights. I recognise it as a special occasion; so make the choice to mirror that in my attire. Of course you could counteract my arguments by suggesting I don’t recognise the importance of every show. I do, but if I was a performer I would prefer to look out in the audience and see diversity and expression. Isn’t that what the whole industry is about? Or at least becoming?

My issue lies not with the individual who dresses up, but with the individual who shines light on those who dress down.

If you want to dress up to the theatre, please do. I often see people dress up and of course I can appreciate the effort and think it’s nice for the individual. But if you don’t want to dress up, don’t make excuses for it. The only thing that saddened me about the thread was people feeling they had to justify why they weren’t dressing up. Please don’t feel the need to say you were working or you didn’t have time. You are a paying customer coming to see a show… You owe no explanation.

And to the MTAS member Jade Elsen who inspired this blog, thank you for bringing such an interesting topic to our page!

Written by MTAS Admin for @MTAS_Offical







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