by Nicole Barley | Photographs by Rob Larson
1Dress for the Theatre What to Wear to the Theater

Jack Davis wears a Z Zegna white dress shirt, $325, Hugo Boss soft-blend Glen plaid suit, $895, Z Zegna royal bluetie, $135, Robert Talbott pocket square, $50, and To Boot mahogany dress loafers, $325, Larrimor’s. Molly Miller wears a Milly turtleneck dress, $385, and Donald J. Pliner boots, $228, Footloose. 18K white gold diamond hoops, $12,600, Henne Jewelers. Sabrina DeMatteo wears a Milly dress, $365, Miguel Ases Earrings, $390, and a Juicy Couture sequin purse, $128, Footloose.


Consider this your dress rehearsal for what to wear to the theater, then step into the spotlight!
It’s the age-old question: what should I wear today? Add to that mix a special event, such as attending the ballet, and the outfit necessities change completely. The best part about that heightened responsibility toward fashion is the opportunity to really play a part, to become a character, to participate in the show that you’re about to attend. Being a part of the audience makes you a part of the performance, in fact, it’s what makes that show a performance. We first talked to theatre, ballet, and symphony experts to give you direction for what to wear, where. Then, we made the script come to life at Pittsburgh Public Theater by styling a variety of outfits, from a gorgeous gala-ready gown to a more-casual matinee ensemble. It’s show time! Hair and make-up by Philip Pelusi stylists. Models provided by Docherty Talent & Modeling Agency.

2Dress for the Theatre What to Wear to the Theater

Jack Davis wears a Hickey Freeman double windowpane sport coat, $1,295, Eton shirt, $245, Hugo Boss pants, $195, and Brioni pocket square, $90, Larrimor’s. Omega DeVille watch, $6,900, Henne Jewelers.

3Dress for the Theatre What to Wear to the Theater

Molly Miller wears a Parker dress, $352, e.b. Pepper. Elana Kattan Garnet fringe necklace, $128, One Brilliant. Nitebags black satin purse, $48, Footloose. 18K white gold three-row diamond bracelet, $18,750, Henne Jewelers.

4Dress for the Theatre What to Wear to the Theater

Sabrina DeMatteo wears a Rickie Freeman Terri Jon gown, $825, e.b. Pepper. 18K white gold diamond drop earrings, $27,400, 18K white gold and diamond bracelet, $14,300, and platinum scattered marquise diamond ring, $9,600, Henne Jewelers.



Ted Pappas, Producing Artistic Director of Pittsburgh Public Theater, describes the thrilling event that is a night at the theater, and how you can make the most of it for yourself and the actors. 

Everyone Is Welcome
“Personally, I enjoy dressing up to attend the theater. It’s part of a sense of ritual and event for me, especially for an opening night or if there is a star on the stage. If Judi Dench or Vanessa Redgrave is performing, I will definitely wear a suit and tie to the show. So, sometimes the decision of what to wear depends on what you’re seeing and where you’re seeing it. There’s a difference between a matinee and a Saturday night. On the other hand, the theater is the most democratic of art forms and by that, I mean it welcomes absolutely everyone into the communal experience. Personally, I maintain a certain sense of formality because it is my hobby, my career, and my special pleasure, attending the theater. I wouldn’t dream of going too casually to church, and I certainly wouldn’t dream of going too casually to a play. However, there’s nothing wrong with a nice pair of jeans a crisp shirt, but I draw the line at cut-offs. I think what’s important is what the actors are wearing. That’s pretty much what I concern myself with. But I do like opening nights to have a special sense of event.”

Play Your Part
“I think there’s a contract between an audience and the performers on stage that everyone is going to give it their best at every performance. Part of that is showing up on time, being respectful and alert during the performance, making sure your cell phone is off, and dressing appropriately and with an eye toward acknowledging that this event is one of a kind and matters. A pet peeve of mine is noisy jewelry. I’m not sure your flashiest charm bracelet with all the bells and whistles attached is the right thing to wear to a show. Though, I’ll admit, I’m particularly sensitive to sounds in the audience, I’ve been distracted by jewelry that draws attention to itself by making sounds. So, I would caution to be a little discrete in that area.”

Cautionary Tales
“No really heavy perfume, please. Just be aware that the person next to you may have an allergy or may not particularly enjoy your Chanel No. 5. On the other hand, going to the theater is great fun and it shouldn’t be about what you wear, but what you see, and how excited you are about the show. Nothing should keep you from coming to the theater. The theater provides a wonderful opportunity for some fun in fashion and perhaps even a sense of adventure when you go out.”

Up Next:
September 27 – October 28

Born Yesterday, The O’Reilly Theater
November 8 – December 9
Good People, The O’Reilly Theater

Pittsburgh Public Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Downtown. 412.316.1600.



Aja Jones, PR/Marketing Manager for the Pittsburgh CLO, loves participating in the glitz and glam of a theater performance. Take note of her enthusiasm when dressing for your next show.

Dress Up Time
“Many of our patrons look to Pittsburgh CLO shows as an opportunity to wear their very best, and this is evidenced throughout the year, not only during our Summer Season at the Benedum Center, but also at the CLO Cabaret year round, and especially throughout the holiday seasons with our annual production of A Musical Christmas Carol. Our holiday matinees bring in thousands of area children and for some, if not most, it is their first experience of live theatre. Many of them arrive dressed in their very finest, all looking so lovely and dapper. It’s one of the cutest things you’ll ever see.”

Come As You Are
“Pittsburgh CLO has also tried to cultivate a relaxing atmosphere in general, communicating to patrons that they may come in any attire that they feel comfortable, especially during the easier-going summer months. You can really expect to see anything from shorts to suits to jeans to cocktail dresses. I’m sure there was a time, years ago, when arriving at the theatre in something more casual was a definite ‘no-no,’ but that has changed over time. Theater patrons, in general, are much more accepting of themselves and others — and we just want everyone to have a good time.”

Thematic Outfits
“When I attend performances of A Musical Christmas Carol, I oftentimes will see the same sort of attire you might see in a family holiday portrait. The same things that kids wear to visit with Santa, they might wear to A Musical Christmas Carol. Myself, on a personal level, I do like to dress in a theme. I love to wear hats, [but] I always try to take them off so the person behind me can see.”

Up Next:
October 25 – January 20, 2013
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s A Grand Night for Singing, CLO Cabaret
Pittsburgh CLO, 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412.281.3973.



James A. Wilkinson, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, suggests a variety of looks for taking in a musical performance at Heinz Hall.

Suitable Attire
“Normally, appropriate attire is whatever you are comfortable wearing. There are a few exceptions. For the Symphony Gala, people coming to the after party will normally be in black-tie attire. For most concerts, a sport coat or suit is more appropriate for men and a dress or slacks for women. It really does not make much a difference between a matinee or evening performance.”

Now and Then
“Overall, fashions have become much more casual. When I first started going to symphony concerts in the 1970s, attire was what was appropriate a business meeting. ‘Business casual’ did not exist as a concept.”

What to Avoid
“I think a collarless shirt is inappropriate for men as are short shorts or tank tops for women. Normally, it’s anything goes.”

Up Next:
October 5-7

Olga Kern Plays Rachmaninoff, Heinz Hall
October 12-14
Honeck Presents Mozart’s Requiem, Heinz Hall
October 19
Mahler’s Resurrection, Heinz Hall

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, 600 Penn Ave., Downtown. 412.392.4900.



Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre soloist Eva Trapp explains appropriate attire for attending a performance of this gorgeous art form.

Dance, Dance
“As a dancer, I have a unique viewpoint of the clothing worn to the ballet. The majority of the time, I am on stage or backstage rehearsing for the next show. Occasionally, I do get to watch a performance. Opening night would be the dressiest of all the performances; I’d wear a floor-length dress done up with glitz and glam, and for the gentlemen a suit and tie with perhaps a fedora to take it up a notch. Opening night is one of those rare experiences that we are given to get all ‘done up.’”

Royal Reasons
“Historically, ballet originated during the reign of King Louis XIV. He loved dance and it became an accustomed part of their court. From what I gather, the proper attire would be their very best clothes, due to the fact that they were in the presence of the king.”

Fashion Evolution
“I think a collarless shirt is inappropriate for men as are short shorts or tank tops for women. Normally, it’s anything goes.”

Up Next:
October 26-28

Giselle with the PBT Orchestra, The Benedum Center

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, 2900 Liberty Ave., Strip District. 412.281.0360.

5Dress for the Theatre What to Wear to the Theater

Molly Miller wears an Eva Franco York Top in Blush, $168, an Eva Franco Kasha Skirt in Teal, $168, and an Anne Koplik Designs Medallion Necklace with Opal, $78, One Brilliant.


This article is featured in the October 2012 issue of WHIRL Magazine.
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