If You Wear That Velvet Dress

And now for something completely different. This post is for those in need of a styling hand to help assemble looks to wear at the ballet, opera or even a fancy theatre outing. We like ballet, we like fashion, we used to like dressing up our dolls and most of all we like to have fun, so here we have an opportunity to combine all of these!

Yes, the days of dressing up to the opera house are long gone. With the exception of a positively glitzy premiere of the ballet Jewels in 2007 (floor length gowns galore), today’s audiences do not tend to go couture overboard when getting ready for an evening at the theatre, not even expensive ticket holders. Anything too big and bold might look out of place, especially if you are seated “up in the gods”. Remember that famous Sex and the City episode where Petrovsky (ballet god Misha Baryshnikov) treated Carrie Bradshaw to an Oscar de la Renta dress for an evening at the Met? Nice but fiction. Nowadays, with opera houses afraid of being branded snobbish & with jeans having made it to the mainstream, the reality is way more relaxed. So relaxed in fact, that last Saturday I spotted someone in Bermudas & Birkenstocks. And a guy in a kilt! It was an evening of sartorial diversity.

Many people don’t go to such extremes of course and even if jeans and trainers are completely acceptable it doesn’t mean you should, especially if you are a girl. There is much fun to be had dressing up for an afternoon or evening at the ballet, it’s all part of the experience of being transported into a different universe and with the dancers looking so graceful and glamorous it’s only natural to want to give them some competition this side of the stage!

Here we showcase some of our favourite basic looks (picked & chosen from the UK high street, but any of these can be reproduced with more high end or save-tastic brands):

Girly and classic. The cardi & opaque tights are great add ons for winter, the flouncy skirt is feminine and the flats are ideal for those in the standing areas (besides, Blair Waldorf would approve!):

Bolero from Monsoon, Top and skirt from FCUK, Alice band, tights and bag from Accessorize and shoes from Marais USA

Bolero from Monsoon, Top and skirt from FCUK, Alice band, tights and bag from Accessorize and shoes from Marais USA

A pared down version of Carrie’s Oscar de la Renta effect, matched with discreet accessories. For this look, you can opt for any boldly coloured dress (though purple is huge for the autumn):

Dress from Boden, Bolero and Heels from Monsoon, Clutch, Studs and Necklace from Accessorize.

Dress from Boden, Bolero and Heels from Monsoon, Clutch, Studs and Necklace from Accessorize.

London is cold and sometimes you just want something cozy & warm, here’s a way to wear woolies with an “evening feel”. Also, this skirt will suit most body types:

Cardigan from Boden, Skirt from FCUK, Clutch, Earrings, Necklace and Tights from Accessorize and shoes from Marais USA

Cardigan from Boden, Skirt from FCUK, Clutch, Earrings, Necklace and Tights from Accessorize and shoes from Marais USA

But for a summer evening, what better than a strappy LBD & peepy heels? For the autumn transition, wear it with black opaques:

Dress from FCUK, Shoes from Monsoon, Statement Jacket from Topshop, Earrings and clutch from Accessorize

Dress from FCUK, Shoes from Monsoon, Statement Jacket from Topshop, Earrings and clutch from Accessorize

If you have the legs you can try the mini, a nice modern look for a Wayne McGregor premiere:

Top from Monsoon, Tulip skirt and tights from Topshop, Clutch and studs from Accessorize and shoes from Marais USA

Top from Monsoon, Tulip skirt and tights from Topshop, Clutch and studs from Accessorize and shoes from Marais USA

Or this perfect basic look that can be worn from winter to summer, from gentle Swan Lake to rocking Chroma:

outfit4

Dress, tights and shoes from Topshop. Clutch and earrings from Accessorize

Note: All images taken from the brands’ websites. Copyright belongs to its respective owners.

Likes ballets that taste like 85% cocoa: pure, extra bitter, dark or intense. Her favorites are La Sylphide, Manon, Mayerling, Ondine, Symphonic Variations and McGregor's Chroma. A self-confessed Alexei Ratmansky devotee, she chases his ballets around the globe. Non ballet: literature, theatre, opera, rock, art, food, travel, fashion, translating and interpreting.

28 Comments

  • incase you’re planning on going to the ballet, like me!: If You Wear That Velvet Dress http://t.co/3aHgIoAG

  • February 25, 2012

    Shae Orr

    Next weekend I’m going to see a ballet in Atlanta. I am a bit thicker than some so any Idea’s for me?

  • December 17, 2011

    Welcome « Dubai Dance Academy

    [...] What to Wear at the Ballet [...]

  • December 7, 2011

    Emilia

    How about “red dress in demure fit”? Check the look here -> http://www.whowhatwear.com/website/full-article/www-styling-tips-december/

  • December 7, 2011

    MaRiAnA

    What about a red dress? Any ideas for this look? The show will be in 2 weeks and it’s gonna be cold and snowing.
    Thanks!

  • What’s appropriate to wear to the ballet? Don’t ask Carrie Bradshaw—@theballetbag has you covered: http://t.co/dqRq28e

  • July 4, 2011

    Emilia

    Thanks! Help is at hand Sati. Here’s an example of what people wore at the Alice gala at the ROH this winter: http://blog.roh.org.uk/?p=2147 – As you can see the looks are diverse and democratic. Bearing in mind the Coliseum is a much less formal place, you would be totally fine with the looks shown here. The Russians in the stalls will be dressed to kill though :)

  • July 3, 2011

    Sati

    Nice page! It’s a relief to hear that London ballet / opera does not insist on formal wear. I love formal, but not in July when the weather could be anything from 15-30 degrees.

    I’ve been panicking recently – The Man and I are going to see Romeo & Juliet at the Coliseum in a couple weeks, and I have no clue what to wear. Somehow we’ve ended up with tickets to the charity gala performance, since that was the only day he could get off work. What does a girl wear to a gala? The sort of thing that you’ve shown here, or more dressy? I haven’t been to one since I was fifteen.

  • February 27, 2011

    Emilia

    …now why would she do that????? ;)

  • February 27, 2011

    Brianna

    My Moms making me wear black cargo pants to a ballet!

  • February 19, 2011

    Emilia

    LOL, what a story! That door guy would never find a job in a London opera house, it’s all about diversity and reach here so theatres are reluctant to adopt any dress code. Does not mean one should wear trainers and hoodies of course… nor Birkenstocks in summer ;)

  • February 17, 2011

    Henrik from Tights and Tiaras

    great post!
    And for those who ask for pant-option: you are girls?! Why on earth would you want to wear pants, when skirts are so nice? ;)
    I get so offended when I see people in the theatre wearing their trainers to the theatre. Once I went to see Giselle in Vienna, and the door-guy sent some kids home because they were wearing hoodies. He was like “how much was your tickets? Here you are, now get out of here, and come back when you are properly dressed”. I went there to congratulate him!!

  • February 17, 2011

    nadine austin

    One of the few things that people still dress up for!

  • January 14, 2011

    Londonlime

    Its awesome to be able to dress up. A friend made me (and her) dress up like mad for a ballet at L’Opera, and even though we were a little overdressed (but not heinously), it was lovely to be able to take photos in those gorgeous surroundings. So its good as a photo opportunity too, especially at the ROH in London. You are right about feeling overdressed up in the gods though, especially when your compatriots are very much sensibly dressed for the weather and the tube, and are eating sandwiches on a bench in the corridors!

  • January 6, 2011

    Bonnie

    Hey, your post is very interesting and I really liked the showcase of the basic looks with stylish accessories.

  • November 25, 2010

    LilyMarie

    Very helpful, thank you so much for all the ideas.
    And I love the Monty Python reference :)

  • June 16, 2010

    Emilia

    Hi BalletIsForMe,

    are you really from Honduras (as per your email address)? Big welcome and happy to hear we are spreading our ballet charm to Central America!

    Best,

    E.

  • June 16, 2010

    BalletIsForMe

    Hello Ballet girls ! This are really classic clothes really nice ! I really love them ! Looks like one of those Girly Classic Ballets clothes ! Many people don’t think ”BALLET” is girly. Do you think that ? Maybe the way that you see it . Many girls don’t like it by the way of those ”Pinky , Fluffy , Those skirts , Tutus , dresses , The postures and bags ” everything like that. Either that’s the BALLET CHARM. Yes i think Ballet is for girly girls.

  • [...] not intimidate you, there will be representatives of every kind of demographics in the house, from Bermuda guys to Oscar de la Renta ladies. And if you attend a Wayne McGregor premiere at the Royal Opera House you could gather enough [...]

  • July 23, 2009

    Emilia

    Interesting to know these differences between DC & NY, your comment left me curious as to what people around the world wear for gala vs. non gala occasions, from Mariinsky regulars to La Scala, from POB to Hamburg Ballet, I need to go on a field trip and find out!

  • July 20, 2009

    Anna

    I tend to wear what I wore to work as well. However, I have noticed that in the US people in some cities dress up more than in others. For example, in Washington DC people tend to dress up quite a bit for evening performances. Carrie would only be slightly overdressed. New York tends to be more casual. But then for galas, New Yorkers go all out, while in DC there is less difference between dressing for a gala and for a regular performance.

  • July 16, 2009

    Emilia

    Hey, nothing wrong with that, “what I wore to work that day” is a look we’ve often adopted ; )!!!

  • July 16, 2009

    Webcowgirl

    I’m afraid my look is always “what I wore to work that day.” I’m lucky to work in walking distance of the ROH, though.

  • July 16, 2009

    Webcowgirl

    I’m afraid my look is alwys “what I wore to work that day.” I’m lucky to work in walking distance of the ROH, though.

  • July 12, 2009

    Emilia

    He he! Well spotted Nichelle ; )!!

  • July 11, 2009

    Nichelle

    Feel sheepishly ecstatic that you used a U2 song in your post title :)

    And, love the cute couture! Particularly since I’m also a stay/work-at-home mom, I relish going out to a performance and dressing up.

  • July 11, 2009

    Emilia

    You’re right, we should have pointed out that look n. 5 goes wonderfully with a pair of chic black trousers! And for those who go straight from the office it’s a great option too…

  • July 11, 2009

    Yvonne

    No pants options?