Contrary to popular belief, the opera isn't just for fancy, high-brow octogenarians or debauched European royalty (hey there, Kirsten Dunst, missed you). After all, the cool kids are always on the guest list for the annual New York Metropolitan Opening Night Gala—model and The City star Jessica Hart, hot vampire-turned-Tarzan Alexander Skarsgard, and Jessa, er, Jemima Kirke from Girls have all graced the event.
Plus, the opera is just as entertaining as, say, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Hamilton, albeit most of the time with subtitles. There's romance, action, suspense, beautiful music, gorgeous costumes, and all the feelings. But unlike sitting in front of the TV or attending a more chill Broadway performance, figuring out what to wear to such a traditionally posh event can be flummoxing. Like, am I supposed to go to Rodeo Drive, be mocked by a snooty saleslady and then have my non-existent sugar daddy take me back to buy a red off-the-shoulder evening gown? Oh no wait, that was a 1990 movie starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.
Similar to life in general, the previously formal opera dress codes have greatly relaxed these days—much to the dismay of my opera buff dad, who longs for the days of tuxedos and evening gowns—but you don't want to be that schlub wearing athleisure to such a time-honored cultural event. So, you don't need to get all dinner-at-Downton Abbey-level fancy when it comes to your outfit, but still try to be sartorially respectful of the artistry and history behind the opera. In other words, dress appropriately—and you can still add edgy accents to your look, because opera can be cool and modern, too. Just check out young soprano Kristine Opolais.
1. A Non-Boring LBD
Unless you happened to score weekend evening or matinee tickets, you'll probably be going to the performance from the office. Start with a versatile, but still interesting black dress that you can recycle and restyle for future occasions. Maybe try one with a voluminous ruffled skirt that hints at a black-tie ballgown.
DKNY, $355; net-a-porter.com
2. A Colorful, Non-Stuffy Blazer
The AC is usually on full-blast in the auditorium, so this is your chance to creatively layer on a blazer or jacket that complements the silhouette of your dress. Opt for a cheerful color to brighten up the black palette, even if you'll be crying your way through La traviata.
Zara, $100; zara.com
3. Your Most Killer Heels
Since you'll be sitting down most of the evening, embrace impracticality and wear your tallest, strappiest heels. But pick a pair with an eye-catching statement detail—like pom poms!—to show off as you're sipping champagne and checking out the crowd at the bar during intermission.
Aquazurra, $825; barneys.com
4. A Fun, but Still Elegant Clutch
Leave your big tote at the office or at home—it'll be a fire hazard blocking the aisle. (Honestly, auditorium seating can be as tight as flying coach on a low-cost airline sometimes.) Instead, carry your essentials in a sleek gold-accented clutch.
Clare V, $235; intermixonline.com
5. Pearls That Are Anything But Uptight
Give your classic pearl studs a rocked-out refresh with a spiky back detail.
Sam Edelman, $35; shopbop.com
6. A delicate necklace
And finish off with a dainty pendant necklace that you can wear again and again.
BaubleBar, $34; baublebar.com