What to Wear to the Opera (or Otherwise Fancy Cultural Outings)

What to Wear to the Opera (or Otherwise Fancy Cultural Outings)
Sony Pictures/Everett Collection

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.

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