Ah, the theatre – civilization’s great temple to the arts and the Muses. It is a place where man attempts to know beauty, where ovations echo to the vaulted ceilings, and where the last rustle and hush heralds the curtain rise. Across Washington, DC sit a dozen theatres and concert halls, but none so lauded as the Kennedy Center. A living memorial to the late president, the Kennedy Center welcomes our nation’s most celebrated performers and most distinguished guests. In this venue, seated beside diplomats and senators, one of society’s most enduring anxieties is raised: what to wear to the Kennedy Center.
A history of style
Not too long ago evening dress was de rigueur at the theatre: dapper gentleman in black coats and ties were proud to lend an arm to breathtaking women in silk and fur. It’s a sign of the changing times that increasing numbers of theatregoers arrive in more casual attire. Of course, no formal dress code is enforced. One of the great aspects of theatre is its democracy: art is open to all. At Spey, we are of the opinion that making an effort is simply good manners. A tacit contract exists between the audience and the performers wherein each is challenged to bring their best. Dressing well also adds to the allure of the evening, giving each performance a truly special feeling.
What to wear to the Kennedy Center
When deciding what to wear to the Kennedy Center, consider the performance. Most often, evening performances are more formal than matinees. Light, freshly-colored dresses that are knee length or longer are excellent for shows in the morning and afternoon. For later shows, eveningwear or a knee-length little black dress is the classic look for patrons. Opening night to the ballet, opera or symphony calls for black tie. A black tie affair is the perfect moment to showcase a bit of Spey luster. Choose a gown that is comfortable enough to be seated in for the duration of the performance, and then wrap yourself in layers of pearls.
Patrons vary widely in choosing what to wear to the Kennedy Center. You’ll see every conceivable level of formality as you look around the theatre, but that’s not an excuse. A good rule of thumb is this: if you would wear it to a baseball game, you should not wear it to the theatre. Avoid t-shirts, caps, sandals, jeans, and running shoes. At the very least we recommend business attire. For gentlemen: a jacket and tie. For ladies: a tea-length dress. Bulky outerwear, coats and umbrellas should be checked with an attendant. If you are seated in the balcony, you’ll need to be able to mount several flights of stairs or wait for an elevator, so choose your heels accordingly.
…and what to avoid
One can never be overdressed at the Kennedy Center. Especially with those seated at the orchestra level or in the box tiers, you’ll be treated to a parade of classic fashion and taste. Gloves are not uncommon at premieres, though they can be removed when seated. Furs and shawls add an extra layer of refinement while also protecting from the chill of the theatre. The only fundamental rule is this: respect your fellow patrons, the performers, and the establishment. Avoid heavy perfumes, towering hats, or jangling accessories that may disrupt the pleasure of those seated near you. After all, the artists have spent years perfecting their craft. Lend them and those around you the honor of dressing to the nines. If you do commit a fashion faux pas, never fear – for the most part you’ll be sitting in the dark.
Finish the look with pearl
We echo John F. Kennedy’s words, etched into the very marble of the theatre: “I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of Grace and Beauty.” If you keep that in mind when choosing what to wear to the Kennedy Center, you can’t go too far wrong. And if we may be so bold as to recommend a Spey piece befitting the occasion, consider a classic strand of pearls for ladies or a pearl lapel pin for gentlemen. An evening in DC is not complete without a touch of the arts, and the arts are not complete without a dash of Washington’s most acclaimed accessory: Spey pearls.