An invitation to the opera is an exciting prospect. The opportunity to don our finery is always welcome, but like many other events we’d planned to attend over the summer, the annual Glyndebourne Opera Festival was cancelled. In its 86-year history, it’s only been cancelled once before, during the second World War.
Due to high demand, its free Open House virtual event was launched in response to indoor entertainment being prohibited. From May, viewers could watch performances on YouTube each Sunday, and were encouraged to dress up at home, just as they would for the real life event.
However, fans will be pleased to note that against all odds, Glyndebourne is back with a belated but spectacular season opener on Wednesday, and in most exciting news, it sees the return of the opera.
The 5,000 tickets for the gardens and performances (which include the London Philharmonic Orchestra) sold out within 40 minutes. The shows will feature a concert for the first half and Offenbach’s Mesdame de la Halle for the second. If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, you’ll likely be pondering what to wear, as the festival’s traditional formal dress code is enough to send you into a spin, especially after months without dressing up in lockdown.
Handily, Glyndebourne doesn’t have any actual dress code restrictions, unlike Royal Ascot which has a somewhat stringent style guide which is updated each year. It means then that you’re more likely to have something that already works, and is easily dressed up. The key is to not look so trussed up that you feel too ‘done’, but equally you don’t want to look out of place in too-casual a look. However, slipping into something special is a must and will lift morale.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the UK is experiencing regular heatwave bouts: ideal if you’re on a staycation or relaxing in your own garden, but tricky if you’re outdoors at the opera all day and arriving in the midst of the heat early afternoon. A picnic in the stunning Glyndebourne gardens is a must, but your ensemble will need to be prepared for that, too. On first thought, it all appears to present quite the sartorial dilemma, but is actually easily managed.
Dress fans should have no trouble at all: opt for flowing, breezy silhouettes over restrictive ones so that you're cool and comfortable. Bold floral styles, chiffon midis and silky maxis are all stylish options, but if you do opt for silk or satin, choose a printed piece so as not to show up any sweat marks.
A smart jumpsuit (with a bit of stretch) is a chic alternative to a dress if you're one of the few guests who will be sat on the grass or if there are strong winds predicted. If you're a fan of separates, a silky slip skirt or tailored wide leg trousers are both lovely options when paired with a pretty blouse and mules.
On the other hand, you’d do well to be prepared in case the weather takes a turn, so pack a small, smart umbrella that you won’t be embarrassed about fishing out.
Umbrella aside however, the opera offers a valuable opportunity to give your most fabulous accessories an outing. To maintain a degree of etiquette, avoid large hats and instead opt for smaller iterations for shade. Sunglasses are a must, and I’d counsel you to opt for sleek cat-eye style or gold frames, the latter of which act like jewellery. Speaking of jewellery, statement earrings are an excellent idea, though don’t go too large or heavy to ensure they’re comfortable enough for all day wear - Susan Caplan and Butler & Wilson do brilliant clip-on versions which lessen any strain.