Great music and bad clothes at the Symphony

When Dave gave me tickets to the San Francisco Symphony as part of a one-year wedding anniversary gift, I was instantly excited about the thought of dressing up.

Other than the two weddings we attended in Florida in May, I have not had the chance to wear anything fancy for months.  We don’t exactly get invited to the society galas in San Francisco just yet, so most of my days are spent in gym gear or jeans.

I researched the dress code for the Symphony ahead of time, and found that unless it is an opening night or special event, formal attire is not required.  The website stated most people wear business or cocktail attire.  Online reviews said people are often in jeans, so I knew we would see a mixed bag.

We arrived about 30 minutes before showtime, grabbed a cocktail and set up at a high-top table to do some people watching.

It was unbelievable.

Not only were we by far the youngest people in the crowd (minus a handful of children accompanying their grandparents), we were also by far the best dressed.

I have never seen such terrible outfits.  I have never seen so many old people in the City.

Everywhere we go in San Francisco it is mostly younger people around our age or a little older, in their 20s, 30s or 40s.  It’s become our norm.  Not so much at the Symphony, where nearly everyone was well above 60.  (Of course, it certainly doesn’t matter to us the age of our fellow patrons, it was just something worth pointing out.)

You know when you go to a theme park, and you see people in their “comfortables”, as though they have no care in the world about how they look because they are clearly dressing for comfort and convenience?  Well, that’s basically what we saw from half of the patrons at the Symphony.  This was a Saturday evening performance with high-priced tickets for entry.  I certainly expected more appropriate ensembles.

To be fair, there were some ladies in long gowns and gentlemen in suits, but the majority of people were dressed very casually, and not in a good way.

We are used to the casual nature of the City of San Francisco.  But while you become accustomed to seeing executives in jeans and t-shirts around the Financial District, you would still expect some sort of formality at a nighttime performance at a world-class symphony hall.

Nonetheless, we truly enjoyed our experience.  The building housing the symphony, the Davies Symphony Hall, is in the Civic Center/Downtown area of town, where we don’t spend much time.

Our seats were on the second level, so we had a nice overhead view of the stage and musicians.  The acoustics were amazing.  The music was too.

We saw Bernstein and Sondheim’s West Side Story, and this particular show marked the first time a full orchestra has performed the complete musical in a concert performance.

It wasn’t just a concert though.  There was a cast of singers, who stood behind the musicians and did some minor movement, dancing and acting throughout.  It was not a full musical display, but enough to be engaged in the story-line.

Cheyenne Jackson played “Tony”, and he just happens to be one of my favorite short-term stars from NBC’s “30 Rock.”

If Dave and I return to the San Francisco Symphony, I will dress in cocktail attire again.  I enjoyed the fanfare of getting dressed up and taking in some arts and culture.

A note out there to anyone planning a visit to the San Francisco Symphony: dress to impress.  Just because a bunch of other people think that Crocs and a fanny pack make an appropriate get-up, doesn’t mean you should too.

San Francisco Symphony
A night out in cocktail attire.
West Side Story
Tickets for a night of symphony and singing.
Davies Symphony Hall
The beautiful Davies Symphony Hall.
, ,


  1. I laughed out loud reading this. I’m from a small town in Florida but recently moved to the Tampa area. I LOVE getting dressed up, and my husband just bought a couple really nice suits and a tux. We were looking for opportunities to get dressed up and since I love music, the symphony seemed appropriate.
    The dress code online… JEANS?! “Slacks and a nice top?” I was looking more to rent an evening dress and get my makeup done.
    I think I’ll do it anyway. Not my fault society has decided they don’t need to dress up anymore.

    But the jeans… I’m sorry even at a matinee that shouldn’t be acceptable.

    1. Hi Heather! Glad you laughed from this one. Seriously, I’ve learned to be more casual now that I’m four years into Bay Area living. But I’m with you — I totally like to dress up hehhe. Wear what you want, girlfriend!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.