Following my encouragement to visit the Hokusai exhibition, it seems only fair to build a Signature Wardrobe Art Gallery Outfit. This post focuses on a casual outfit of the kind you would wear on vacation, or to see a specific exhibition. An invitation to an opening is a dressier event on the formal spectrum, such as you might wear for an unveiling.
You will most likely be indoor, though many galleries are climate controlled and not always particularly warm.
While you will be walking around, there will be a lot of standing and looking at things, and perhaps standing while waiting to look at things.
Galleries are one of those places where manners are probably more important than your outfit.
A lot of people like to stand quietly and drink in pictures they have only seen reproduced as small images in books. Some, like many of Monet’s water lily paintings, are on canvases roughly the size of a domestic interior wall so you can probably understand why people might want to take their time.
That being the case, turn off your mobile phone and try not to have loud conversations. Avoid elbowing people out of the way and pushing past them. A whispered “excuse me” is generally sufficient to get people moving. Similarly, bear other viewers in mind and try not to monopolise pieces or block access to other rooms.
If you brought your children with you, and it’s not a designated children’s showing, try to keep them quiet and close so that other patron’s quiet enjoyment is not disrupted.
Do not eat or drink in the gallery, unless it’s an opening and the beverages are supplied as part of the event. And if they are, be very careful about what you do with them.
Don’t touch the art, unless it is an interactive exhibit.
While you are spending a casual hour or two in the gallery, you still need to dress with a modicum of respect for the institution and the art. It would be something on the smarter side of casual with higher necklines, longer sleeves and lower hems. In woven rather than knitted fabrics.
However, comfort will be your key requirement, and if you are travelling you are likely already wearing your favourite colours and styles. You could wear clothing inspired by the artist, but it’s not obligatory. Nor are sparkles, dangles, or jangles.
Tourists are permitted some leeway and you are unlikely to be denied entry for wearing jeans and a t-shirt if they are clean and in good condition. Consider wearing a dress or skirt if you have one with you as they are generally interpreted as dressier. And one advantage to going dressier is that you can go somewhere nice for a long sit down lunch to recover from all that standing!
I’d say yes, mainly because other visitors are there to look at the art, not you.
Gallery floors are often highly polished stone or wood and can sometimes be a little slippery. I recommend that your comfortable standing around shoes have non-slip soles. Pick something in keeping with your outfit such as lace ups, ballet flats or low heeled sandals.
Many galleries offer luggage checking, so take advantage of that if you can. Particularly if you have a large backpack with water, maps and other travel essentials that may inconvenience other patrons. Or carry a small bag with your essentials.
Consider wearing quiet jewellery (not your charm bracelets, chandelier earrings and bohemian beaded bibs).
Neat and clean; discrete makeup and tidy hair. Perhaps a spritz of your favourite perfume.
Your art gallery outfit could be something that you wear as a regular smart casual outfit. Particularly if you like to go somewhere a little less ordinary for lunch now and again. If you don’t have an outfit like this, it’s worth creating one – you never know what opportunities might present themselves.