What to Wear to the Edinburgh International Festival?

What to Wear to the Edinburgh International Festival?

The Edinburgh International Festival is one of the world's most iconic cultural events, bringing together exceptional talent from the worlds of dance, opera, music, and theater each August. With shows and performances taking place across the Scottish capital, deciding what to wear can be a daunting task for festival-goers. You want an outfit that is stylish and chic, but also comfortable for navigating busy streets and attending various events. This article covers our top tips for choosing the perfect dresses and outfits to impress at the Edinburgh International Festival.


Research the Event Schedule

The Edinburgh International Festival program consists of a diverse range of shows and performances, from avant-garde theater to classical concertos. Before deciding what to wear, thoroughly research the schedule of events you plan to attend. Consider the following:
  • Venue - Is it outdoors or indoors? At a concert hall or local theater?
  • Time of day - Is it a matinee or evening performance?
  • Type of event - A casual fringe show may call for a more relaxed look than a red carpet opening night.

Knowing the venue and nature of the event will inform the level of formality your outfit requires. Well-fitted jeans paired with the right top can be a stylish and comfortable choice for daytime explorations. An afternoon jazz show at a small venue calls for a smart casual dress, while an evening orchestra concert at the Edinburgh Playhouse demands more formal attire. 

Consider the Weather

Edinburgh in August brings warmer summer temperatures, but Scotland's weather is notoriously changeable. As you plan your festival fashion, check the weather and pack accordingly. Some tips:


  • Bring layers and a lightweight jacket. The evenings can get cooler even when the days are warm.
  • Be prepared for rain. Have a compact umbrella or raincoat that won't weigh down your bag.
  • Comfortable walking shoes are a must as you navigate between venues. Leave the heels at home.
  • Take a pashmina or scarf to stay cozy during chilly nights.

Choosing versatile pieces and outfits will ensure you stay stylish but comfortable no matter the Scottish weather during the festival.

Aim for Smart Casual

For most festival events, smart casual dress provides the perfect balance of style and practicality. Opt for wearable fabrics like jersey knits or soft silks in a colour palette that easily allows mixing and matching. Key smart casual pieces to pack include:

little black dress

  • The LBD – A little black dress can be dressed up or down with accessories.
  • Blazers – A tailored jacket instantly elevates any outfit. Choose one that complements your dresses or skirts.
  • Long cardigans or kimonos – These layering pieces add polish while keeping you comfortable.
  • Flats or boots – Both elongate the leg for a chic silhouette. Pack comfortable insoles.
  • Scarves – Lightweight scarves act as outfit elevators, whether worn around the neck or used to dress up a handbag.

Stay true to your personal style by choosing smart casual pieces in colours, prints and silhouettes you love and find most flattering.

Must-Have Festival Dresses

Packing dresses you can mix, match and layer is key for festival outfit success. Here are some perfect dress styles for impressing at the Edinburgh International Festival:

The Wrap Dress

A true wardrobe staple, the wrap dress suits all figures and transitions seamlessly from day to night. For the festival, choose one with 3⁄4 length or long sleeves in a lightweight, wrinkle-resistant fabric. Drape a jacket over the shoulders for a pulled together evening look.

wrap dress, jacket

The Shirtdress

A shirtdress allows you to channel menswear-inspired chic. Opt for breezy cotton or polyester to stay cool on long festival days. Cinch it with a belt, add pumps or ankle boots, and throw on some statement jewelry for easy polish.

shirt dressThe Shift

Simple but elegant, the shift dress works for both casual and dressy affairs. Look for one with an on-trend print, seasonal colour or eye-catching details like lace trim or intricate beading. Pair with flats or heels to let the dress shine.

shift dressThe Maxi

Maxi dresses scream summer in Edinburgh. Look for feather-light fabrics with fun prints or boho details. Finish the look with casual flats or sandals, outsized sunnies, and layered jewelry.

maxi dress

Pitch Perfect Accessories

No fabulous festival outfit is complete without the perfect accessories. Here are our top picks for complementing your Edinburgh International Festival dresses:

Oversized sunglasses

  • Oversized sunglasses - Make a statement on bright sunny days.
  • Crossbody bags - Keep valuables secure and hands free while navigating crowded festival streets.
  • Headscarves and fascinators - Cover up sparse festival hairdos while adding a whimsical or retro touch.
  • Statement earrings - Draw eyes up to your face and away from tired festival feet.
  • Sturdy wristlet - Stash must-haves like your phone, festival tickets and hotel key.
  • Foldable ballet flats - Relieve aching arches between venues and shows.

A pop of colour via shoes or a bag can instantly make an LBD or neutral dress stand out. Accessories transform outfits, so don’t forget these vital finishing touches.

Nail the Evening Looks

If your festival itinerary includes red carpet or black-tie affairs, you’ll need to pack more formal dress options. Here are gorgeous styles for impressing at night:

The Bodycon Dress

Look for figure-flattering silhouettes in vivid colours or eye-catching prints with elegant details like off-the-shoulder straps or other accents. Don’t be shy with the glam accessories.

Spaghetti Strap Evening Dress with Thigh-High SlitThe Tuxedo Dress

For a modern androgynous edge, opt for a sharply tailored tuxedo dress. Choose a sleeveless style and add bold shoes, a top handle satchel, and a high updo.


Short and Sassy

Show off some leg in a cocktail dress with a hemline hovering just above or below the knee. Look for stunning details like sequins, intricate beading, or lace embellishment to turn heads. 

cocktail dressThe Jumpsuit

Jumpsuits can provide an edgy and artsy alternative to traditional gowns. Look for a wide-leg version in a lightweight fabric like crepe and finish with strappy heels and a metallic clutch.

JumpsuitNote: there is no specific colour that women are required to wear to a formal event. However, it's generally recommended to opt for elegant and sophisticated attire. Classic colours such as black, navy, deep red, or jewel tones are popular choices for formal events like the theatre.

No matter your evening ensemble, don’t forget Hollywood-worthy hair and makeup. Red lips, smoky eyes, glossy waves and a spritz of your signature scent leaves a lasting impression as you make grand entrances.

Confidence Is Key

Ultimately, your personality and confidence will shine brighter than any outfit. Walk with your head held high as you flit between festival venues in the world’s most stylish city. Chat confidently with fellow culture fiends as you wait in the theater bar. Allow the music, theater and dance to rejuvenate your soul. The Edinburgh International Festival is about so much more than external beauty alone.

Though dressed to impress in our top recommended frocks, your inner spark will shine through. Flaunt your own style, embrace the festival atmosphere, and discover inspiring art that takes your breath away. Your confidence and joy in the aesthetics will radiate. Enjoy your time in Edinburgh fully and authentically. Your outfits are simply a bonus.


The Edinburgh International Festival offers a sparkling opportunity to dress to impress. With spectacular shows and arts events around every corner, you’ll want to look and feel fabulous. By researching the schedule, packing smart layers, focusing on smart casual daywear and turning up the elegance after dark, you’re sure to nail every outfit. Complete your looks with polished accessories that show off your personal flair. Most importantly, approach this world-famous festival with an open heart and confidence in the beauty of your own authentic spirit. Allow the music, theater and culture to swept you away. Enjoy!

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