Here in the UK, we love an excuse to get dressed up for the races. With the massive popularity of the Cheltenham festival in March and several other racing events in the calendar throughout the summer, us Brits will have more than a handful of excuses to get dressed in our best!
But there are a few fashion rules that you should keep in mind before you go – read on to find out how to look your best at the races this summer:
How to choose your main outfit:
If you’ve got a ticket for the races, you’re probably expecting to go all out with your main outfit. Alternatively, you might be going for a birthday, stag or hen party and might want to go fancy dress. Bear in mind that, depending on which enclosure you’ve got tickets for, fancy dress or casual outfits might not be allowed. Follow our handy tips below and always check the venue’s website for extra style advice — you don’t want to be refused entry when you arrive!
Black or navy court shoes will go with almost anything and are essential if you’d rather play it safe. Consider the event that you’re going to for more inspiration though. At Cheltenham, for example, you’d expect to see people wearing classic country colours and neutral shades but the Grand National is described as a “spectacle of colour” so bold and bright is best at this festival.
You should keep in mind that some venues have a more formal dress code than others. In the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot, for example, dresses must fall just above the knee or longer and must have a strap of one inch or greater — strapless, off-the-shoulder and halter-neck dresses are a definite “don’t”. Similarly, in the Village Enclosure at Royal Ascot, midriffs are required to be covered and if you opt for a trouser suit, it should be full-length, or you might find that you’re not allowed in.
Men’s dress code rules can be even stricter than women’s when it comes to the races. So what are the key do’s and don’ts?
Trainers, tracksuits, and joggers should be avoided at all costs. In fact, they are not permitted in the Club Stand at the Ayr Grand National or in the Winning Post, County and Tattersalls Enclosures at the Boodles Festival. Even though some venues might accept this sort of dress, it’s likely that you’d feel underdressed for the occasion. Similarly, ripped or torn denim jeans are discouraged, instead smart slim fit shirts and trousers are recommended. In fact, in the Queen Anne Enclosure at Royal Ascot, jackets and trousers should be of matching colour and pattern.
Smart shoes are a must, so it goes without saying that trainers of any kind should be avoided!
How to style your layers:
The weather in Britain is always rather unreliable, even in the summer months. It’s always sensible to pack an extra layer just in case the warm weather doesn’t make an appearance!
You can’t go far wrong with a smart mac or a trendy duster coat for race day. These coats look chic and formal while keeping your outfit dressy. Avoid denim, leather or bomber jackets as these create more of a casual tone that you want to avoid on these elegant events.
Men should also keep their outer layers smart. A covert coat is a popular choice for race day, this is an overcoat that’s traditionally worn for hunting or horse-riding but also creates a smart tone for these types of events. Pair with a checked scarf on a cooler day and avoid short-length coats which are suede or shearling to prevent looking less formal.
How to accessorise:
Accessories are arguably the most important part of your race day outfit, as they bring the whole look together. So, how do you ensure that you stand out from the crowd on race day?
Fascinators and hats will always be popular choices. Hats are useful not only as an accessory but also to protect from the cold, especially closer to the start of the racing season! Oversized hats and funky fascinators are often the centre of attention on race day and many winners of the best-dressed category are known to wear weird and wonderful headpieces.
Believe it or not, some venues have banned fascinators – so you should check before you buy. For example, they’re not welcome in the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot but ‘substantial fascinators’ are encouraged at the Investec Ladies Day in May. At the Scottish Grand National in Ayr, ‘hats and fascinators are optional, but on display in abundance’, suggesting you might feel out of place without one.
For men, the simple addition of a tie or hat could elevate the whole look. For the Ayr Scottish Grand National, a tie isn’t compulsory in the Hospitality Facilities, but you might want to wear one to look the part. However, in the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot, a tie must be worn and this doesn’t include cravats or bow ties. A black or grey top hat and black shoes are also necessities to enter this part of the venue. In the Village Enclosure, you must take care of all details and socks should cover the ankle!