Horse racing events are extremely popular in the UK, and the summer months mean that ladies and gentlemen all over the country are getting ready to spend their time and money at festivals like Cheltenham and The Grand National. If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, you might want to start planning your outfit now – after all, these events represent an excuse for us to go all out with our outfits! So, lets take a look at some horse racing festival do’s and don’ts to make sure that you’re looking your best this summer:
Planning your main attire
As mentioned, these festivals represent a chance for men and women across the country to dress their best. 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!
If you want to play it on the safe side, you should consider smart women’s court shoes with a fascinator and a mid-length dress. 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 colors and neutral shades but the Grand National is described as a “spectacle of color” so bold and bright is best at this festival.
You should remember that while some venues have a more casual dress code, some can be quite strict. 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 should generally stick to more formal styles when dressing for the races, so what are some of the key do’s and don’ts?
Avoid ‘sporty’ looking clothing like trainers. 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 a smart white shirt 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, avoiding trainers or sandals. Instead opt for footwear such as a brogue or men’s derby shoe in a subtle tone that pairs well with your look.
The weather in the UK is famously unpredictable, so you’d be wise to bring an extra layer or two just in case.
On race day, you can’t go far wrong with a long mac. 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 stick to more traditional attire, such as a covert coat. Pair with a checked scarf on a cooler day and avoid short-length coats which are suede or shearling to prevent looking less formal.
Add the finishing touches
It’s important to get your accessories right, as these complete the overall look of your outfit. Co-ordination and unusual pieces are key to standing out on race day.
Hats are always popular at racing events. This is 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.
Fascinators have grown in popularity over the years, however they are not welcome at all venues. 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.
When adding the finishing touches to your outfit, you should keep it simple with a hat or smart tie. 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!