Dressing for the Races: How to Choose the Perfect Outfit

Summer in the UK means that men and women all over the country will be gearing up to go to the races. With the massive popularity of Cheltenham earlier in March, the next few months are bound to draw in the crowds at racing events all over Britain. These events represent an opportunity for us to get dressed up in our best outfits and show off our style credentials! So, if you’re in need of some fashion inspiration, this guide will help you choose the perfect outfit:

Choosing your outfit

You’ll want to look your best for the occasion, so you’ll have to consider your main outfit carefully. 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!

Tips for Ladies

When it comes to dressing our best, women have an almost unlimited range of options. A safe bet is a dress with a fascinator and women’s court shoes. 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.

Keep in mind, however, that some venues do prefer a more formal style of dress. 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.

Tips for Men

Men’s dress codes can be a little stricter, but that doesn’t mean you have to play it completely safe. It goes without saying that you should avoid trainers and tracksuits. 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 suits with a 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.

Trainers are banned at most events, so smart shoes are the way forward here. You should opt for footwear such as a brogue or men’s derby shoe in a subtle tone that pairs well with your look.

Adding an extra layer

With the weather in Britain being so hit and miss, it’s always smart to bring an extra layer to keep you warm just in case.

Tips for Ladies

Duster coats and macs are set to be a huge hit for 2019. 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.

Tips for Men

Men should keep their coat smart to match their outfit. 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.

The finishing touches

Accessories can make or break a look, so it’s important to get them right. Co-ordination and unusual pieces are key to standing out on race day.

Tips for Ladies

Fascinators are extremely popular with women at the races. 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.

Some venues don’t allow fascinators, however. 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.

Tips for Men

Men should keep it simple, adding a hat or tie to bring the outfit together. 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!

Charlotte Giver

Charlotte is the founder and editor-in-chief at Your Coffee Break magazine. She studied English Literature at Fairfield University in Connecticut whilst taking evening classes in journalism at MediaBistro in NYC. She then pursued a BA degree in Public Relations at Bournemouth University in the UK. With a background working in the PR industry in Los Angeles, Barcelona and London, Charlotte then moved on to launching Your Coffee Break from the YCB HQ in London’s Covent Garden and has been running the online magazine for the past 10 years. She is a mother, an avid reader, runner and puts a bit too much effort into perfecting her morning brew.