How To Dress For The Races

How to dress for the races this summer

Earlier this month, men and women all over the UK were getting excited for Cheltenham races – but this is just the beginning of a summer filled with horse racing events. The races are now one of the biggest fashion events of the year, with more and more people heading out for an excuse to get dressed to the nines and show off their style! This guide on how to dress for the races should give you a helping hand if you need some inspiration this summer:

How to dress for the races guide

1.      The main outfit

If you’re lucky enough to be heading off to the races this year, you’ll want to look your best at the event. 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!


Women have a huge range of options when it comes to showing off their style at the races. 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.


Dress codes can be quite strict when it comes to men, so how do you choose the perfect outfit?

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 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.

You’ll also want to invest in some smart shoes, rather than sandals or trainers. Instead opt for footwear such as a brogue or men’s derby shoe in a subtle tone that pairs well with your look.

2.      Styling your outerwear

The weather in the UK can be extremely unpredictable, and bringing along an extra layer is never a bad idea.


You can’t go wrong with a smart duster coat or a 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.


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.

3.      The final touches of how to dress for the races

The accessories are the final touch to any outfit and can make or break your look. Co-ordination and unusual pieces are key to standing out on race day.


Hats and fascinators are extremely popular 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.

Fascinators have been discouraged at certain venues, 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.


How to dress for the races is also a question for men. For men, the simple addition of a smart tie could be all you need to complete your outfit. 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!

Do you have tips on how to dress for the races to share with  my readers?





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Award-winning writer, blogger, social media consultant and charity campaigner. Social Media Manager for BritMums, the UK's largest parent blogging network Freelance clients include Firefly Communications and Save the Children UK. Works with brands on marketing projects. Examples include Visit Orlando, Give As You Live, Coca-Cola and Kodak. Cambridge Law graduate with many years experience working across three sectors in advice, media relations, events, training and project management. Available for hire at affordable rates.

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