A day out at the races is an enjoyable way to spend the day, but fraught with worry about what and what not to wear to the races. Never fear! Below you will find a guide to the different dress codes and styles for the main races along with some tips on how to choose your dresses for the races.
In general, think of what you might wear as a guest to a summer wedding. Hot trends for 2011 include 50s references, floral prints, full skirts and brighter hues – ideal to find that perfect, stand out from the crowd dress for you.
And there is the hat and fascinator dilemma: to wear or not to wear? Whilst these are not obligatory at most races, they are often as much of a focus as the dress itself. At Royal Ascot Ladies Day, these are often outrageous. Remember to find out when Ladies Day at the races are so you can plan for it.
- Dress in a style that suits you, not necessarily one that is the latest trend. Don’t be a fashion victim and dress for your shape instead. Go for well-cut classy dresses that fall to the knee or just below along with contemporary takes on the classic suit. If you would wear it to a nightclub, chances are it’s not suitable for the race course.
- Dress for the weather – you just won’t enjoy yourself if you are shivering in the enclosures. Look for a matching cardigan, jacket or bolero that will complement your dress, and keep you warm.
- Wear a hat or fascinator that matches your outfit. They should balance your outfit, and make sure that it enhances, not detracts, from your dress. Select your dress first then find some headwear. When picking hats, the bigger the better. No bare heads, ever.
- Match your dress with your shoes, bag and headpiece to look flawless.
- Be sensible with your shoe choice – as you will be outside all day, make sure your shoes are already broken in, or even bring a second pair if your bag is big enough! Remember, stilettos don’t do so well on grassy areas.
Dress code for the races
Each race has their own style: Royal Ascot is more showy, with the Ladies Day looking like something straight off a London fashion week catwalk, but on the other days high-street designs are more common place. Goodwood, by contrast, is more of a ‘gentleman on an English summer’s day’ – all linen suits and pretty-pretty.
Different enclosures also have different restrictions on dress code and race officials strictly enforce them. You will be denied entry even if you have a ticket if you don’t follow the dress code.
Below is a guide for the main races with what you are expected to wear. Every effort has been taken to ensure it is up to date.
What to wear to Royal Ascot
Royal Enclosure – For women, classy and respectable dresses are common. Only a formal day dress with a hat or substantial fascinator is acceptable for the strict rules. Off the shoulder, halter neck, spaghetti straps and dresses with a strap of less than one inch and miniskirts are considered unsuitable. Midriffs must be covered and trouser suits must be full length and of matching material and colour. Gentlemen are required to wear either a black or grey morning dress with either plain or stripped trousers, including a waistcoat, with a top hat.
Grandstand – Ladies with a Grandstand Admission ticket are required to dress in a manner appropriate to a smart occasion. Many choose to don hats or fascinators although this is not compulsory. Gentlemen in the Grandstand Admission area must wear a shirt and tie, preferably with a suit or jacket. Sportswear, jeans, shorts and trainers are strictly forbidden.
Silver Ring – Attendees are encouraged to wear smart clothing although no formal dress code applies in this enclosure.
What to wear to Derby Day at Epsom Downs
Queen’s Stand – Ladies do not have to wear a hat but the majority choose to. Gentlemen should wear a jacket, collared shirt and tie. Jeans, sportswear, shorts, denim or trainers are not acceptable.
Duchess’ Stand - Many people in the Grandstand like to dress up for the Derby Festival. Smart denim is acceptable. No trainers, sportswear, sleeveless vests or bare tops.
What to wear to Glorious Goodwood
Richmond Enclosure – Ladies are encouraged to wear hats in the Richmond Enclosure at Glorious Goodwood. Gentlemen are required to wear jackets and either ties, cravats or polo-necked sweaters. Men traditionally wear linen suits and the archetypal ‘Goodwood’ Panama hats. Jeans and shorts are not permitted in the Richmond Enclosure.
Other Enclosures - Dress is informal. Fancy dress is not allowed in any enclosure. Stiletto heels are generally not recommended as the terrain is uneven and it may be difficult to get around the decked areas.
What to wear to Party in the Paddock
Premier Enclosure – Smart denim acceptable but no sportswear or trainers.
Grandstand Enclosure - More relaxed, although many people like to dress up.
What to wear to the Yorkshire Ebor Festival
County Stand - Ladies are required to dress in a suitable manner, many ladies opt for a hat, although it is not compulsory. Gentlemen are required to wear a jacket, collared shirt and tie. Jeans and trainers are rarely seen although there is no formal restriction against wearing them. Smart dress is recommended.
Grandstand, Paddock and Course Enclosure – The dress code is more relaxed for these areas.
What to wear to St Legers Festival
Premier Enclosure and Mallard/Lincoln Restaurant -For ladies smart attire is required. For gentlemen, jacket and tie is required. Jeans, sportswear and trainers are forbidden.
County Enclosure/County Restaurant/Private Boxes – Gentlemen must wear a collared shirt, ladies to be smartly dressed. Strictly no jeans, sportswear or trainers.
Grandstand Enclosure – No dress code.
What to wear to Grand National Festival (Aintree)
No dress code applies.
What to wear to Cheltenham Festival
No dress code applies.
Now that you know what to wear to the races – go ahead and search for your race day dress.