Sunday 03 March 2024

Dressing For The Races

If you haven’t been to the races before then a special day out can be an exciting prospect but also a daunting one. Some occasions or enclosures at the courses will require certain standards of dress and it is important to get it right if you are to make it on to the course and to create a good impression. It will be a wonderful and colourful occasion and you will have a great day if your chosen wardrobe hits the spot.

Dressing For The Races

The Rules

Each course and festival will have its own rules and they could vary depending what section of the course you are heading for. Check online before you spend any money or waste time rifling through your cupboards as not only are some outfits inappropriate they are actually not allowed. The rules vary but there some things you can bank on.

Modesty is usually the order of the day and so your dress or top should have broad straps or sleeves and a hem no higher than just above the knee. Strapless styles, spaghetti straps, plunging necklines and ultra sheer styles are not generally permitted. Trouser suits may be OK as long as the jackets and pants match and any dresses or tops worn under jackets must adhere to the rules regarding straps, sleeves and necklines. You may be required to wear a hat.


If you want to know where to pitch your level of formality then think classy wedding. If your dress would grace a society wedding then you have got it right but avoid anything which makes you look more like the bride than a guest! White and cream lace should be avoided.


A day at the races is a very traditional affair and not really the moment to push the envelope with radical styling and experimentation. You can still look contemporary and right on trend but exercise a little restraint. Bold florals, blocks of colour, simple shifts and full skirts are all fine but avoid neon hues and plastics and be careful to avoid blocks of green as you will be surrounded by grass! Black is acceptable but do lift it with boldly coloured matching accessories. You are not attending a funeral and black shows little imagination.

The Weather

Be prepared! Even a summer’s day can be chilly or wet. If there is any chance of rain or cool temperatures then dress in layers but ensure that everything you wear fits seamlessly together to form a complete outfit.


It is tempting to rush for the most elegant pair of shoes you can find but do bear in mind that you could be standing for long periods and may have to walk on the grass. Stilettos are going to be awkward so choose something with wider heels and if you want height without sacrificing comfort then consider platform styles. Whatever you choose do wear them in first and make sure that you can wear them all day without being in agony.


Your accessories can make or break your finished look so it is worth taking your time to find just the right items. Simple elegance is the best way forward so find a coordinating hat and handbag and avoid wearing too much heavy jewellery and embellishments. If you are struggling to find pieces in the right colour then consider satin shoes and handbags from bridal collections as these can be dyed to match any colour.

As the right hat can be the hardest thing to find, buy this first and then match your other pieces to that. Do remember that some courses will not permit fascinators in place of hats.

It may all sound a bit daunting but take your time and don’t panic. Choose an outfit which not only suits the dress code but suits you too. Even the best dress will look off it is not your style so work around the shapes and cuts that you usually wear. You could even have a favourite dress in your wardrobe which will be just the ticket with the addition of the right accessories.

Sally Stacey is a keen writer and business owner who divides her time between writing and running her shop.