A day at the races isn’t just about the horses, oh no, a day at the races is about dressing up, having a little flutter, quaffing champagne and of course strutting your stylish stuff. But we all know how unpredictable UK weather can be, which means preparing your outfit for race day isn’t quite as easy as throwing on a dress, donning the heels and pinning in that fascinator. If you want an outfit that is practical, yet über stylish and is sure to get you noticed, which let’s be honest is totally what race days are all about, then you’re going to need to get clever and start your prep now!
The UK racing season starts with the Lincoln Derby in late March/early April and this kicks off the summer season, which includes other big racing events such as The Grand National, Newmarket, The Epsom Derby, Glorious Goodwood, and of course Ascot.
All of them require a bit of thought in the dress department and most of them will have a strict dress code based on where you’ll be standing. Don’t stick to the dress code and you risk being refused entry.
We’ve put together some helpful advice to make sure you’re guaranteed to back a winner of an outfit for your day at the races.
Yep I know, instinct says that if you’re wearing a gorgeous dress then it goes without saying that you should be wearing a killer pair of heels to go with it. But think about it for a moment…. grass… heels…. hardly a match made in heaven right!?! When it comes to what shoes to wear at the races I’m sorry ladies but practical is best. If it’s been raining the ground will be soggy and muddy and heels are simply going to be a nightmare. However, practical doesn’t necessarily mean frumpy. For example Uppersole sell a range of affordable shoes to suit every occasion, including race day.
So stilettos are out, but what about a lower kitten heel, a wedged heel or even a stylish ballet flat. There are plenty of choices out there and grass and mud aside, you have to remember that you’re going to be spending a lot of the day on your feet and so a comfortable pair of shoes is an absolute must. If you’re really clever and want to make sure you buy a pair of shoes that you can wear again, go for a neutral shade or a colour that matches other outfits in your wardrobe. Those race day shoes could also see you through all those Summer weddings, garden parties and barbecues you’ve got planned, so shop wisely and don’t be swayed by those sparkly killer heels you’ve had your eye on.
The Royal Ascot dress code was first established in the 19th century, when Bea Brummell, who was considered one of Britain’s first fashion icons and who was a friend of the Prince Regent, instructed what men could and could not wear in the Royal Enclosure. Although, the dress code has changed since then, there are still rules in place and it is worth remembering these three key words when it comes to choosing what dress to wear: formal, sophisticated, and elegant.
Dress codes vary but it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and follow these rules:
- Opt for knee length hemlines or longer.
- Dresses and tops should have straps that are one inch or greater in width and this should still be the case, even if a jacket or pashmina is worn over the top.
- Strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck or spaghetti straps are not acceptable.
- More is more, as in don’t flash the flesh too much. Crop tops or cut out styles that expose the midriff are a no go.
Elaborate and extravagant headwear is synonymous with the races and ladies go to great lengths each year to have the most unusual and most striking millinery masterpieces they can find to show off and shine above everyone else. Almost all race days require you to wear something on your head and again there are usually rules to adhere to. For example, while a hat is considered an essential item, a headpiece with a base of 4 inches/10cm or more in diameter is also considered acceptable. To make sure you stand head and shoulders above the other race goers, you could have a custom made hat or fascinator designed by a top milliner, which will certainly ensure you will have a hat like no other. But don’t worry if your budget isn’t quite suited to that level of luxury as there are plenty of stylish high-street options out there to choose from.
Every woman needs a good bag and if you’re out at the races all day you’re going to need to have one that will fit all of your essential race day items. Choose one that can carry your race day guide, pen, purse, phone, sunglasses, makeup and any other items you just can’t leave the house without. It’s all about finding a balance between having a bag that is big enough in a practical sense yet also isn’t so big that it swamps your outfit and ruins your overall look. A bag should co-ordinate and compliment your outfit and so if you are shopping for a new one make sure you have the rest of your race day outfit with you to check that it all goes together.
You never know if it could turn chilly so having something to cover up your shoulders with is 100% necessary. Whether you choose a pashmina, a scarf, a little cardigan, or a cropped fitted jacket, it’s a good idea to take something light that you can throw on if the weather turns. Again it’s important you don’t swamp your outfit as that could ruin the whole look, so keep it structured and light in a complimentary colour. You also don’t want to be carting anything too heavy around with you all day should you not actually need to wear it, so ideally choose something that will fit inside your handbag – a pashmina or scarf is definitely the best option in my opinion.
Make up also needs to be given some thought, because if it’s raining you don’t want your mascara running and leaving you looking like some bedraggled panda, and likewise if it’s hot you don’t want to end up a hot mess with make up sliding around your face. Keep it light and natural and if you do want a pop of colour go for a bright lipstick that you can reapply throughout the day. And if the weather forecast is looking as though it’s likely to be hot go for a tinted moisturiser with a high SPF as you will be outside most of the day and so will need sun protection. Check out these beauty trends for a bit more inspiration.
There, are you feeling a bit more race ready now?
All that’s left is to read up on which horses to bet on…. although if you’re anything like me you’ll just pick the ones with the best names!