Dressed to The Nines – Style Tips for the Races

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Cheltenham races this month signals the start of race season here in the UK. For many, the annual trip to the races is the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a new outfit. Dressing for the races is a bit of minefield, these style dos and don’ts should help keep you on track. 

The Main Outfit 

A trip to the races is always a special occasion. Whether you are going as part of a celebration or just as a treat, it is important to bear in mind that, depending on the enclosure you have tickets for, fancy dress or casual outfits may not be allowed. Follow these tips and make sure you check the venue’s website to ensure you won’t be refused entry when you arrive. 


A safe bet for an outfit is a dress with a fascinator and women’s court shoes. The particular event you are attending can give you additional style inspiration. For example, at Cheltenham, you’d expect to see people wearing classic country colours, with neutral shades. In contrast, the Grand National is a lot more colourful, so go for bright and bold pieces. 

Short dresses, jumpsuits and trouser suits might be acceptable at some venues and events, but others prefer to keep their dress code very formal. The Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot states that dresses must fall to the knee or below and must have a strap of one inch or greater. Strapless, off the shoulder and halter neck style dresses are not allowed. The Village Enclosure at Royal Ascot request that midriffs be covered at all times and trouser suits should be full length. 

If you decide to wear a skirt and top, consider a Rixo skirt, that sits below the knee, with a stand-out pattern which is perfect for the summer months. 


Dress codes can be even stricter when it comes to men, so what are the guidelines for men when attending the races this year? 

Sports clothing, such as tracksuit bottoms and trainers should be avoided. 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. Some venues may permit them, but it is likely you would feel underdressed. Ripped or torn denim jeans are discouraged. Smart outfits are recommended – opt for suits and smart trousers. The Queen Anne Enclosure at Royal Ascot states that jackets and trousers should be of matching colour and pattern. 

Smart shoes are a must – avoid trousers and sandals. Opt for footwear such as brogues or men’s derby shoe in a tone that works well with your overall look. 

Styling your Outerwear 

With the unpredictable weather in the UK, adding an extra later to your race day outfit is sensible. What should you wear when it comes to outerwear? 


A longer coat is a good choice for women on race days. These coats look chic, formal and keep your outfit dressy. Avoid leather, denim or bomber style jackets. These can appear too casual, something you want to avoid on these elegant occasions.  


A covert coats is a poplar race day choice for men. An overcoat, traditionally worn for hunting or horse-horse-riding, this style creates a smart tone. Pair with a checked scarf if the weather is cooler, and make sure to avoid coats which are too short and suede or shearling material, as these give a less formal look. 

The Final Touches 

The right accessories can make or break a look when it comes to the races. Co-ordintating pieces and adding unusual accessories can make you stand out on race day, in a good way. 


Lots of women attending the races choose to add a hat, as it completes their look. The hat is useful not just as an accessory but also to protect against the cold, especially at the start of the racing season. Oversized hats and quirky fascinators can become the centre of attention on race day, and many winners of the best dressed category are known to wear weird and wonderful headpieces. 

Be aware that some venues discourage fascinators. They are not allowed in the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot, although substantial fascinators are encouraged at the Investec Ladies Day in May. At the Scottish Grand National in Ayr, fascinators and hats are optional, but ‘on display in adundance’, suggesting that you might want to wear one to avoid feeling out of place. 


When it comes to a final touch for your outfit, a hat and tie should do the trick. Although not compulsory, it is still advisable to wear a tie when attending The Ayr Scottish Grand National. The Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot requires a proper tie to be worn at all times, bow ties and cravats are not considered enough. 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 – socks should cover the ankle! 

Whichever venue you are heading to for race day, follow these handy hints and tips to make sure you look the part this season. 

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