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Article: How to dress for the races, the ultimate Race Day style guide.

How to dress for the races, the ultimate Race Day style guide.
Fashion Fix

How to dress for the races, the ultimate Race Day style guide.

How to dress for the races

It's not an occasion that comes around too often, but that's exactly why you should up the glamour stakes and go all out when the Races do come around. The only problem is, what exactly should you wear? So we've put together the most comprehensive Race Day style guide on the web, so that when you hit the grandstand, it's glamour all the way. Read on to have your every fashion worry answered:

What do most women wear to the Races?

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It can often feel quite overwhelming seeing the array of outrageously flamboyant hats and dangerously high heels that fill the newspapers after a big racing event. But if you're attending the fashionable events this year, catching eyes for all the wrong reasons isn't the only way to make a lasting impression.

The key to dressing for Racing Day is opting for a smart yet stylish outfit, to ensure you look more Royal Wedding than Big Fat Gypsy Wedding!

Regular race-goer and WAG Coleen Rooney hit the nail on the head at this year's Aintree Races in a head-to-toe hot-pink ensemble. Although she opted for a vibrant statement palette, Ms Rooney's bold choice of colour was balanced out by the demure and sophisticated pencil-shape of her dress and her sensibly sized high-heels.


  1. A structured dress like a pencil or shift with a reasonably sized stiletto combination will never go amiss. Remember this is the Races so you're aiming for sophistication as opposed to the sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit.
  2. An injection of colour will add an individual twist to your outfit but keep it simple. Either opt for one block colour a la Coleen or a neutral tone with colourful accessories, and vice versa.
  3. If you want to fully embrace the Races with headwear, then a simple fascinator or elegant hat will achieve an appropriately glamorous Race Day look.

Are there dress code rules you have to follow?

dress code

If you're a Race Day enthusiast you'll know that there are different dress-code rules and regulations for each event, which if broken could land you in last place in the "Best Dressed' rankings. For those of us whose Race Day knowledge isn't up-to-date, take some tips from our interview with 'Best Dressed' judge Naomi Rowland, here.

Most racing events require a smart dress-code, leaving you the option of wearing a fascinator or hat down to personal preference. More relaxed styles like maxi dresses and strapless necklines or sheer-detailing are accepted (in moderation!) at nearly all racing events accept Ascot.

If you're one of the lucky ladies who will be attending arguably the most well-known Racing event, Royal Ascot, there's no room for rule-breaking! Ascot prides itself on it's heritage and smart style and has its very own Fashion Police who are not afraid to hand out a pashmina where a pashmina is due. A hat or fascinator is required at all times, strapless or sheer strap dresses are not accepted, trousers must be full length and an exposed midriff is a major faux-pas.

Despite there being wardrobe restrictions at Ascot, there is no need to let fashion fade and lose your personal style in the process. Take note from sophisticated fashionista Kate Middleton who remains chic and stylish whilst epitomizing ladylike Race Day style.


  1. Make sure you look into the particular event you will be attending, to ensure you don't break any dress-code rules.
  2. For less formal events, take inspiration from our smart yet stylish Aintree outfit ideas, which show a fascinator or hat is not always necessary to achieve an appropriate Race Day look and revealing dresses are not the only way to get noticed.
  3. For less lenient events, like Royal Ascot, play it safe with an elegant piece of headwear and a demure high neckline and a knee-length dress. Extreme platforms and towering high-heels are a no-no, if not to escape a run in with the Fashion Police but to avoid any sinking heels/ falling over into the grass - so not chic!

Do I have to wear a hat?

Although hats and fascinators epitomize a quintessential Race Day style, stylish headwear isn't always a requirement at Racing events, such as Cheltenham, York and Newbury. At events like Ascot a hat or fascinator is required for all women, and we wouldn't advise attempting to break the rules as the Fashion Police will be patrolling!


If you have the option but want to ooze Race Day glamour, then a classic hat or pretty fascinator will finish off your look perfectly, but if you simply want comfort, then don't hesitate to go headwear free.

The limits are endless when it comes to headwear, and regular race-goer Katherine Jenkins never puts a foot wrong when it comes to Race Day headwear, regularly opting for flamboyant designs with height and vibrant colours. Even with bold fascinators and interesting hats, Katherine's Race Day outfits remain elegant and sophisticated as she opts for simplistic coordinating block-coloured dresses.


  1. If you have a block-coloured dress and either neutral or correspondingly toned shoes, then don't hesitate to wear an eye-catching statement fascinator or hat.
  2. If you have a vibrantly patterned dress then opt for neutral headwear and shoes, to guarantee you look elegantly put-together.
  3. Avoid novelty headwear (including Ritz-cracker embellished pieces, circa Aintree 2014) to ensure you're making a fashionable impression instead of a questionable one.

Do I have to dress up more for Ladies Day?

dress up

Essentially no, as the same rules apply to Ladies Day as at any other day of a Racing event; smart yet stylish and obey the event specific rules. However, Ladies Day does feature a "Best Dressed' competition, which gives any fashionista the chance to win the title by flaunting their fabulous style. So if you want to be in with a chance of winning the "Best Dressed' title, then dressing to the nines is a necessity and saving your most impressive dress is essential to ensure you stand out against the hundreds of other stylish race-goers. Find out the top tips for winning from fashion blogger and judge at this year's Aintree Ladies Day.


  1. Head-to-toe styling is essential; small details like colour-coding embellishments with your accessories really show you've made the effort.
  2. A summer appropriate eye-catching colour or print are sure to get you noticed and help your chances. Leave black and grey to the winter months.
  3. Don't forget to polish off your look with immaculate nails and toenails, sleek hair and daytime appropriate make-up.

Which fashion trends are going to be big at the Races this year?


Trends that pop up at the Races are more often than not reflected from the Spring/Summer catwalks. Spring/Summer catwalks debuted trends that can easily be adapted for glamorous Race Day outfits, as they ooze femininity and create an instant summery vibe.

Florals were big, bold and everywhere on the catwalks with Victoria Beckham even doing pink floral suits. As the power flower is back why not channel this into your race day outfit. Try these Dressesloral dresses for the summer-perfect colour palette.

A clean and fuss free look can never go wrong. Simple, neutral and one-tone colour palettes were very popular on the runway and appear everywhere in street style too. Clean silhouettes and over-sized tailoring are both smart and flattering, ticking those boxes for a formal day at the races. Try white dresses for a stunning yet understated race day look.


  1. Embrace one trend at a time to keep your look appropriately sophisticated and ladylike.
  2. When opting for florals, choose either a colour from your dress or a neutral tone for your accessories, for a chic and sleek put together look.
  3. If you want to try the pastel or bright trend, be sure to stick to one block-coloured shade for a simplistic yet nonetheless impressive take on the trend.

Do I follow the same beauty regime as a night-out?

Although Race Days are daytime events, they require a formal and polished style similar to an evening event. However, do not fall into the trap of many race-goers and over indulge with the fake-tan, lipstick and smoky eyes! For make-up masterclass click here.

When carrying out your beauty regime for Race day events think garden-party chic rather than red-carpet glamour, and remember that less is more.


  1. If you don't want to embrace your pale skin, try to keep your fake tan to a minimum and avoid questionable streaking via application. Follow our guide to the perfect tan with St. Tropez celebrity tanning guru Jules Heptonstall.
  2. Co-ordinate your nail colour with your dress and either paint them on the day or the night before to escape the dreaded nail-chip, and don't forget your toenails.
  3. Keep your face make-up natural with neutral eye-shadow and a subtle lip-gloss, or make sure either your eye or your lip are the main focus.

How do I win the "Best Dressed' award?

Although the main event at Race Days is primarily horse racing, unbeknownst to many racegoers there are fabulous style competitions open to us ladies, with jaw-dropping prizes as well as a fashionable title up for grabs.


For those fashionistas who fancy winning the "Best Dressed' title at the Races, there is more to a fashionable victory than just a good dress. We spoke to lovely fashion blogger Naomi, from Two Shoes One Pair, who helped judge the "Best Dressed' guest at this year's Grand National. She gave us her top tips on how to achieve a trophy-worthy look, to help you bag your own Race Day title. For extra tips on how to put your best dress forward, read our full interview with Naomi on the blog.


  1. Make sure that your personality shines through in your outfit, and opt for something individual. Think classy and chic like Victoria Beckham who wears structured cuts and styles of dresses, perfect for the formal event.
  2. Head-to-toe styling where the whole outfit has been considered and colour balanced, like matching the colours in your dress to your hat and accessories, create an easy-on-the-eye statement ensemble.
  3. Avoid bodycon dresses, too much skin on show and mega high-heels! These are all the things that the Grand National Ladies Day guests are famous for doing so badly.

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