Racing Style Guide: Ladies Day Do's and Don'ts

Horse racing, that age old sport that the British love, is in many-a-fashionable book the opportune moment to get your glad rags on and enjoy a jolly good sunny day. For those unaccustomed to the weird and wonderful ways of the racing world, there are a just a few little pointers to adhere to make sure you don’t get turfed out before you’ve entered. So think not of the perfect clubbing outfit, racing is the sport of the elegant and chic…

Do wear a hat

It’s not often we get the chance to don a hat and although it’s not necessary for all races it’s still fun to grab the opportunity when it arises. At Royal Ascot it’s obligatory and the general consensus at Ascot seems to be the bigger the hat the better (a minimum of a 10cm base is required)! Make sure you choose a hat that doesn’t wear you, so check it’s in proportion to your shape and size and suits you well.


  1. Find the right hat. Anything mushroom-shaped or that covers your face can make you look shorter and if you’re petite, saucer shaped hats on a tilt will create the illusion of a little height.
  2. Find the outfit then the hat. It may all be very well finding a lovely hat but once you’ve bought it you can end up compromising your dress to find one that fits with your hat.
  3. Have it custom made. Once your outfit is finalised visit a milliner and see what they recommend or have a hat made for the perfect finishing touch.


Don’t be practical, wear heels

If we weren’t a fashion site we might say be sensible and wear flat shoes but alas we’re not. Instead we like to walk on the wild side and in this case that means wearing heels with the possibility of sinking into the grass and perhaps ending up with a blister or two. So to give some practical advice there is always the option of wedges, both stylish and unsinkable, but for those who love a little more lift we say suffer to be beautiful and try to avoid the grass, there are after all plenty of paths and concrete areas!


  1. Clean Shoes. Racing is a day time sport so attention to detail is important, try to wear a pair of heels that don’t have scuffs or grubby marks as this will easily tarnish your look.
  2. Don’t wear new shoes. Yes we said they should be clean but if they're new you run the risk of seriously bad blisters, try wearing them around the house first.
  3. One of our best finds is Starlettos, a brand that has finally solved the sinking heels fiasco. Put these clever little heel protectors on any shoes and bingo sinking problem solved.

Do check the dress code

As if trying to make the occasion even more difficult to dress for, race courses have different dress codes depending not only on the day but also the enclosure that you’d like to enter. So our top tip is to check the race course website first before you get started on the outfit planning. At Aintree for example smart dress is encouraged but you can get away with a playful style and a shorter hem, but if you’re heading to Ascot keep it demure and knee-length. Check our Racing Calendar for dress codes and what to wear at our top five British racing events.


  1. Elegance is key. You’re not going to a nightclub so steer away from miniskirts, crop tops and lots of sequins, it’s daytime so keep it classic and chic - think longer hemlines, pencil skirts and peplum details.
  2. Check the weather. If it’s cold bring a jacket, tuxedo styles are bang on trend and make a sophisticated choice, as do a cropped style. If it’s hot try and wear a sleeveless dress in a lightweight material to stop any unwanted marks appearing!
  3. Underwear prep. This sounds strange but bright daylight can make everything you didn’t notice at home suddenly appear. If you’re wearing a black dress wear black lingerie and if you’re wearing white, wear it with nude underwear as white will still show up.


Don’t over do the make up

Getting ready for the races is all about perfecting that polished and preened look. Unfortunately everything is more noticeable on a sunny day so your beauty look needs to be more subtle. Heavy eye shadow and smoky eyes should be replaced with subtle shimmering eye shadows and opt for a soft rosy blush instead of heavy bronzing and contouring. If it’s a windy day have your hair styled up, messy and all over your face isn’t an easy look to pull off.


  1. If you’re not used to fixing a hat or yours is just being tricky, book an appointment with the hairdresser and get them to style your hair around it and fix the hat at its most flattering angle.
  2. Don’t overdo the fake tan, streaks will be highlighted by the sun and if there’s anything to take your outfit from tasteless to tacky it’s a fake tan gone wrong.
  3. Pay attention to your nails. Chipped nails or the wrong colour won’t help you win ladies day, try a gel manicure for chip resistance and a high sheen polished look. If you have open toe shoes don’t forget about your toenails, the same rules apply!

Do drink Champagne

If you’ve won a bet then you certainly deserve to indulge and if you didn’t then a commiseratory drink is in order.  It’s almost obligatory at the races to get involved in the spirit of this great British sport and revel in the hopefully sunny weather with a glass of Pimms or Champagne, at least it makes parting with your cash a little easier to handle.


  1. Don’t overdo it. Bear in mind the weather, if it’s hot day chances are those bubbles are heading straight to your head, and drunk plus heels plus grass does not equal elegance.
  2. Grab a clutch. Opt for an elegant envelope clutch which will fit comfortably under your arm giving you plenty of space to juggle your champagne and race card.
  3. Celebrate with Champagne, console yourself with it too, just drink water in between.

Do have a bet

Although all the horses in the paddock may all look the same, there are believe it or not telling signs to the trained eye that a horse may actually win. There’s also the racing form which gives details of how the horse has performed and its chances for the race, if the odds are 50-1 it’s unlikely the horse will win, but you never know! Our tip is to ask the knowing gentleman next to you who he recommends or failing that choose the prettiest horse. Either way, win or lose it’s the taking part that counts, right? 


  1. Ask about. Racing is a social event and chatting away to the stranger next to you is no strange thing. If someone seems to know what they’re talking about, ask them who they’re backing and they'll be more than happy to impart some racing knowledge.
  2. Double your chances. If the horse has odds that aren’t too low (i.e. if it's more than 10 – 1) then back the horse each way which means your money is divided and you'll win something whether it comes first, second or third.
  3. Don’t let go of your ticket! There’s nothing worse than winning only to find your ticket has disappeared, tuck it in your clutch and guard it with your life.


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