The racing calendar kicked off with Cheltenham Gold Cup last month, and now it’s time for all the northern lasses to showcase their style at Liverpool’s Aintree Races and the Grand National. With a dress code inspired by Coco Chanel and a clientele that is renowned for serious glamour, we wanted to find out just what one should wear to Aintree Races. Team LBD’s Siobhan Maguire caught up with Aintree-regular and celebrity stylist Vivienne Masters to get her top ten tips on dressing for Aintree Races.
If you’re lucky enough to be going to Aintree Ladies Day (and if you’re not, make sure you enter our giveaway to win tickets and your race day outfit), then you might be wondering what to wear to the races this year. Have a read of the newspapers and you’d think the Aintree dress code stipulated pencil and prom dresses in a kaleidoscope of colours, lots of sparkle, platform heels and lashings of fake tan.
Although Aintree has never had a strict dress code, unlike other race meets such as Ascot, this year they’re asking race-goers to take inspiration from a quote by Little Black Dress hero Coco Chanel: ‘Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman’. “Far from being restrictive, we want a our Ladies Day at The Grand National to be a unique event bursting with personality and individual takes on style,” said the organisers.
So, what to wear? While there’s every reason to glam up, over-do it and you could end up standing out for the wrong reasons. To ensure you find your perfect race day dress, we’ve enlisted the help of celebrity stylist, Vivienne Masters, who’s a regular on the X Factor, ITV and the BBC. Also known as Miss V, she’s a northerner herself so knows how much they love a good excuse to get dressed up!
Feel good no matter what your shape
We all know that when we’re comfortable we exude more confidence, and the ladies at Aintree have this in abundance. Just look at regular attendees model Danielle Lloyd and Liverpool locals Colleen Rooney and Rebecca Ferguson. Whether it’s a tight mini-dress or flowing maxi, these girls always look confident and fabulous because of it.
Therefore, dress cleverly to disguise problem areas so you can feel comfortable and confident in your race day outfit. Conscious about your tummy? “There’s no point using your clutch to cover your stomach in a bodycon dress, instead choose a flowing empire line dress,” says Miss V. Want to shave off a few pounds instantly? “Opt for a dress with lighter side panels or look for ruching, which is supremely flattering. Pear shapes should go for styles that flow over hips; this season’s pretty tea dresses are perfect. And nip everything into place underneath in a trusty pair of control pants.”
Less is not more
Unfortunately, and all too often, Aintree provides lots of post-event coverage on those who end up a little worse for wear and looking the opposite of how they came in. According to Miss V, dressing modestly is key: ‘Whatever you do, don’t go for a race day dress that is too short for you, and if you do want to wear a mini, ensure your top half is dressed more demurely. Remember, you want to attract the right attention.”
Make a tan plan
Liverpool isn’t as sunny as we would like so fake tanning is a must for those who want their colourful outfits to wow. Doing it well however, is vital. “Whether you’re getting a spray tan or doing it yourself, make sure to do it a couple of days before the event,” says Miss V. This will avoid the worry of any streaks or looking like a human orange, giving you the chance to fix it well in advance.” Take a look at our ultimate guide to perfect tanning from the experts at St Tropez.
Be bold and bright
As you know, Team LBD’s favourite colour is black. But this is one event where colour wins hands down. So don’t let a grey Liverpool day knock your confidence and put you off wearing something adventurous. Even if it’s pouring cats and dogs, the style at Aintree demands colour! For those with lightly tanned skin, Miss V recommends this season’s favourite pastel shades. “Sorbet shades of mint, lemon and rose are all hugely popular this year. Fairer complexions should go for brighter colours like purples, fuschias and electric blues. Yellow is another big colour trend for race day dresses this season, as well as tropical colours and prints – think pineapples and palm trees,” she says.
From left to right: shop dress inspiration now
Head back in time
Local lady Rebecca Ferguson has performed in the Red Rum garden at Aintree before and always looks glamorous in her race day outfit. Her look is always polished with a nod to eras gone by. Why not take a leaf out of her book? “We may be in the ‘noughties’ but the 70’s vibe has been all over the catwalks this season and is set to filter into your wardrobe. Think baby doll A-line dresses and skirts, floaty floral dresses in 70’s colours and prints, or why not try something different and wear a chic jumpsuit?”
Don an ‘it’ bag
And the bigger the better! Ditch the clutch and opt for a good-sized bag with a shoulder strap, recommends Miss V. “A bag the size of an A4 piece of paper is perfect. Not only will you be able to store all your bits and bobs (make-up, hair-brush, flats for later, etc) but proportionately big bags will make you look slimmer.” Bonus.
Let your hat do more than complete your outfit
Hats are not compulsory at Aintree Races, but most women do complete their race day dress with headwear, whether it’s a delicate fascinator, gorgeous hair jewels or a statement hat made out of biscuits, as was sported last year by one race-goer! Basically, anything goes! ‘A wide-brimmed hat to cope with the changeable weather is a good choice (although perhaps not one made from food). Or try a ribbon, headband or corsage for a more personal touch,” says Miss V. Be inspired by our collection of pretty headwear here.
Don’t forget your hair and make-up
When planning your outfit for the races, the female race-goers at Aintree know hair and make-up are part and parcel of the complete look. But if you’re rocking a statement dress, tone down the make-up, advises Miss V. “Highlighters are great for giving your skin a dewy glow; use on cheekbones along with a cream blusher for that model definition. Give lips a pop of colour in a shade similar to your accessories, not your dress.”
“For hair, I’m loving braids at the minute,” says Miss V. “Go for a delicate braid along one side and catch it up into a soft pony tail for a feminine look. Or opt for a loose fishtail plait for statement style.”
Make sure you’re well-heeled…
A pair of heels will instantly glam up any outfit and you’ll be hard pushed to find any Aintree race-goer in flats. Sky-high stilettos or thick, block wedges are the preferred style, but shoes aren’t your only option – boots can give an edge to your outfit too. “If you have a very bold dress, go for a nude heel and vice versa. Ankle boots with fringing are on-trend this spring/summer and will give your race day dress a cool look. Pair with a great fringe handbag,” says Miss V.
…but comfortable feet also equal an elegant look
Don’t choose a pair of heels that you know will be agony within hours. “Wandering around barefoot is not a good look. Instead, pop a pair of flat pumps in your bag to put on later in the day. It’s nice to know you have the option to give your feet a rest, even if it’s just for the walk home,’ says Miss V. “It saves that whole bare-footed-heels-in-hand situation happening.”
Shop Little Black Dress’s stunning race day dresses