relaxed dress code at races

Dressing for the races can be a tricky one, for both men and women. As it’s not the kind of event you attend every day, and the dress code for racecourse events tends to be more formal than other occasions, it can be difficult to know quite what to wear.

How formal should you go when dressing for the races? Will you end up buying something that you don’t really feel comfortable in and that you may not wear much again?

Below are our essential tips for choosing an outfit for the races, to help you feel and look amazing. Let’s start by looking at what to avoid.

Race day faux pas to avoid

If you can avoid falling foul of the following, you should be able to put together a fabulous race day look:

  • Breaking the dress code. Before you start shopping, take a look at the dress code for the racecourse or the event, if there is one. For example, this one for Ladies Day at Royal Ascot 2019. There may be essential items you must wear (such as a hat) or must avoid wearing (such as jeans or overly casual footwear). If you break the dress code, there’s always the risk you won’t be admitted to the event at all.
  • Flashing too much skin. As a general rule, mini skirts and crop tops that show a lot of midriff are frowned upon at racing events. You should be aiming for elegance, and this counts for both men and women.
  • Failing to dress for the weather. The event may be scheduled for a spring or summer date, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the weather will play along. You could end up in a dress with no outer layers when the weather turns chilly, or without an umbrella or anything to protect your hair if the heavens open. Needless to say, purple legs or soaking wet are not glamorous race day looks. You need to put your outfit together with potential changes to the weather in mind. Layering is helpful for this, so make sure you have a couple of jacket options in mind depending on the forecast.

relaxed dress code at races

Caption: Some race events have more relaxed dress codes – but remember to do your homework before planning your outfit 

Essential tips for women

Now that you know what to avoid, it’s time to start putting a stunning race day look together. Here are some crucial pointers to bear in mind…

Put time into finding comfortable yet glamorous footwear

It does exist, we promise! The races are the perfect venue to crack out those glamorous heels you’ve been saving, but this does have its potential downsides. Stilettos could get stuck in the mud, and you will also be on your feet all day. This could mean very sore feet by the time you head home.

The solution is to find a compromise between fashion and comfort. Wedges or low heels are the perfect option, as are chunkier heels and sandals with supportive yet subtle straps. If you get the footwear right, you’ll look amazing and won’t end up hurting your feet.

How to get the hat right

Getting the hat right is a crucial part of race day fashion

Getting the hat right is a crucial part of race day fashion. URL:

The races are the perfect chance to wear a hat, something that most of us don’t get the opportunity to do very often. If you’re a nervous hat-wearer or don’t feel comfortable in them, go for a subtle yet chic fascinator or a very simple hat. You can also have fun with your hat and opt for something more extravagant, but make sure that it’s in proportion with your size and shape – and that you can actually see the races past it!

Again, remember to plan for the weather. If it’s looking like a windy day, something with a headband or a few discreet pins can help keep your hat in place. The last thing you want is to be chasing your hat across the racecourse.

Consider a bag with a strap

Clutch bags are hugely popular at the races, and a small envelope-shaped clutch can be a great way to finish your look. However, you might also want to consider a bag with a strap. This is because between your race card and your glass of Champagne, you might find that you need to keep your hands free.

A manicure can make all the difference to your polished race day look

A manicure can make all the difference to your polished race day look (Source: Wikimedia)

Pay attention to the details

The perfect race day look is all about polish, so it’s important to pay attention to the finishing touches. Make sure your hair and hat will stay in place all day and perhaps consider a manicure too, as well as a pedicure if you’ll be wearing open-toe shoes.

Road-test your look in daylight

An outfit that looked perfect in your bedroom or walk-in wardrobe may look quite different in the unforgiving light of day. For example, pale-coloured underwear could show up under your dress, or there could be a see-through element to your outfit that you hadn’t realised. To avoid embarrassment, it’s a good idea to step outside and ask a friend for a second opinion before heading out to the races.

This is also a good tip to remember when it comes to makeup. Unlike other formal events which tend to take place at night, racecourse events are in the daytime. If you’ve overdone it with evening makeup, it could look too much in full daylight.

Race day fashion for men

Top hats are occasionally a requirement for higher profile race events

Top hats are occasionally a requirement for higher profile race events (Source: Wikimedia)

It can be a little easier for men to dress for the races, as they can simply wear a suit or follow the stipulations of the dress code. However, there are also some tips that male racegoers may also find useful. For example:

  • Coordinate with your partner – if you’re attending with a female partner, try to include a colour from their outfit in yours, such as your tie or pocket square.
  • Get the right hat – some race events such as the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot can be quite strict on demanding male attendees wear top hats, so make sure you read the dress code before you start shopping.

For a stunning choice of looks perfect for the races, from beautiful seasonally-appropriate dresses to elegant hats and fascinators, take a look at the full range from Compton House of Fashion

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