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What to wear to the races

As I am writing this, the sun is out, I am sat in the garden and I am ready for summer. I’ve just got back from the Vogue Festival in London. A veritable feast of fashion and beauty from the much loved publication and it has me ready for a summer of style.

Continuing my “what to wear” series following on from the what to wear to a Spring wedding post, this time it’s all about what to wear to the races. Horse racing can have a strict code to style by and having recently watched the Grand National (and not won a penny on my bets) there was some amazing fashion to be seen at the race course. Dates for the diary and dress code are listed at the end of the post.

To help you curate your outfit for the races I have selected three dresses to start the outfit with and have built upon them. I have also brought in the assistance of top millinery and headwear designer Gina Foster to provide three solutions to the hat you should wear with each dress, depending on if you want to go large and make a statement, have the average size hat to look stunning or let your outfit do the talking with a smaller accessory. I’ve picked my favourite to showcase in my outfit selections.

What to wear the the races

Outfit one is the Tessa dress in slub silk from the J Crew Bridesmaid collection. It is £250 but I think this will see you through the racing season, weddings and evening drinks this summer. The dress comes in four colourways but it is the Portico Blue that I am styling for my outfit choice.

What to wear to the races

A dusky almost cornflower blue and great for a Mediterranean style summer outfit. Block heels are your friend on the race course, it is not the place for stilettos, my choice here; the Reiss Jackson Suede block heels in nude.

What to wear to the races

Large – Amalfi, Medium – Portofino, Small – Capri


The Capri is my choice here. I love the subtly of the piece but the texture that feathers give to the outfit.

My next choice is a great dress, perfect for evening races but also adding a touch of glamour to the daytime. The Shatter Jacquard Wrap Dress from French Connection. The green in this dress is mesmerising and it has a little vintage feel to it.

What to wear to the races

I’d team with a Karen Millen box clutch and the flowing lines of the small Lucca hat to add a little softness to the graphic lines of the dress.

What to wear to the races

Large – Anzio, Medium – Recco, Small – Lucca


My final selection is a bright print dress perfect for the races. The Bloomsbury print bodycon dress from Whistles in a gorgeous citrus pop of colour with a grey hue base. Since the dress is quite bright I would keep the accessories and shoes quite neutral. Let the dress do the talking.

What to wear to the races

I chose the Cardini hat for this outfit as it works well with the base colours and the floral detail is at the back to the side so it adds a little depth without being too full on. I’ve chosen a wedge heel here, the LK Bennett Zella, to make sure your feet last throughout the day and you’re not sinking into the turf.

What to wear to the races

Large – Amalfi, Medium – Cardini, Small – Calvo


Gina Foster Millinery

Gina Foster is based in London and specialised in ladies occasion-wear. Her bespoke hats, headdresses and fascinators are just superb for society life, that special event over the summer, weddings or just to compliment your outfit. She sells her stylish ready to wear designs from her London hat shop and her designs have featured at the Royal Wedding of Catherine and William as well as her couture hats being a hit with the fashion magazines around the world. She also has an online store with hats ready to ship, check it out here.

Race course attire etiquette

Race day dress codes vary from course to course, so make sure you look up your event online before you select your outfit. Here is a guide to the strictest which is Royal Ascot, the Royal Enclosure. If you meet this standard than you will meet any and as my mother always said; it’s better to be over dressed than under dressed.

  • Dresses and skirts should be of modest length defined as falling just above the knee or longer
  • Dresses and tops should have straps of one inch or greater
  • Jackets and pashminas may be worn, but the dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Royal Enclosure dress code
  • Trouser suits are welcome. They should be full length and of matching material and colour
  • Hats should be worn; a headpiece which has a base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat.

In all of the race courses I have seen, the motto is Strictly no jeans, sportswear or trainers . This dress code also applies to children. Royal Ascot has a dress code for the flat season and the jump season, you are best to browse their web page dedicated to it, to make sure you get your outfit right.

Racing dates for your diary

  • Boodles May Festival, Chester 6-8th May
  • Dante Festival, York 13-15th May
  • Royal Ascot, Ascot 16-20th June
  • Glorious Goodwood, Goodwood 28th July – 1st August

What’s your style when it comes to the races?  Are you a fascinator or a hat kinda girl?

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