If you’re planning a day at the races this year, you might have already asked yourself what you’re going to wear. For years, the races have been a wonderful occasion to dress up. Women don their best fascinators and high heels and men dig out their sharpest suits.
This guide will give you some style inspiration for your next day at the races and help you out with some specific racecourse dress codes too.
What to wear to the races
You should always wear a two- or three-piece suit for the races, unless you’re attending a family day. Your suit can be any colour, style or pattern you want unless otherwise specified in the official dress code. There’s more information below that states which racecourses require a black or grey suit. For the warmer summer months, you might prefer to wear a lightweight material such as linen.
What to wear with a tweed jacket
You’ll see an increase in the number of tweed jackets worn during the winter races because they’re made from thicker wool fibres than standard suits. But some people aren’t sure how to style this material.
A misconception with this type of fabric is that it’s always green. Modern tweed jackets also come in brown or grey so there are more variations available than there were in the past.
A tweed jacket can be worn with a pair of suit trousers and brogues. For example, you could match brown tweed with navy blue suit trousers and brown brogues. For grey tweed, you could wear grey suit trousers and black shoes. You can wear tweed trousers with a tweed jacket but it can be difficult to make this look work.
To finish the look, why not add a pocket watch and a pocket square to your outfit?
How to wear a waistcoat
Three-piece suits are as popular as ever thanks to the likes of Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. It’s a smart look that is so versatile and ideal for lots of occasions. But how do you wear a waistcoat?
On most waistcoats, there’s an adjustable strap at the back. Make sure this is as loose as possible when you first put on the waistcoat and then tighten the strap once you’ve done the front buttons up. Tighten the strap without making the fit too snug. There shouldn’t be wrinkles around the buttons as this suggests you’ve tightened the strap too much.
Do the first two buttons of your waistcoat up and leave the third undone as this allows more room for movement. If you’re wearing a jacket with a waistcoat, always leave the jacket undone.
You can wear a tie, cravat or bow tie with your waistcoat. Also, make sure your pocket square matches the whole ensemble.
What accessories do I need?
A suit isn’t complete without the various accessories that you can pair with it. The options include:
- Tie/neck tie
- Pocket squares
- Dress watch (pocket or normal)
- Tie bar/clip
It’s best to choose a maximum of three items from this list; too many accessories could be excessive.
Can you wear corduroy in summer?
Corduroy can be worn in summer, however, like tweed, it’s a thicker material so is better suited for cooler summer days. There are many variations of corduroy with different numbers of ridges. The number of ridges per inch is known as the ‘wale’. So the wider the ridges, the lower the wale and vice versa.
Needle cords made from a lightweight fabric with a high wale (lots of ridges) are a better option for warm days. It’s also the more formal type of corduroy.
If you choose to wear corduroy, you should stick to one item. For example, you could wear a corduroy jacket with suit trousers or corduroy trousers with a shirt and suit jacket.
Corduroy is a more casual style of clothing so it could be worn for the National Hunt (otherwise known as Jump Season). Flat racing tends to be more formal.
Dress code for the Derby Festival
Derby Day is a race day that’s renowned for its smart dress code. For guests in the Grandstand enclosure, the dress code is smart. The Jockey Club advises against sportswear, sleeveless vests and trainers
Guests in the Queen’s Stand must be at their smartest. Racegoers should wear a morning suit in either black or grey with a top hat, service dress or full national costume. Service dress could be worn by those in the British Army. A full national costume could include a kilt if you’re from Scotland.
Dress code for Cheltenham Races
Most race days at Cheltenham take place during winter. They advise that you dress accordingly for the weather, particularly as their public car parks are grassy. Gentlemen usually wear a suit.
Dress code for the Grand National
The Grand National takes place at Aintree every year. It’s one of the more casual horse racing events. There is no official dress code but smart is the preferred choice and is adopted by most people. Sports clothes and fancy dress are prohibited.
Dress code for Ascot
For the flat season, gentlemen are required to wear a jacket, shirt and tie. During particularly hot weather, the dress code may be relaxed slightly, but you’ll be made aware of any dress code changes on the day. Tailored shorts are permitted but trainers are not. Ascot may be stricter than other racecourses and can refuse entry if you aren’t dressed appropriately.
The Jump Season takes place over winter. The dress code will be the same as above but you may want to consider a tweed jacket to keep you warm.
Royal Ascot has a much stricter dress code so don’t get the two mixed up. You should wear a grey or black morning suit complete with a waistcoat and tie and a top hat if you’re going to this race meeting.
If you’re attending the races this year, check the relevant racecourse’s website to find out about the appropriate dress code. Each racecourse will give a detailed breakdown of what should be worn in each enclosure.