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What To Wear At The Races

Going to the races can be an exhilarating experience with the energy from the crowd, the thunder of hooves and the anticipation of the race. However if you have never been to the races before it can be a bit daunting to get your head around how it all works and to decide on what you should wear!

The Dress Code

While some of the racecourses say they do not have a dress code in place, they often expect a certain standard from those who attend. What you will be permitted to wear can depend on which enclosure, event or hospitality venue you are visiting. In general, it is advisable to wear a smart / casual outfit to the races as, it is a chance to dress up after all. Here is a selection of some well known racecourses and what they say about their dress code.

Ayr Racecourse - is one of the most prestigious racecourses in Scotland and is where the Scottish Grand National is held in April each year. Ayr racecourse does not have a dress code as such but there are some restrictions on certain areas. The hospitality facilities ask for smart / casual attire and request that there are no jeans or trainers. The Club Enclosure is smart / casual but smart jeans or trainers are acceptable as well. There is a more relaxed dress code in the Grandstand Enclosure but no football colours are allowed to be worn.

Perth Racecourse - is the northernmost racecourse in Britain. There is no strict dress code but best to wear stylish and comfortable clothing. Many race goers opt for the traditional country clothing and you will often see a mix of tweeds in muted colours. Dress for the weather and if you are attending an evening meeting then remember to bring a warmer layer. The racecourse have a ladies day in May which is a great opportunity to glam up as they have a Best Dressed Lady, Best Dressed Man and Best Hat competition. If you are wearing heels, then perhaps choose a pair that you can wear all day as you can be standing a lot at the races. Fancy dress is permitted in the Grandstand and centre course but please be considerate and avoid anything offensive. The Private Hospitality and Galileo restaurant have a smart casual dress code where ladies should wear summer dresses or smart country clothing (hats are acceptable but most what for ladies day) and for the gentlemen a suit and shirt (ties are optional) but no jeans or trainers for anyone.

Aintree Racecourse - is the location of one of the best known racing events in Great Britain - The Grand National. The racecourse does not have a dress code but smart is the preferred choice. For gentlemen it is best to wear a suit and for ladies a smart dress. Hats are an optional choice but many see the races as a prime place to don some head ware. There is Ladies Day, of course, which celebrates the style and fashions that are seen at Aintree with a Best Dressed competition. Sports clothes and fancy dress are not allowed however.

Cheltenham Racecourse - does not have a specific dress code but as many of their races are during winter months it is advised to dress for the weather. Ladies are often seen in hats but they are more along the classy yet practical lines rather than for pure fashion. The men wear suits. Fancy dress is allowed but the racecourse can decline you entry if they think the outfit is offensive. However on Open Saturday and The Festival at Cheltenham, fancy dress is not allowed in the Club Enclosure.

Ascot Racecourse - does have a dress code for various events and race days depending on what type of admission you have. For the Premier Admission between May and October, (The Flat season) gentlemen are required to wear a jacket, collared shirt and tie and ladies are required to wear clothing for a smart occasion. Between November and April (The Jumps season) the racecourse would prefer the same dress code as the Flat season but it is not compulsory to do so. Trainers are not permitted in either season, nor fancy dress, clothing with brands or a promotion on them, or novelty wear. For the Grandstand admission it is advisable to wear smart clothing but there is no strict dress code during either season. Fancy dress is allowed in the Grandstand Admission as long as it is not a Royal Ascot day, not offensive and they do not allow bare chests at any time of the year. If you are thinking of going to Ascot in fancy dress it is best to contact the racecourse to check before you go.

During Royal Ascot there is strict dress code for the Royal Enclosure and Grandstand Enclosure which includes the minimum diameter for hats, length of dresses, and even colour of suits, so it is worth reading through this on their website for the full details.

Goodwood racecourse - has a relaxed dress code which requires gentlemen to wear jackets with cravats, ties or polo neck sweaters in their Richmond Enclosure and linen suits and panama hats are traditional but no shorts or jeans allowed. They would like ladies to wear hats in the Richmond Enclosure during Glorious Goodwood in July. All the other enclosures there is no dress code as such but bare chests and fancy dress are not allowed and they prefer men to wear tops with sleeves and trousers. They also advise to avoid stiletto heels due to the decking and terrain.

Newmarket Racecourse - has a Premier Enclosure, Grandstand & Paddock and Family Enclosures. For the premier enclosure the racecourse would like ladies to dress smartly and may choose to wear a hat and gentlemen to favour smart trousers and shoes rather than jeans and trainers. Clothing that is not permitted is sportswear, swimwear or fancy dress. The dress code is more informal within the Grandstand & Paddock and Family Enclosure were they ask that the dress is appropriate and no bare chests, slogan t-shirts or swimwear are allowed: although they do allow shorts and t-shirts. Fancy dress is permitted within the Grandstand & Paddock and Family Enclosure but they can refuse entry to anyone they feel is dress inappropriately.

Comfort & Class

Going to the races is an exciting day out and many want to look their best and enjoy it. Overall the racecourse generally like their guests to be in smart / casual dress but you can be stylish and classy as well as comfortable and appropriate in your clothing. The term smart / casual can be a hard one to get to grips with, but if you are stuck with how smart or how casual to go, perhaps consider what you would wear to a wedding as a guideline. Remember that you will be on your feet a lot during the day and also outside watching the horses so dress for the British weather as well as for fashion.

During the winter months many people opt for some warm and yet breathable clothing such as a tweed suit or jacket, which is brilliant as it repels water and yet is moisture wicking, helping your to regulate your temperature both in the racing crowds and walking between the enclosures and paddocks. The classic country style tends to work well with the traditions of racing and is also a very practical choice for men and women during winter. Go for a muted colour palette to suit the time of year, and try faux furs, leather, knits, and soft cashmeres to keep you snug. The accessories will be warm hats, gloves, scarves and for footwear sturdy heels, shoes or boots as it can get muddy depending on the racecourse.

During the summer ladies may opt for smart, cool dresses and stylish hats but it is also worthwhile having a shawl or light jacket to wrap around you if the clouds come over. Gentlemen can wear lighter suits or jackets in materials such as linen to help keep them cool. Bright or pastel colours and patterns like floral print come out at this time of year along with accessories including sunglasses.

Across The Finishing Line

Just a final note to say that while we all enjoy a day at the races and the style and glamour that comes with it, check the racecourse website for their latest dress code and visitor information before you go.


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