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What To Wear To The Races

What To Wear To The Races
© Racing Post / Edward Whitaker
James Prosser
Thursday 3rd January 2019

In terms of dress code, it can seem quite confusing on what you can and can’t wear to the races in Great Britain and Ireland. From formal to casual, our guide will simplify the dress code and give you some ideas on what you can wear to the big meetings!

What is the dress code at Flat horse races?

With Flat racing normally taking place in summer and having a long tradition in the United Kingdom, the dress code is often fairly strict. As a general rule, the more prestigious the racecourse and enclosure, the stricter the dress code.

It’s always worth checking the racecourse’s website for the dress requirements before visiting the track. As an example, it is only possible for men to enter the Doncaster restaurant if they are wearing a collared shirt and tie. The Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot is even stricter and a black or grey top hat is required.

Generally, most people will dress smart-casual to go to the races. You’ll see a mix of this and people “dressing to impress”, with full suits and luxury dresses. This isn’t necessary in every enclosure, though most courses “premier enclosure” will need you to be well dressed.

What is the dress code at National Hunt meetings?

Due to the colder weather in the winter months and the hunting based tradition, most National Hunt meetings will not have a formal dress code outside of the hospitality areas.

Generally, the main rule is to dress for the weather. Long periods standing outside in the cold mean most attendees will be well wrapped up with multiple layers, large coats, gloves and hats.

What is the Royal Ascot dress code?

Men – A full suit and tie is essential to the dress code during the Royal meeting and must be adhered too. This also means wearing socks to above the ankles and having a suit that is the same colour for both the jacket and trousers.

In the Royal enclosure, the requirements for men are:

  • A waistcoat and tie (no cravats)
  • A black or grey top hat
  • Black shoes worn with socks

The women’s dress code allows for strapped dresses, at shortest just above the knee, with trouser suits and jumpsuits welcome plus a hat. Fascinators are not permitted. Royal Ascot Ladies’ Day is Gold Cup day on Wednesday where fashion is in full flow, that’s the 20th of June in 2019. See the full Royal Ascot dress code here: https://www.ascot.co.uk/archive/royal-ascot/style-guide

What is the Cheltenham Festival dress code?

Cheltenham Festival doesn’t have a strict dress code due to the time of year, with the only exception being a ban on fancy dress in the Club Enclosure – it is still allowed in the Best Mate area.

The general outfits worn at Cheltenham in the Club Enclosure by men will be trousers or smart jeans, comfortable but smart boots, a shirt and jumper, and a coat (often tweed). Often ties and hats are worn to accompany. Women will often either wear suits or dresses.

If the weather is forecast to be poor, umbrellas and raincoats are a must.

What is the Grand National dress code?

Like Cheltenham Festival, there is no Grand National dress code, aside from a ban on sports clothes and fancy dresses.

Women often elect for dresses with hats or fascinators, making the most of the weather. Ladies Day especially will see extremely smart dresses. Men generally opt for a suit or similar smart dress.

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