A Touch of England: The Basics of Horse Racing Fashion


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Basics of Horse Racing Fashion, Horse Racing Style, What to wear to a horse race, Debutante fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante

Today’s guest post is provided by David S. Enjoy!

If you’re a Southern gal who’s into fashion, odds are you like the chance to enjoy outdoor events that inspire you to dress up. Whether that means a wedding, a corporate event, or any other type of outing, there always seems to be some kind of occasion to flaunt some fashion outdoors. But few such occasions are as festive and fun as spring horse races, many of which take place overseas in England. Horse racing style has taken on a life of its own over the years, but every year the tone is set anew by the major spring races in England. In the U.S., that tone is picked up and embellished by racegoers at the Kentucky Derby in May and continues throughout the summer. But because we still have a ways to go before the peak of the U.S. season, here are a few things to expect at the British racing festivals:

Extravagant Hats

We may as well start with the most well-known aspect of horse racing fashion. It just isn’t a major horse race if the ladies (and sometimes the men) aren’t wearing extravagant hats! This has become such a popular custom that the Hat-a-Tude shop has gone so far as to start creating spring and summer catalogues solely for race day hats, which include designs and colors from every end of the spectrum. These hats tend to be loud and grand and possess an almost costume-like quality in that they’re not items you’ll wear at many occasions that don’t involve horse racing.

Rustic Tones

We tend to associate spring horse races largely with lighter colors and fabrics, but one of the fun things about tuning in to the early British races is that they showcase another side to race day fashion. At Betfair’s page on Cheltenham, which is one of the first major races to take place on the English calendar, the Ladies’ Day for 2016 is listed for March 16. Ladies’ Day tends to be the biggest exhibition of spectator fashion, and March 16 can still be pretty cold in the UK! Thus, at Cheltenham it’s not unpopular to see rustic and toned-down colors, plaid patterns, and heavier fabrics on display. Naturally these looks taper off as the weather warms for later races, but the way some of the women spin heavy fabrics and darker tones into carefree racing dresses is worth remembering for alternative looks later on.

Statement Accessories

Even aside from the extravagant hats already mentioned, major horse races are simply made for showcasing statement accessories. As stated, there’s a costume-like aspect to dressing for one of these races, and that leads a lot of women (and men on occasion) to play around with accessories they might ordinarily hesitate to wear. Big, glittering brooches certainly come to mind as items we’ll be seeing once the English races are underway, particularly given that the brooch has become trendier in general fashion over the last year. We’ll also see bold handbags, glamorous jewelry, and plenty of interesting hair ornaments that aren’t necessarily hats. It’s really just a time for expression. If you tune in to the races this spring, you’ll find some really fun inspiration for your own next outdoor event.

High Heels

It may seem a little uncomfortable to wear high heels on the grounds surrounding a horse racing track, but one of the things you’ll surely notice if you take a look at this spring’s action is that most women apparently determine that heels win out over comfort. The Grand National is the next big racing festival after Cheltenham, taking place with slightly warmer weather in April. And looking at Telegraph’s photos of Ladies Day, you’ll find a lot of women opting for heels at that event. This is opposed to the boots popularly seen at Cheltenham, and many women seem to compensate for the difference in comfort and suitability to the terrain by simply going barefoot when they have to.

The Whole Rainbow

Finally, in contrast to the rustic tones mentioned earlier, you’re sure to notice an incredible array of color, particularly as the weather warms for later spring races. Pastels are fairly safe for race day outfits, but you’ll also see bright, bold shades of red, yellow, blue, and pink at the very least. Solid or patterned, short or mid-length, and in pretty much any material, you’ll see the full rainbow color spectrum at the races. This is a nice reminder for your own outdoor, warm-weather style that it’s a time to be bright and playful when you’re not opting to embrace the rustic side of things. This covers a lot of the broad general trends to spot in spring racing. But again, each year sets a slightly different tone. if this is a fashion sub-genre that interests you, be sure to keep an eye on the races as they get started in the next month.

Thanks for this fabulous article on the basics of horse racing fashion, David S! Counting down the hours til Derby Day!

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9 thoughts on “A Touch of England: The Basics of Horse Racing Fashion

  1. Sara

    I studied abroad in England for a year, but I never went to horse races (unfortunately, I am allergic to horses!). The extravagant style has always interested me, though. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. angelmerisa23

    As a Kentucky girl, I’m all about a little horse racing fashion. You’ve gotta have the extravagant hat, bright colors, and I usually stick to a nice wedged heel because you never know what sort of surprises the ground’s gonna throw at ya. Great post! xx Merisa | Monogrammed Mangolias

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