Ladies’ Day Fashion: The Dos and Don’ts of What to Wear to the Races

A day out at the races is something that many people enjoy and for lots of reasons. While seeing the horses race and placing a few bets is certainly part of the agenda, many people also attend race days for the atmosphere, the good food and drinks, the chance to socialise and the opportunity to get dressed up for the day.

There are no hard and fast rules for what to wear at the races, although certain enclosures at certain events will have varying degrees of dress codes. The choice of style may be dictated by the race being attended to a certain level but there is one thing that will always be true – there is no such thing as being overdressed for the races, especially on Ladies’ Day.

Events that have stricter dress codes will be sure to publicise those rules both on the tickets and on the website, so researching any potential restrictions before shopping for an outfit is key. Many of the biggest horse racing events will have different rules for different enclosures – you can find them here. Once you have an idea as to any special requirements, you can begin the search for the perfect race-day outfit.


Race day attire is often quite formal. However, formal does not have to mean boring. The races are a great place to experiment with bold colours or even bright patterns, so long as the style of the outfit remains elegant. Teaming a bold colour choice with a sophisticated design will turn heads at the same time as fitting right into the ambience of the day.

For those that are uncomfortable with bright colours, opting for elegant navy is a strong choice. Black can seem too gothic in a bright summer setting, while navy is classy and stylish. Race days are also a chance to bring out the formal white dresses that are barred at most weddings for everyone except the bride.


The two key themes for almost any formal race day outfit are elegance and fun. Some events will have certain rules about headwear – at Royal Ascot, for example, ladies in the Royal Enclosure are required to wear a hat or other type of headpiece that covers a minimum of four inches across. However, most enclosures will be slightly less strict, providing myriad opportunities to dress things up with bows, sparkling clips or floral headbands.


Heels may look elegant but they are a poor choice for a day at the races. Not only will you be on your feet for almost all of the day; you will also more than likely have to walk on soft grass at some point, making stilettos a big no-no. For those that prefer some lift, comfortable wedge heels can be a good compromise, such as pretty espadrilles. If wearing heels is essential, purchase some co-ordinating ballet pumps that can be slipped into later in the day when the heels become too hard to walk in. Try to choose shoes that you know will be comfortable rather than purchasing a new pair and slipping them on for the first time on race day to prevent going home with blisters or worse.


A floral maxi dress or pretty floral summer dress will never look out of place at the races. The good thing about choosing florals is they these types of dresses can often be recycled for wear at weddings and other formal summer events. When you can get more wear out of a dress, you can often afford to spend a little more on the outfit in the first place, which opens more choices on your shopping trip.


There are currently no rules that force ladies to wear dresses or skirts to the race, although many choose to do so. An elegant trouser suit can look equally as stylish, particularly when combined with some funky and feminine accessories. A pair of classic ivory trousers or even a glamorous jumpsuit can go down well at many race days across the country.


At a summer race event, make-up often has to work harder to stay in place and the bright sunshine means any flaws will be immediately noticeable. Make-up should therefore be toned down to a stylish daytime look, with minimal base layers to avoid looking harsh. Soft, shimmery eyes usually work better than a smoky eye for daywear. If thinking about fake tanning, always opt for a professional service. If this is not an option, stick with a pale leg – pale skin looks far better than streaky home tanning efforts.

One of the most important things to remember about race day dressing (apart from checking the dress code) is that this is an opportunity to have fun with your look in a setting where almost anything formal goes. From funky hats to vibrant patterns, race days are a chance to experiment with new fashion ideas and let your imagination run wild.