It’s that most British of sporting events, ‘a day at the races’. You’re excited at being part of a sporting tradition going back more than 350 years to the time of King Charles II. You want to experience all the thrills and excitement, and you want to look the part. Here are a few guidelines to ensure you fit comfortably into your racing surroundings.
A lot depends on what time of the year you attend the races in Britain. In winter – where most of the racing is over the jumps – the weather dictates that the most important thing is to dress warmly. Racecourses can often be in very exposed positions, with bitingly cold winter winds, so a hat, scarf and gloves are essentials. A waterproof jacket is also highly recommended.
At the big meeting as winter and spring combine, such as the Cheltenham races at the Festival meeting in March, a pair of ‘wellies’ or sturdy boots can often come in handy. This is particularly the case if there has been rain in the days leading up to the big event.
Most people choose to attend the races during the best of the British weather, and there is no bigger fashion highlight on the British calendar than Royal Ascot. This takes place at the Berkshire racecourse on the outskirts of London for five days during mid-late June each year. Not only will you see the best flat racehorses in the world in action, you will see many international celebrities, movie stars and sports stars. But, most importantly, the royal family, led by Queen Elizabeth II, take a carriage drive down the course before each day’s action begins.
Getting into the Royal Enclosure at Ascot is a tough task. But if you do, the men are required to where top hat and tails suits, while women have to dress appropriately. However, that doesn’t rule out couture options or some of the more bizarre fashion statements with which the showcase fixture has long been associated. In many of the other enclosures, a morning suit is required for men while even the less expensive areas require at the very least a collar and tie.
For women, Royal Ascot is an opportunity to show off the very best in dress and hat design. Shoes are also a big issue. But, especially if there has been rain and the lawns become muddy, high heels or stilettos can prove a major challenge.
Most other race meetings require men to wear a tie when attending if they wish to go into the better areas of the course. At many tracks throughout the summer there is a ‘Best Dressed Lady Competition’, when prizes, particularly at tracks like Sandown, York, or Doncaster, can run into thousands of pounds.
For something a little more fun you might consider Hamilton Park’s ‘Saints and Sinners’ meeting. The attractive Scottish track, close to Glasgow and just a short drive from Loch Lomond, has long staged this fun race day for which many people arrive dressed as ‘tarts or vicars’ – and that goes for both men and women.