The Ultimate Guide To Raceday Attire
  • HOME

The Ultimate Guide To Raceday Attire

Here's what to wear to the races

Planning a trip (or two) to the races this year? While these sporting festivals are a great opportunity to get up-close to the action, they’re also major events in the British social calendar – meaning that attendees are expected to dress up for the occasion. Here’s what to wear to the races, with guidelines for both men and women.

A Guide To Raceday Attire

Before we get into the do’s and don’t’s of your racing outfit, it’s worth noting that individual festivals and events have specific dress codes of their own – for example, where Royal Ascot has a strictly formal dress code, Cheltenham Festival is much more relaxed with attendees allowed to dress in smart casual attire.

Some venues are also split into enclosures, which offer levels of formality when it comes to the dress code, ranging from single-breasted suits and knee-length dresses to top hat and tails, fascinators and gowns.

Make sure you also keep in mind the season and weather for each event (we’re British, after all), and dress appropriately for those conditions; races held in early spring or the north of the UK will need more layers than those held just outside London or in the middle of August.

With this in mind, here’s what to wear to the races…

Men and women sat together in dresses and suits

(c) Royal Ascot

What Do Women Wear To The Races?

There’s a huge range of options when it comes to racing attire, although keep in mind that the act of dressing up is often part of the experience – so while it might be tempting to stick to jeans (where venues allow), it’s a lot more fun to try something a little more fancy with friends.

For more casual dress codes, like those at Cheltenham Festival, women are permitted to wear casual dresses, as well as smart trousers or jeans paired with blouses, shirts and jumpers. When it comes to footwear, boots and heels are both acceptable.

More formal dress codes may require women to wear a more ornate dress or a suit, paired with ballet flats or heels and accessorised with a hat or fascinator. Woman attending Royal Ascot’s Royal Enclosure, for example, are encouraged to wear modest length dresses and skirts, matching trouser suits or wide strap jumpsuits; strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck and spaghetti straps are not permitted, and midriffs must be covered at all times. As indicated, some enclosures may require specific garments to be worn by racegoers, so it’s best to check the event and venue’s official websites before going.

Offensive fancy dress, offensive clothing of any kind and replica sports shirts are not acceptable attire.

What Do Men Wear To The Races?

Men are slightly more limited when it comes to racing attire, with a suit being generally advised at most events. These should be worn with a smart shoe, not trainers, in order to fit dress codes.

However, more casual racing dress codes suggest that men attend wearing smart trousers or jeans, paired with a shirt and blazer or smart jacket. On these occasions, boots are a popular choice for footwear.

More formal dress codes may require men to wear a specific style of suit; Royal Ascot, for example, asks men attending the Royal Enclosure to wear morning dress (with a waistcoat and tie), a top hat and black shoes. Bow ties and cravats, as well as jeans, chinos and trainers are a big no-no. As indicated, some enclosures may require specific garments to be worn by racegoers, so it’s best to check the event and venue’s official websites before going.

Offensive fancy dress, offensive clothing of any kind and replica sports shirts are not acceptable attire.

Notable UK Race Dates & Events

Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Festival, 12-15 March 2024

One of the first major racing events of the year, Cheltenham Festival is comprised of 14 Grade One races that take place over four days. With a rich history and international reputation, the Cheltenham Festival brings together the best in jump racing, showcasing talent, speed and excitement on and off the track. The festival includes Champion Day, Festival Wednesday, St Patrick’s Thursday and Gold Cup Day. You can find out more about Cheltenham Festival with our guide here.

For our Cheltenham Festival style guide, see here.


Horses and jockeys racing at the grand national

Aintree Grand National, 11-13 April 2024

Held annually in Liverpool, the Aintree Grand National (also known this year as the Randox Grand National) is a legendary horse racing event that has been going since 1839. Spanning three days of intense competition, it’s known for its challenging course and obstacles (including the famed Becher’s Brook and The Chair) as well as its prize pot of £1 million.


People racing horses

(c) Philippe Oursel, Unsplash

Scottish Grand National, 19-20 April 2024

North of the border you’ll find Scotland’s equivalent of the Grand National, which dates all the way back to 1867 at Ayr Racecourse (where it is still held today). Consisting of a run over four miles with 30 horses jumping 27 fences, it’s one of the more tense races on the calendar – which it make it unsurprising to learn that tickets go quickly each year.


People racing horses

(c) Jeff Griffith, Unsplash

Boodles May Festival (Chester May Festival), 8-10 May 2024

Chester is another UK city known for its rich horse racing history, with the annual Chester May Festival (also known as the Boodles May Festival) held at Chester Racecourse every spring. The race itself dates back to 1539, making the racecourse the oldest horse racing venue in the world, and takes place over three days with events including the Chester Cup, Chester Vase, Ormonde Stakes, Cheshire Oaks and Dee Stakes.


People racing horses

(c) Mike Kotsch, Unsplash

Epsom Derby, 31 May-1 June 2024

One of the most famous races is set in Epsom, which plays host to the Derby Stakes (aka, the Epsom Derby). A Group 1 flat horse race, the event takes place on the Epsom Downs Racecourse and is considered one of the five classic English horse races – making it a hotspot for jockeys, trainers and spectators.


Royal Ascot 2014

(Photo by Miles Willis/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse)

Royal Ascot, 18-22 June 2024

This royally-approved racing event was founded by Queen Anne in 1711, and has since become one of the most famous not just in the UK, but globally. It’s a huge event – and not just because of the races. ‘Whether it’s the arrival of the Royal Procession, seven world class races throughout the afternoon or the communal singing around Ascot’s bandstand early evening, each day is an unforgettable whirlwind of excitement and colour,’ says Felicity Bernard, Commercial Director at Ascot Racecourse. You can find out more about Royal Ascot with our guide here.

For our Royal Ascot style guide, see here.


Glorious Goodwood

© Jayson Fong

Glorious Goodwood, 20 July-3 August 2024

Glorious Goodwood is a five-day horse racing event, officially known as Qatar Goodwood Festival after the title sponsor. Not to be confused with the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed, Goodwood Revival or, indeed, Goodwoof – all of which are also held at the same gorgeous venue – Glorious Goodwood is held at Goodwood, an English estate in Chichester, West Sussex. You can find out more about Glorious Goodwood with our guide here.


St Leger Day

Betfred St Leger Festival, 12-15 September 2024

The highlight of the flat racing season, the St Leger Festival (sponsored this year by Betfred) will play host to the Doncaster Cup and the St Leger Stakes – the oldest of Britain’s Five Classics. Spanning four days, the St Leger Stakes will feature a mix of classic racing, music, fashion and food and drink. One of Doncaster’s favourite events of the year, visitors should expect to find flags lining the city and a party vibe throughout the festivities.


Featured image: Royal Ascot