How to Dress for a Horse Race cover

How to Dress for a Horse Race? 

Knowing how to dress for specific occasions and events is part of being an adult. 

Understanding the dress code can help avoid awkwardness and also shows respect. Like a wedding, a gallery opening or a business conference horse races also have rules or guidelines for the spectators’ dress code. 

Since most races such as The Royal Ascot, The Kentucky Derby or The Melbourne Cup take place in spring or summer, it’s a little easier to come up with an outfit that’s both creative yeat adhering to the dress code. 

So how to dress for a horse race? 

group of men riding horses about to play polo sport.
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

Is there a dress code? 

Majority of the races have a set dress code and require all the attendees to respect it. Even though many of the organizers have relaxed the rules a little, there are still things to know. 

Don’t think that you can just show up in jeans and your favourite t-shirt! You’ll likely be denied entry if your attire is considered inappropriate.

Business, smart & track casual

When in doubt always opt for business or smart casual clothes. Depending on the racetrack area you’ll be in it’s possible that track casual clothes will also be permitted. Make sure you check before you arrive! 

According to Churchilldowns.com, the business casual style includes blazers, vests, shirts with collars, sweaters, dresses, pantsuits, slacks and capri pants.

Smart casual style deems jackets and blazers optional and vests, shirts with collars, sweaters, dresses, pantsuits, dress jeans, dress shorts and slacks as appropriate. 

Track casual covers the same pieces and also includes golf shorts, dress shorts and capris. 

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What’s not appropriate

Use your instincts when eliminating options for the event. If it looks too casual – it probably is. 

The no-no list includes t-shirts, halter and midriff tops, cargo shorts, torn clothes, athletic wear, ripped denim, and tennis shoes. 

Women’s attire 

Wear comfortable shoes

Whowhattowear.co.uk says that the golden rule of dressing for the races is to avoiding high heels because you will be on your feet all day. 

You’ll likely also have to walk long distances for the parking lot to the stands so your best bet is to choose flat sandals, espadrilles or bring a change of shoes if you absolutely must wear heels!  


A warm summer day calls for a dress, and a race is a perfect place to show off your newest fashion addition! 

The experts recommend keeping it simple and classy, especially if you’re going to be wearing a hat (you should!). Don’t be afraid to experiment with colours and patterns, though. 


These days few occasions call for a hat so don’t miss this opportunity and wear one! 

There are so many styles and ideas from classic, wide-brimmed summer hats, modern pieces, hats decorated with bows, feathers, flowers, ribbons and of course – unlimited colours. 

If you like playfulness go for something eccentric and unusual. Your photo might even end up in the papers! 

Jewellery and bags 

If you’re wearing a hat, you don’t need statement jewellery pieces. Go for classic and simple earrings, minimalistic necklace, and if you want to add some whimsy, you can always find equestrian-themed items. 

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You will also need a bag, and a clutch won’t do it. Yes, it’s pretty, but you need space to carry all the necessities! Remember that you’ll need water, sunscreen, sunglasses, your phone and other must-haves during the day. 

And if you’re bringing a change of shoes or a cardigan, your best choice is a large simple leather bag. Leave cotton totes and plastic bags at home, though.

Men’s attire


Forget black or navy pants. Races call for bright and beautiful colours you might not consider for other occasions! 

We’re talking sky blue, key lime, pink or even bright red. Make sure you pair them with the right dress shirt and a blazer, and you’re golden! 

Dress shirt & jacket 

Again, even with stricter dress codes, you can still be playful! Choose a fun patterned shirt (gingham or striped) that goes well with your bright trousers, or if you want to tone it down, you can always opt for a preppy monochrome option with a monogram.

Same goes for the blazer, but be careful and don’t overdo it. If your other items are already fun go for a classic navy blazer. If not – here’s your chance to shine with, e.g. the 20s inspired look. Lastly, add a tie or a bow tie to look as dapper as it gets!

The right look inspires confidence that you can then take to placing some bets in the Kentucky Derby. 

Before, you should look at the contenders here: https://www.twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/contenders


You need something comfortable, and loafers are your best choice here. If you go for something more subdued like Oxfords, make sure you’re still going sockless. 

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Peaking sock-tops are a definite faux-pas at any race! 

There you have it, fashion for both genders for special equestrian events.

  1. Great article. After pandemic we can wear our great outfits.

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