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What NOT to wear at the Cheltenham Festival


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  • There is no official Cheltenham Festival dress code, however there are certainly some unwritten faux pas when it comes to dressing for the four-day highlight of the National Hunt season.

    With the Festival being held in March obviously the weather has a big impact on what racegoers opt to wear and the racecourse advises dressing for the conditions.

    Say no to summer dresses

    It may be the turn of spring but the ladies should not get too carried away with bringing out the “summer wear” too early. Floral strapped summer dresses should remain in the wardrobe for a few months longer — ready for the Flat season over the forthcoming summer. After all, summery dresses are much more suited to sipping Pimms in the sunshine than battling the potential blustery elements at the Festival.

    Ban the bare legs

    The sight of bare legs on a cold day’s jump racing is enough to send shivers down your spine. Investing in a pair of tights for the Festival will be the saving grace to keeping your pins warm.

    Fascinator faux pas

    Many of the ladies at the Festival opt to wear hats or stylish pillbox hats, which radiate sophistication. It is personal preference, of course, but let’s be honest, extravagant, brightly coloured fascinators should really stay in their box until Royal Ascot…

    Beastly bags

    Cheltenham is busy, with large crowds and people bustling for the best spot. So choose a bag that is compact and not overly big to prevent any unnecessary argy-bargy. The last thing you want is to be bashing people’s pints all over the place.

    Save the shawl for another day

    A sassy silk shawl draped over the shoulders is a great look for a summer evening at the races, but Cheltenham Festival? Not so much. Save yourself from the shivers and invest in a warm coat, or even some quintessentially British tweed.

    A shoe dilemma

    If you are one of these iron ladies who can, indeed, last a whole day in stiletto heels, then great and I truly take my hat off to you. However for most of us, just the thought is pain inducing and there is nothing better than a stylish (comfortable) boot. Although, if you are one of the lucky people being treated to lunch and have somewhere guaranteed to sit down, brilliant — get those stilettos on show.

    Male mix-ups

    It is most probably easier for men to dress for the Festival, donning a suit or a pair of smart chinos and they are sorted. However, one note for all the male racegoers out there, PLEASE WEAR SOCKS. There are few things more offensive to the female eye than a bare ankle on a man…

    Save the fancy dress for the stag do

    There is one strict dress code for the Festival — no fancy dress allowed in the Club enclosure, thank goodness. It is, in fact, allowed in other areas as long as it’s not “distasteful”, but perhaps save the fancy dress for another day if you can.

    Keep up-to-date with all the latest news and updates from the Cheltenham Festival via the Horse & Hound website and read the full report in the 24 March issue of the magazine

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