There is no official dress code at the Cheltenham Festival (12-15 March), 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 taking place 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…
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.
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 is nothing 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.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday. Plus, don’t miss our Cheltenham Festival preview, out now (issue dated 7 March 2019).