Cheltenham Racecourse is the Home of Jump Racing set in 360 acres amongst the beautiful Cotswolds Hills. Cheltenham’s Jump season begins with The Showcase in October and ends with the April Meeting.
Official Dress Code
Officially there is no dress code so racegoers are advised to dress for the weather. However men are encouraged to wear suits and ladies cocktail dresses in the Club Enclosure. Hats are not required.
Fancy dress is NOT permitted in the Club Enclosure, In other enclosures fancy dress is permitted as long as the outfit is not offensive and the racecourse reserves the right to decline entry should the need arise
For Ladies: What to Wear
No matter how stylish and gorgeous your raceday cocktail dress looks, when the weather is cold and chilly it will be your coat attracting all the attention. Unless you are going to enjoy some hospitality indoors, the chances are you won’t be taking your coat or jacket off whilst watching the races, so for style your outerwear becomes the fashion priority.
Although hats are not required, many women prefer to wear one to complete their racing day outfit (and to help keep warm!). Don’t bring out your summer hats though, stick to fabrics such as wool felt or (faux) fur to look stylish and keep warm.
What to Wear to The Cheltenham Festival
The Cheltenham Festival in March is the highlight of the National Hunt Season with nearly £4m of prize money.
This four day festival is an opportunity to add a splash of colour to the dull grey skies starting with the Champion Hurdle on Day 1. Show off your true fashionista colours for Ladies Day on Day 2, make them green with envy on Day 3 with St Patrick’s Day and sparkle on the last day’s Gold Cup.
Official Dress Code
Again there is no official dress code, but you are encouraged to dress smart and warm for the weather.
March can still be a chilly month so what to wear at Cheltenham (and especially on Ladies Day) is a dilemma. You want to look glamorous but you also need to keep warm – animal prints may be stylish and fashionable but goose bumps definitely won’t fall in to that category. Your gorgeous dress may not see the light of day, so all eyes will be on your outerwear.
The weather during The Cheltenham Festival is hard to predict so layering and choosing an outfit that can be slightly changed on the day is a safer bet for your fashion attire. Instead of a dress. think of a suit or a jacket teamed with a skirt or a pair of smart trousers. Then have a blouse and jumper ready to add under the jacket, and an overcoat, warm shrug or poncho to layer over it, so you can decide on the day depending on the weather.
Odds are the weather will be cold so keep warm and stylish in the favourite fabric of any winter racing event: TWEED. Tweed doesn’t have to be conservative as many fashion brands have picked up the tweed baton and created colourful and fashionable suits, dresses and coats.
Other fabric favourites are tartan, houndstooth and block colour wool, along with leather, suede and (faux) fur.
Accessories are key in dressing up an outfit; they add a touch of individuality and will pull the whole outfit together. Plus it’s a great way to update an existing wardrobe or add colour to a neutral coloured winter coat.
The Cheltenham hat has to have substance otherwise the elements can turn your crowning glory into a racing flop. Rather than wafty feathers and bloom, go for bold colours and maybe a touch of sparkle to stand out from the crowd, Colourful berets, felt fedoras and faux furs will keep your head warm plus add a flamboyant glamour to your tweed suit.
This is where you should splash out on colour but choose wisely. The right colour will lift your complexion giving a more youthful glow whilst the wrong colour can drain and age you. Luckily scarves come in an array of hues so it should be easy to find a shade to suit your colouring.
Don’t be afraid to add another print in to the mix, it creates interest, and prevents your outfit from becoming too matchy matchy. After all we don’t want to look as though we tried too hard to look this good.
Your handbag has to be of course stylish but also practical; after all it has to carry all your racing essentials. The best styles are those which will free your hands to hold that glass of champagne and to wave your horse past the finishing line. Shoulder bags are ideal and can be worn on the shoulder or across the body if you really mean business. A large size bag is very handy to carry gloves, scarves and even sunglasses if the sun does decide to shine. The bag is another way you can add a flash of colour to an outfit.
Heels always bring glamour to an outfit, but when you’re on your feet all day they can be killer heels, literally! Best foot forward is the boot. Boots are a good option as heels on boots can be lower and chunkier without losing points on style. Chunkier heels will be more comfortable and easier to walk over any grass.
Boots will also keep your feet and legs warm on a chilly racing day (plus you could even sneak on a pair of socks and no one will know). And if the weather is really bad and wet, somehow muddy boots don’t look half as bad as muddy shoes.
Ankle boots are perfect for both cold and milder days. Just add thicker tights and a pair of socks if the weather is cold. Also it gives you an opportunity to wear block coloured or patterned tights to brighten up your outfit.
Leather gloves are always stylish and the mid length style especially. It allows you to wear those chic three-quarter length sleeves or a cape coat and still keep your arms warm. With wrist length gloves your bracelets seem to disappear underneath, this longer length also allows you to show off your bangles and bracelets to perfection by wearing them over the top.
Whilst keeping snug under your coat and scarf, a necklace will not be on show. So make a statement with a pair of earrings, a brooch or a scarf ring.
As suggested, wearing bracelets over mid length gloves can provide a great setting. Add glamour with pearls and gemstones.
Don’t let your umbrella let you down in the fashion stakes, if it’s raining this will be on view for all to see. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just in good condition and complement your outfit with its colour or print. A compact umbrella is a good choice so you can keep it in your bag when the sun shines.
Men – What to Wear
A three-piece tweed suit is a great investment for The Cheltenham Festival
Not only will you stay warm and strike a sartorial pose when worn all together, it can look equally dapper when worn separately. For a quirky look wear the trousers and waistcoat together but add a different coloured tweed jacket, or wear the jacket and trousers and change the waistcoat to another tweed or a block colour woollen waistcoat.
Tweeds adds colour, texture and patterns that a normal business suit can’t.
Smaller guys (short or in weight) should avoid the larger checks as these will just drown their frame. Go for the smaller checks.
The more textured tweeds are heavier so will add bulk – good for the skinnier guy. The heavier or more rounded guys should go for the less textured tweeds and the less structured soft tweed jackets.
Tweed traditionally comes in muted earthy and autumnal colours which suit men with warm and muted colouring. Keep the warm muted colouring with shirts and jumpers to complement the look such as a cream shirt or orange jumper.But don’t worry if your colouring is not warm and muted, there are some tweeds out there in bolder brights and cooler colours such as blues. Or if you already have a tweed jacket in a warm colour, just team it with cooler shades of pinks and blues to add more contrast and brightness.
Experienced Cheltenham racegoers will emphasise how cold it can get there if you spend the day outdoors, and this is where a warm overcoat will pay dividends. Go for thick wool or a technical fabric that will withstand rain and wind. Make sure it is large enough to fit comfortably over your tweed suit.
A bright colour will make a statement for big occasions, while more neutral tones will blend in with any occasion and match most suits.
Tweeds look dapper with crisp cotton shirts or the softer and warmer brushed cotton shirts and even denim– just choose which one depending on the weather and the style you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to mix prints.
Accessories are key to making a sartorial difference to your outfit.
The Flat Cap
The flat cap has a varied history: from when every male over six years old (except the upper class) was legally bound to wear English woollen caps (or else fined) on Sundays and holidays in 1571 up until 1597; to the headgear favoured by the upper class for country pursuits; and back to the city working classes in the 1920s. So no wonder it seems at home with both the trendy and the classic fashion followers.
The Pocket Square
One accessory which always adds a dashing touch with no effort at all is the pocket square – the only rule to remember is that it should never exactly match the tie.
Keep warm but also add a pop of colour to your outfit with a wool scarf. If you are wearing a plain neutral coat then this is a way to introduce a pattern and a bright colour. If you are wearing tweed or a patterned coat, then bring out one of the colours in the pattern. It doesn’t have to be the same shade and it doesn’t have to be the dominant colour in the pattern.
The Tie/Bow Tie
Ties are not obligatory but do complete the dapper look. Both bow ties and normal ties suit tweeds.
Shoes and socks
Traditionally brogues are worn with tweed and they are also good for walking on soggy ground, after all this hardy shoe came from soggy origins. Originating in Scotland and Ireland, it started as a heavy untanned leather with perforations which were not for decoration but to allow water to drain from the shoes whilst walking through bogs and other wetlands. It became a country walking and sports shoe when the gentry saw the benefits.
Again another way to add personality and brighten your outfit is with a pair of colourful/patterned socks.
Dressing for other Jumps meetings at Cheltenham
There are plenty of Jumps meetings at Cheltenham when The Festival is not on, and the normal dress code applies.
Dress for the weather, dress for warmth, layering is your secret style tip – and why not enjoy the occasion as an opportunity to dress up and have fun! Sartorial flair is associated with the major racecourses and after all, Cheltenham is the ‘Home of Jump Racing’.