When to Dress Up and When to Dress Down for the Races

Pop Culture
When a big event rolls around in horse racing dressing to impress is definitely recommended, but not every race day at the track requires a dress, bow-ties, or fascinator. (Americas Best Racing photo)

A race day at the track is an experience like no other. Amidst the anticipation of the races and the buzz of the bets being placed, it’s easy to get sucked into the excitement of it all. But if it’s your first time taking part in the pageantry and high-stakes competition of horse racing, you may be wondering what it is you should be wearing to celebrate the sport and spectacle. 

Based on pop-culture coverage, you’re likely to assume every track on race day follows the Kentucky Derby protocol: patrons participating in the day’s events wearing decadent suits and elaborate dresses, with individuals adorned with luxurious hats. But horse racing has a variety of different racing atmospheres, ranging from the prestigious to the down-right, carefree casual.

To help you select an outfit perfect for the specific event you’ll be attending, we’ve put together simple rules to adhere to — not to mention a fashion sampling from America’s Best Racing’s diverse roster of brand ambassadors who know a thing or two about race day attire.

When to Dress Up

Let’s start with when race day requires your absolute all. In this case, we are talking about the Kentucky Derby, the other Triple Crown jewels, and some of the more marquee events (think Pegasus World Cup in Florida or the Breeders’ Cup competitions). Here’s when elaborate hats and headgear come to mind.

Moinet (America's Best Racing photo)

​​Take our brand ambassador Danielle Moinet when she attended The Belmont Stakes. Posing here in a sleek, white dress with plunging neckline and pearl-encrusted, mesh sleeves — topped off with a Christine A. Moore Millinery fascinator — Danielle’s monochromatic look is made fresh by her pop of lipstick. Block heels are comfortable enough to stroll around the track and take in the festivities, while the full ensemble is perfect for the fashion competitions so often held at these upscale races.

Danielle is just one example of how to properly dress up for race day.

Courtesy of Darwin Vizcaya

What if you’re looking to rock a jacket and tie combination? Look no further than our ambassador Darwin Vizcaya, whose tailored suit is cool and comfortable for a hot day at the track. Stealing a page from Ms. Moniet’s playbook, Darwin also takes advantage of a red bow-tie accent as he smiles alongside jockey Francisco Arrieta.

When to Dress Down

If you find yourself attending a weekday race or spending time in the infield, there’s no need to dress to the nines. The key here is polished casual. You may be able to enter the racetrack in shorts and T-shirt, but don’t put yourself in a position to be restricted from certain portions of the track because you’re under-dressed. Business casual, including slacks, a simple button-down, or a nice dress/jumpsuit, will give you the flexibility to roam the premises and still enjoy the day’s events in style. 

The same goes for any non-major weekend races. To ensure you’ll have access to all the track has to offer, such as the picnic area, infield or track backyard, keep it smart but don’t worry about hats, heels, and bow-ties.

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing


Make no mistake, a day at the races does require a bit of planning and preparation, but you can’t go wrong with these basic principles. When in doubt, do some research, find out what fashion was worn at a previous event at the track or what traditions may be in play, and pick something that adheres to your own personal style.

Your time at the track is something to savor. A chance to take part in one of the most fun and energetic live events in sports or otherwise. Dress up, dress down, do what is required but always be sure to wear what makes you feel your best self and have fun with your selections.

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