Saratoga’s racing season is upon us and summer has finally arrived.
Time to dust off those hats and fascinators and start planning your best race-day outfits so you’re sure to make a statement at the track.
Selecting an outfit for the track is almost as much fun as being there. There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to dressing for a race, in part because what you wear has much to do with where you will be seated. In the grandstand or picnic areas, the dress code is everything from shorts and tee-shirts to summer dresses and flip flops. If you are seated in the clubhouse, however, you should dress smartly and appropriately.
The clubhouse is the dressiest part of the racetrack and proper attire is the rule here, especially if you are in a luxury suite or box. Think stylish and fashionable; if you dress as though you’re going to a chic daytime wedding, you’re on the right track—pun intended! For women this means dresses in vibrant summer colors, usually sleeveless and cut at or above the knee. An A-line dress is always a flattering shape as it slims the waist, and it’s also fun to wear. Separates, such as a silk halter paired with statement skirt, can be a chic alternative to a dress on a hot summer day.
Wearing a hat or headpiece to the races is part of a long-standing tradition that dates back to the earliest days of the Royal Ascot. Aside from being a sign of elegance and taste, wearing a hat to the track is also said to bring good luck! For some, going to the track without a hat is like showing up at a black-tie event in jeans.
With so many types of headpieces available now, you’re sure to find something to fit your personality and budget. While the traditional floppy straw hat is fine for the grandstand or picnic area, it is considered too casual as you move into the clubhouse and beyond. Hats of all sizes—some wide brimmed and most adorned with flowers, bows, ribbons and feathers—are always appropriate, as are fascinators: chic, dainty headpieces made of a simple woven disc topped with feathers and netting that are secured in your hair with a comb.
It’s not uncommon for headpieces for the track to feature crystals and other beautiful minerals and stones intertwined with metals into sculptural pieces of art, or hats structured in such an artistic way that you can’t tell if they were created by a milliner or an artist!
The fact is, however, that any type of headpiece is a stylish addition to your race-day outfit, and you can’t go wrong by wearing one to any meet or Saratoga event.
HOW TO COORDINATE A HAT OR FASCINATOR WITH YOUR DRESS:
Color-blocked: Solid-colored dress paired with a hat of a different color
White: White dress paired with a neutral cream-colored hat or a hat that provides a pop of color
Monochromatic: Solid-colored dress paired with a hat of the same color
Prints: Printed dress paired with a simple white or neutral hat
Multi-colored: Multi-colored dress paired with a hat that features one of the colors in the dress
Black and white: Black and white dress paired with a black or white hat
Wear your hat slightly tilted to one side to add drama and reveal your face. Once you put your hat on, you shouldn’t have to touch it for the rest of the day. For reinforcement, secure your hat with hatpins after you put it on or add sizers (small padded bands placed on the inside of the rim) before you don it. If you find yourself standing in a crowded space while wearing a wide brimmed hat, remember to be mindful of your neighbors.
While your hat may be the most important component of your race-day ensemble, your shoes will complete you
outfit’s head-to-toe effect. Eyes often go from hat to heels, and you don’t want to disappoint! Whether you choose to wear stilettos or kitten heels to the track, make sure your shoes are comfortable and broken in. A day at the races can be long and you can expect to be on your feet for most of it, so be sure to pack a backup pair of cute flats—always a perfectly acceptable alternative—in your bag.
Whether you’ll be in the grandstand or in a luxury suite at Saratoga this summer, add to your enjoyment of the time-honored sport of horse racing by embracing its traditions and exhibiting your sense of style at each event through a tasteful fashion statement!
Lisa Miller is an international wedding and fashion photographer and a regular in the pit at fashion events in NYC, Saratoga Springs and South Florida. She also volunteers for The Heart Gallery, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, and is the founder of The Foal Project, which supports equine assisted therapies. Visit studiodiluce.com and foalproject.org to see more of her work.