You’ve got a day at the races ahead, but do you actually have anything to wear? If you’ve seen My Fair Lady or Pretty Woman a few times, you may have some unnecessary anxiety about race-appropriate fashion. The truth is, dressing for the races is pretty easy, and not as restrictive as you may think. Just like formal wear is less formal than it was a century ago (and even 50 years ago), so is race attire.

The rules of race style are easy to master. In fact, more than easy, they are fun — so read on! This is what you need to know about dressing for a day at the races.

As always, ladies first…

Hats and Headwear

Fool-Proof Tips On Dressing For Race Events

While huge hats are certainly synonymous with racewear, they are not always necessary. This said, quite often, some headwear is apropos. Your best bet (aside from the one you’ll make on your horse), is to check in with the venue. Dress codes vary. When choosing a hat or headpiece, go for one you love. I mean, love. After all, how often do you get to wear a stunning headpiece these days? Not very often!

Dress Code

Again, the exact formality of dress will differ from club to club, but you can rest assured you’ll be dressing a step above casual. You want to look polished and smart, and sure, you can look a little sexy, but don’t cross the line into tawdry. Your skirt should not be too short, or seran-wrap tight and neck and backlines need to be respectable. There’s nothing wrong with showing a little bit of skin, but the only flanks people should really be staring at should be on a thoroughbred.

Fool-Proof Tips On Dressing For Race Events

Save your money for the track: consider renting a dress for the day, like this Thurley dress hire.

As far patterns go, you can basically go wild. However, remember you are trying to keep it fairly refined, so pick your patterns wisely: cutesy or riskee prints (think teddy bears and bows or spandex leopard print) are fine for a night out with the girls, but shouldn’t feature at the races.

Shoes

Fool-Proof Tips On Dressing For Race Events

Wearability and style are equally important at the races. Remember, you will be standing and walking — and may even be standing and walking on grass — so again, look into the venue (as well as the weather) and select equal stylish and sensible shoes. A small, thicker heel is a good choice, as are a sleek pair of ankle boots or even a sassy pair of ballet flats.

Now onto the men…

Guys, you’ve got it easy. Just dress smart. How smart? Again, this depends on the venue, so check with the dress code. Most places don’t require ties or jackets, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t appreciated and admired. Dress pants are a must, so leave the distressed jeans at home. A pressed, sleek dress shirt is also a fashion boon.

Notes on Colour

Fool-Proof Tips On Dressing For Race Events

This goes for girls and guys: don’t shy away from colour! We often steer toward ‘safe’ colours, like grey, blue and black, but the races are a time to pick up the pace. Have fun with exciting colour. Be a little cheeky and playful. A day at the races, after all, is a day of unbridled possibility, so don’t hedge your bets: slip into something bold.