Cheltenham Festival Fashion

What to wear to the Cheltenham Festival


With only 8 days to go until Cheltenham Racecourse opens its gates for the first day of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival dubbed by the media as "The Greatest Show on Turf" most fashion conscious racegoers will already either have their outfits planned or be well on their way to perfection. I have luckily just received a special invitation by the racecourse to attend, which I am delighted about, but on the other hand as I have only just found out that I will be attending. I have been thrown into a flat spin on what to wear. I am normally the type of person who likes and enjoys planning for these occasions. 


This will be my first time attending the Cheltenham Festival so I am full of anticipation and extremely excited about the whole experience. The build up and coverage in the media has been excellent and is now building to fever pitch. So the question foremost in my mind is what to wear to fit this special occasion?!? 


Dressing for the Cheltenham festival could be viewed as very problematic. The beginning of March is still likely to be rather cold, rain is almost guaranteed and snow is forecasted soon.


Snow Rain Cheltenham Festival


 To top that off, unlike Royal Ascot and The Summer Festivals there is no official dress code, and so for the less experienced racegoer the questions on what or more importantly what not to wear can be endless. This is the most traditional of our racing events. With many racegoers having very set ideas not only of what to wear, but also where and what to eat, drink, stay and even stand on the day, and for each individual race, being planned down to the very last "T". 

Fashion at the Cheltenham Festival
Edel Ramberg Hat 



Firstly, you should dress for the weather. The atmosphere at Cheltenham is quite unique and has been described as spine tingling. With the spectacle of the horses in the paddock beforehand, the anticipation of the owners, trainers and the roar of the crowds. Viewing the race and the build up live, its so important that you are part of this and clearly this all takes place outside. So being prepared for the Great British weather is vital. I will have more than one outfit prepared, to accommodate the weather taking a turn for the worse, or even the better at the last minute. 

three piece tweed suit

Whilst men will be appropriately dressed in a tweed suit I would suggest opting for a three piece or a cashmere jumper to add that extra layer of warmth. Many Gentleman wear a "Paddock" coat often found with velvet collars over their suits. 

Cheltenham Festival Fashion
Top Jumps trainers - Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls


For us ladies, when choosing dresses and suits avoid garments that are made from chiffons and other lightweight fabrics instead opt for heavier materials such as wool tweeds, crepe, or brocade. A cashmere scarf rolled in your bag is also a great trick in case you underestimated how cold the weather could turn. Layers are the key to dressing here. 

What to wear to the cheltenham festival



Now for the most important part - What you should you be wearing on your head!!


The Cheltenham Festival is the ultimate opportunity to be as seasonally elegant as possible, especially with the addition of head-turning millinery. At a race meet such as the Cheltenham Festival most women will be wearing a hat. Men often forget about accessorizing and for men hats are optional and usually functional items i.e. for keeping heads warm and dry. However I do feel that by adding a fine felt trilby, a pair of binoculars, cufflinks and pocket handkerchief this adds a degree of sophistication and creates the perfect sartorial look. 






For Ladies lucky enough to be racing the whole week during the festival -different days can call for different looks. With Ladies day and Gold Cup day being the slightly more formal days, you should opt for a more glamorous hat. For example an elegant Percher or cute Pill box with a veil or display of feathers. I am sure that we will also see many cloche style hats in vibrant colours alongside the more traditional fur Cossack style hats, Trilbies and Fedoras throughout the week. One betting certainty is there will definitely be no shortage of feathers firmly upholding the Cheltenham traditions. 


Hats at cheltenham festival


When choosing your hat you should ensure you choose a hat made from felt, silk, velvet or leather and don't be afraid to be a little different. There are a plethora of fabulous hats which are adorned with spikes or crystals for those racegoers who like to stand out from the crowd and give a modern twist to the more traditional racing fashion. The most important advice I can offer is to make sure you avoid anything made from straw, chiffon or polyester type fabrics, as these are much more appropriate for Spring/Summer Racing. 

Cheltenham Festival Fashion
Left to Right -

Philip Treacy Pink blush beret with diamante from Lizzies Hats, Yvette Jelfs Leopard Pillbox Hat With Bow,  Mary Franck Navy felt pill box with silver studs from Lizzies Hats


If you are lucky enough to be experiencing some of the famed Cheltenham hospitality in a box, marquee or chalet. I would advise that you dress in layers. It has been said that only horses sweat, but you do not need the uncomfortable feeling of becoming rather hot under the collar and cuffs. If you're planning to be outside for most of the day, a beautiful coat is a better investment than what you wear underneath it, as the chances are you will not be taking it off. 


Cheltenham Festival Fashion




Some "brave" souls do opt for more risqué wardrobe choices risking hypothermia and a raised eyebrow or two from the traditional jumping crowd. Personally I think a more understated approach is required choosing the balance between high style and comfort. Gloves are a practical, elegant, additional accessory. There are some beautiful gloves available, in a kaleidoscope of colours, whether you prefer something plain in a glorious exotic colour or with a touch of fur or maybe a patterned pair. There will be I am sure a pair available to compliment every ensemble. My personal choice are from the Dents range, I have found that not only are they made from excellent quality materials, they are also affordable in price. 


Cheltenham Festival Fashion





Footwear is another vitally important factor. Gentlemen make sure your shoes match your belt and are well polished. Laced brogues always look eminently suitable among the jumping fraternity. But many do have a penchant for loafers, often with a flash of brightly coloured patterned sock showing below the ankle. 


Mens brogues loafers what to wear cheltenham




For us ladies a slightly thicker heel is best for winter racing with boots or closed toe shoes being the sensible choice to keep your toes warm and keep your look more in keeping with the elements and the going! Especially if you are invited into the paddock. If your shoes are new make sure you wear them in before wearing them to the races you will be on your feet for a long time and there is nothing worse than seeing ladies leaving the racecourse with their shoes in their hands. Tights should always be worn either opaque, flesh or even patterned tights definitely no bare legs please. 


what not to wear to cheltenham





To sum up, The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most exciting meetings on the horse racing calendar. It's a great chance to experiment with seasonal fashion meet people and enjoy top class racing. Remember race days are long days. When drinking pace yourself. Dressing appropriately is not enough to cement the impression others may form when you meet and greet. 



Fun and fashion cheltenham festival joe hart




With everything in mind ensure you have a fantastic Cheltenham Festival and make sure you tweet your photos throughout the week to @furlongfashion or tag us on facebook


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