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Furlong Fashion Guide: What to Wear to a Horse Race

Written by Marie A.

Horse race attire for rookies: How to look fabulous when you’re off to the races!

When it comes to high fashion, there are few events as iconic as “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby. In fact, many spectators just want an excuse to dress their best (like in our favorite fashion-forward Western dresses to wear with boots).

Ladies typically wear colorful dresses (prints and florals encouraged), flats, and a fun hat. Gentlemen will fit in wearing light suits (e.g. seersucker), pastel shirts, and a bowtie or regular tie. If your kids are coming, coordinate your outfits, and make sure they’re in comfortable shoes and slathered with sunscreen.


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Before the horses load into the Derby gates, though, there are a lot of prep races across the nation. This means that for a few months leading up to that first Saturday in May, the racing world hosts countless races in hopes of drawing the biggest names in the sport of kings.

And, of course, where there are big names, there is bound to be big fashion. That’s where this guide comes in. Consider this your crash course of fashion for the Road to the Roses and beyond.

Women’s Horse Racing Fashion

You want to dress to impress. Think of your Sunday best, combined with your greatest outfit for going out on the town. In general, horse races like these are a chance to showcase your best spring and summer fashion.

Think pastels, floral prints, and any outfit that brings cheerful memories of the sun if it’s in the spring or summer.

In the fall, go with something nude (no, not that kind!) with a pop of color.

If heels are a problem, stick to flats. If you’re wearing a neutral dress, stand out with a pair of bright pumps. Pick something that will attract attention – and don’t worry about being overdressed.

The only way that happens is if you end up at the races in formal evening wear.

A perfect example of track attire. Click to see it at Amazon.

Below are our favorite dresses from Amazon:

  • Pretty in pink
  • Spotted in Kentucky
  • Hot Midi
  • Pinup glory
  • Pleated Momma
  • Momma’s Day Out

See Them on Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

Of course, pair your outfit with the only accessory that matters at the races: a fabulous hat. For your hat, should you choose to wear one, find something that fits your style and matches your outfit.

Make it as adventurous, ridiculous, or as classic as you want!

One of our favorite track hats for ladies. Click to see it at Amazon.

The tradition of dressing up on Derby Day dates back to 1875.  Inspired by the UK’s Epsom Derby, Colonel Merriwether Lewis Clark Jr., one of the founders of the race, encouraged people to follow a formal dress code, believing it would deter those spectators attracted only by the drinking and gambling.

If that was his intention, he wasn’t very successful, but his vision has meant that outrageous hats have become as much a part of Derby Day as fresh mint julep.

Derby fashion

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From floppy straw hats to festive, floral-themed fascinators, the array of hats on display on Derby Day is second to none. Choose to fit in with this wide-brim straw hat or stand out with an exaggerated flower fascinator.

If neither of those appeals to your sense of style, why not take a more traditional approach, with this Lucky Leaf Summer Sun Hat or this stylishly understated Kentucky Church Derby Cap?

Amazon has a few other tempting choices for Derby Day, including:

  • Ruffles for Days 
  • Simple Flowers
  • Summer Formal
  • Glam Girl

See Them on Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

Want to see horse race outfits examples for inspiration? Check out our race fashion Pinterest board.

Men’s Horse Racing Fashion

Men's Fashion at the Races

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Try to stick with lightweight suits since it will probably be warm at the racetrack. While there are areas that offer air conditioning and shelter, they’re typically crowded.

I highly recommend seersucker suits. They’re lightweight, breathable, and stylish.

However, any summer or spring outfit will be fine. You don’t have to wear a jacket, either. Think of pastel shirts and ties with some character. If you’re going in the fall or winter, a regular suit will be perfect.

If you’re feeling really fancy, go for a tie. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bowtie or a regular tie. It’ll make the outfit come together, and you’ll fit in with the fashion atmosphere of the racetrack.

A perfect bow tie for the track. Click to see it at Amazon.

Below are our favorite track ties from Amazon:

  • Mint Julip
  • The Bow Tie
  • Bringing Up the Rear

See Them on Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

The tie doesn’t have to have a horse racing theme. It can be any color that coordinates well with your outfit. And you don’t have to wear one if you don’t want to. In fact, you can wear anything you want. Just be comfortable and remember that going to the races is about having fun while looking your best.

Also, I’ll let you in on a secret. The ladies aren’t the only ones who get hats. Men have just as much fun with their hats, and look great with fancy fedoras to top off their outfits.

male fedora

Click to see fedoras at Amazon

Below are our favorite men’s hats from Amazon:

  • The Protector
  • The Final Straw
  • Birds of a Feather

See Them on Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

Want to see horse race outfits examples for inspiration? Check out our race fashion Pinterest board.

Kids Horse Racing Fashion

Your “mini me” will be happy to know they can be included in anything and everything at the racetrack. Dress your little darlings in something that fits both the weather and the fashion. You can coordinate your outfits, or you can make theirs as comfortable as possible.

You know your child best, so make their fashion choices wisely.

There’s a lot of walking at the races, so make sure your child has comfortable shoes. Also be certain to pack everything he or she will need, including diapers, bottles, and sippy cups.

Kids can be fashionable at the track too. Click to see it at Amazon.

Below are our favorite kids’ options from Amazon:

  • The Boys’ Club
  • Boss Baby
  • Seeing Pink
  • Flower Power

See Them on Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

Want to see horse race outfits examples for inspiration? Check out our race fashion Pinterest board.

Race Track Packing List

What else should you pack for the track? First, be sure to put on sunscreen. It will be even better if you’re wearing SPF protection in your foundation.


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Rain and clouds aren’t going to protect you from the sun’s damaging rays, so be sure to bring extra sunscreen to reapply throughout the day. If you forget to pack it, the track gift shops usually have some for sale.

If you don’t have an assigned seat, remember to bring a folding chair.

Bring your phone and any wireless chargers you might have. Don’t forget some cash for parking and tips (if you’re driving), betting, and things like that.

For the sake of the horses, don’t pack anything that might spook them, like laser pointers, noise makers, or balloons.

Check the racetrack’s website to see what is and isn’t allowed. Sometimes, it’s a big party (like the infield of the Kentucky Derby), so the racetrack will try to limit the craziness where they can in the name of safety.

Browse Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

Racetrack Etiquette

While the races are a lot of fun, the animals are not just the stars of the show — they’re the ones who are most at risk of getting hurt.

If you are in the paddock, try to keep your noise down and avoid big, sudden movements around the horses.


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Observe these high-strung horses doing what they were bred to do, but be respectful. You don’t want to do anything that might get you kicked — or kicked out! Be cautious around the horses, and always keep an eye out for any potential danger.

When placing bets, be sure to be quick.

There’s a time limit on the transactions, and there will be angry people if they don’t get their bets in because you took too long doing yours. Walk up to the betting window, state your bets, pay your money, and get your receipt. You can do all the races for the day at once, or you can do it between every race.

If you need help, get to the line early so the people at the counters can guide you through the process.

It’s okay to be loud as soon as you get to the grandstands.

Odds are, people will be yelling and cheering in excitement. The number one rule of spending a day at the races isn’t to win money or wear the best fashion but to have fun. Enjoy yourself, and everything else will fall into place.

Browse Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can I put together the perfect horse race outfit?

In addition to the fashion finds in this article, we suggest you head over to our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List. We’ve gathered plenty of choices for men, women, and kiddos.

Q: What should you wear to the races that are casual?

Wear whatever makes you comfortable. During the regular workweek, most people at the races wear jeans and T-shirts.

If you’re going on a big race day and don’t want to dress up, stick with a comfortable pair of pants and a polo shirt. That goes for both ladies and gentlemen.

Q: What should you wear to horse races in the spring?

Ladies, dress in your favorite pastels, floral prints, and classic styles.

Men, neutral suits are still your best bet but feel free to add a pop color with your shirt and/or tie.

Heels or flats are fine for the ladies.

Browse Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

Q: What should you wear to horse races in the summer?

Be sure to wear sunscreen and something cool. If you’re on a casual day of racing, I always recommend fishing shirts. They’re built for extreme heat and offer SPF protection.

If it’s a big race day, spring for some seersucker. You don’t have to worry about wrinkling, it’s breathable, and be as formal or as casual as you want it to be. That’s called a win all the way around!

Summer Races

Source: Canva

Browse Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

Q: What should you wear to a horse race when it’s cold?

Bring a jacket. Ladies, you’ll want to wear leggings or tights with your dress, and the best jacket you’ve got. Men, you’ve got it a little easier as most suits are sold with jackets.

Q: What should you wear to a horse race in winter?

Dress in plenty of layers, and remember to bring a warm coat, hat, scarf, and gloves. Even if you have seats indoors, you’ll need to brave the cold walking in from the parking lot — and that can take a while!

Q: What should you wear to the horse races in the rain?

Umbrellas are usually frowned upon at the racetrack because they spook the horses, but definitely double-check the track’s website.

If it’s raining, I highly recommend some form of poncho or a good rain jacket to keep dry. Definitely bring extra shoes if you can.

Q: What should you wear to an evening horse race?

Night races are fun and magical, and they have a different vibe than daytime events. Evening races typically occur in the spring and summer, though there may be a few fun fall and winter races around the holidays. 

While dressing up is still an option, night races are a bit more casual when it comes to dress code. You still want to dress tastefully, but you can experiment with some more creative outfits. Consider:

  • Fun pattern dresses
  • Tailored pantsuit
  • Semi-dressy jumpsuit

There are still a few no-nos you’ll want to avoid:

  • Jeans
  • T-shirts
  • Sneakers
  • Activewear

Q: Any extra tips when it comes to horse race fashion for men?

Have fun with it. You can be as fancy and formal as you want. Put on that pocket square! Grab a money clip! The details you put into your outfit will be the biggest confidence booster. If it’s a casual day at the races, you’re good to go in just about anything as long as it’s not shorts.

Q: Where can I find the best dresses and suits for horse racing events?

Believe it or not, Amazon has some great choices. You can also do Stitch Fix or Rent the Runway.

If you have a favorite boutique or men’s shop you frequent, they will be another good source. Try on several things, and go with the one that gives you the most confidence and comfort.

For children, I’ve found that Janie & Jack (in stores or online) or Hope & Henry (on Amazon) has some really great finds.

Browse Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

Q: What should you wear to Del Mar horse races?

Del Mar isn’t much different than any other racetrack. Go as extra or as easy as you want. Just be yourself and enjoy yourself!

Browse Our Race Track Fashion Essentials Amazon List

Q: What is the Derby dress code?

There are different dress codes for different areas of the event, but business casual is a safe (and fashionable) choice.

For women, a nice pantsuit or dress is a good option. Dress in layers or lightweight fabrics as it can get warm. If you’re wearing a loud hat, wear a quieter dress. If your hat is simple, include a pop of color or pattern in your outfit.

For men, slacks and a button-down shirt is the minimum, and most men also wear a jacket (unbuttoned). Bowties are a popular choice, as well. Choose something pastel or tropical in color, or go with plaid or stripes.

Q: How do you wear a Derby hat?

How to Wear a Derby Hat

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With a smile, of course!

Above all, make sure the hat is comfortable. It’s best to wear your hair down or pulled back at the neck so the hat sits securely on your head.

The hat should sit above your eyebrows (not on the back of your head). It’s fashionable to wear the hat tilted left or right. If your hat has any trim or fun design element, it should go in the front.

Make sure to fasten the hat to your head. One that secures with a headband is a great choice (and comfortable). Hair clips or bobby pins can also do the trick.

Annnddd They’re Off!

Heading to the race track is one of the most fun things equestrians and non-equestrians can agree on. Dressing the part ensures you’ll feel like you fit in and have a fabulous time from starting bell to the finish line.

Browse Track Essentials on Amazon

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About the author


Though I love all horses, Arabians are my all-time favorite breed! I'm raising an Arabian filly and riding and showing my gelding on the Class A Arabian Circuit. I also enjoy going to horse racing and following the latest industry news.