Monday, July 25, 2011

A History of Race-Day Fashion

There are so many elements involved in an enjoyable horse race, from the venue, to the odds, to the horse racing tips, to the prestige. One thing, however, that is associated with all the most prestigious races around the world, is extraordinary fashion. Race-day fashion has evolved to the point where it acts as a kind of sub-plot to the race itself, with events like ‘Fashion on the Field’ creating even more exciting come race day. The tradition of dressing up and donning fancy head-ware has a long tradition, and we’re going to explore the history of this tradition in this article.

Dressing Up…

The origins of horse racing stretch all the way back to the 1500s when British Aristocracy developed the tradition as a social occasion and opportunity to mingle in high society. As such, racing events all had an incredibly strict dress code, so as to maintain the royal tone of the events. At many races throughout history members not only of the aristocracy but of the British Royal Family itself would make appearances at races, and thus a high expectation of elegance was placed on all guests. This didn’t take long to take hold in countries such as Australia and America, and while dress-codes may have relaxed somewhat, there is still a strong expectation that people dress up to attend major races.

Those Extravagant Hats…

Doubtless the one fashion item most people associate with horse racing more than any other is the extravagant hat often spotted on lady attendees. The hats seem to get more elaborate each year, and major races across the world are opportunities for women to showcase new trends and for designers to provide many a willing clotheshorse with their latest designs.

Modern Racing Fashion Culture

These days, the tradition of fashion almost attracts more media attention than the horses themselves, and race organizers have capitalized on people’s interest in the fashion side of things by incorporating fashion shows and events into the race. At the Melbourne Cup, Myer hosts ‘Fashion on the Field’, in which women can enter and be judged on their ensembles. There are cash prizes to be won and first place is much coveted and speculated upon each year. Celebrities have embraced the fashion mania surrounding horse racing and these days races are seen as an opportunity for designers and milliners to showcase their latest projects in the media through models and actresses at the races.

There’s no denying, fashion is an intrinsic part of racing culture and looks set to remain as such for the foreseeable future. So next time you’re on your way to a horse race, it’s not just your racing tips you need to get in order before you leave home---it’s your fancy threads, because even if you don’t pick a winner, you don’t want to look like anything less than one!

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