The Cheltenham Festival is the ultimate jump racing date on the calendar and the most thrilling event imaginable. Even if you don’t know very much about horses, it is impossible not to be caught up in the atmosphere and excitement of this iconic sporting fixture known to many as simply, “The Festival”.
The Cheltenham Festival runs for four days in the middle of March, starting on a Tuesday and finishing on Friday of the same week with the highlight for many of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the feature race, on the last day. The festival is an opportunity to see some of the finest jump horses in the world and it has the most incredible buzz and atmosphere with fantastic hospitality on offer. It is hugely well supported by the Irish who flock across the Irish Sea with their horses and supporters; we all know how much the Irish enjoy a good craic and if the Festival coincides with St. Patrick’s Day then that just adds to the mix.
What to Wear for Cheltenham
The Festival is run on a rural racecourse in March so whilst it is a world-class event, you will be standing essentially in an English field in early spring so you will need to be prepared for everything the elements can throw at you. So how can you be stylish as well as warm and comfortable? Read on as our handy guide will inform you on just what to wear for Cheltenham.
Cheltenham Style for Men
The most iconic and appropriate look for Cheltenham is tweed which is just as well as tweed is warm and waterproof and you are likely to need it. Comfortable and breathable, tweed, as a fabric, has no equal and was designed for long days out in the British countryside in all weathers so is the perfect choice for Cheltenham.
A tweed suit or plain trousers with a tweed jacket or coat and waistcoat will not only look the part but be warm and practical as well. A suit or certainly jacket and tie will be required for the enclosure and some of the restaurants and hospitality areas. Brown brogues fit the bill well and a hat or flat cap completes the outfit so you will look the part but be essentially warmly and practically dressed for whatever the weather throws at you.
How to Dress to Impress for the Ladies
There is no doubt that Cheltenham attracts the crème de la crème of the smart country set so fashion may be more of a priority for some than practicality. However, Cheltenham is about having fun and being frozen to death is not enjoyable, but it is possible to combine stylish design with comfort.
Happily, for the ladies, tweed has long since lost its rather old-fashioned and frumpy cachet and it is possible to find some fabulous jackets in really striking colours, in a style and design that is right on trend and will really cut a dash. Team a tweed blazer with a polo neck (for warmth) which you can dress up if you wish with a statement silk or vibrant wool Panama or a faux fur wrap. For extra warmth, a gilet is always an option and this can look smart inside in the bar where it may be hot enough to require shedding some layers. A long skirt with full-length boots will keep you warm and cosy all day or a shorter skirt length with some brightly coloured tights, can really add a splash of colour.
Good footwear is essential as you will be standing for most of the time on grass and two-thirds of the car parks are also grass so high heels are not really an option. There are some lovely country boots available, choose one with a low squarer heel which will remain comfortable all day without any compromise on fashion.
A hat is essential and no outfit is complete without one as the fashion pundits will tell you although Cheltenham does not insist one as part of any dress code. So choose from either a tweed flat cap if you are opting for a jaunty, boyish look or a stylish country hat perhaps in a fedora style, worn at a rakish angle and with an added feather for decoration. This is great for keeping the rain off without necessarily having to resort to an umbrella although it would be wise to take one, colour co-ordinated of course.
A roomy but stylish handbag will complete the look, with plenty of space for racecards and betting slips and a slim fitting pair of dark leather gloves, very warm and practical without spoiling the outfit.
Cheltenham is essentially jump racing in a field but it isn’t the local point to point. With royalty in attendance plus usually some other famous names, the challenge is combining fashion with practicality, particularly bearing in mind the time of year. With a little planning, it is quite possible to do this, thanks to traditional and iconic tweed which combines colour, style and look with good old-fashioned comfort.