Stray Talking: Racing; what to wear for Ladies Day
STRAY TALKING: And they’re off – the race is on to find Yorkshire’s Best Dressed Lady
Fashion editor, stylist and Harrogate resident Stephanie Taylor shares her insider tips on where to go – and what to wear – in this quintessentially stylish town.
There are nine racecourses in Yorkshire, and Harrogate lies within easy striking distance of several of them, including York, Ripon, Thirsk and Wetherby. Each racecourse stages its own annual Ladies’ Day, highlights of the Yorkshire social calendar, huge fun and, of course, offering irresistible opportunities to meet up and dress up, even if we don’t go so far as to enter one of the Best Dressed Racegoer competitions.
Many Yorkshire racegoers do enter, however, and there are substantial prizes to be had, from mini breaks and spa days to designer boutique vouchers and jewellery. Some fashionistas enter two, three and more of the Yorkshire Ladies’ Days, in a bid to become the Go Racing in Yorkshire Best Dressed Lady Racegoer of the Year. This is when, in October, the nine Ladies’ Day winners from across the county come together at Doncaster for a grand final parade to find the overall winner – there can be only one.
At most racecourses, any lady who wants to take part in a Best Dressed competition simply has to present herself at the designated time (usually announced over loudspeakers) at the parade ring, winners’ enclosure or marquee. Many courses now also have events for gentlemen, for couples, or perhaps one overall event for the day’s Best Dressed Racegoer.
I have had the honour of being a judge at a few Ladies’ Days in recent years, so I know that it can be an office fraught with awkwardness and peril. At one event, I and my fellow judges were each given 10 large cards to hand out to ladies we deemed suitably chic, inviting them to make their way to the parade ring at the allotted time for the final judging. I decided to have a good look around before parting with any of my cards, but it wasn’t long before I had the feeling that I was being watched, and possibly even followed.
I was right. About 25 minutes in, I was approached by not one but two husbands demanding to know why their wives (who were close by, posing sulkily) had not yet been granted a card. They were not joking. Reasoning that it was only a bit of fun, I gave them the cards, but it demonstrates that, for some competitors, Best Dressed Lady contests are a very serious matter indeed.
Anyone attending a Yorkshire Ladies’ Day for the first time may well find themselves astonished at the efforts that some ladies – and, increasingly, gentlemen – have taken in creating their outfits. Many ensembles are elaborate and ultra co-ordinated; some, frankly, scream “trying too hard”.
Ironically, simple elegance often wins the day. What many judges look for is an outfit that says chic and seasonally appropriate, but with an understated wow factor – and that is something that comes from cut, quality and fit, from clothes that work together beautifully and really suit the wearer, accessorised strikingly but thoughtfully, considered yet effortless.
These surely are stylish rules of thumb for all special event dressing. The premium fabric and simple, pared-back lines of this cream linen dress provide the perfect starting point for so many different occasion options. Keep the look tonal and add luxe texture with the cream boucle coat, then introduce accent colour, as vibrant or as soft as you wish, with well-chosen accessories.
The oversized orange jacquard scarf adds easy glamour and it’s practical, too. The peterschun bow hat is racecourse perfect, but could be switched for a fascinator or statement headpiece (Harrogate milliner Jenny Roberts is my titfer tip).
Similarly, these lovely suede slippers are both chic and turf-friendly, and neat enough to slip into your bag if and when you want to swap for heels.
So, don’t miss the opportunity for a Ladies’ Day flutter this summer at one of Yorkshire’s racecourses. The very best of luck to all who enter a Best Dressed contest (but please, try not to accost the judges). Below are the dates for the upcoming season.
YORKSHIRE LADIES’ DAY DATES 2018
Wednesday, June 6 – Wetherby
Thursday, June 21 – Ripon
Saturday, June 23 – Redcar
Wednesday, August 8 – Pontefract
Wednesday, August 15 – Beverley
Friday, August 17 – Catterick
Thursday, August 23 – York
Saturday, September 8 – Thirsk
Thursday, September 13 – Doncaster
Saturday, October 27 – Go Racing in Yorkshire Best Dressed Lady Racegoer Grand Final – Doncaster. (The prize for the overall winner includes a luxury two-night break in a spa suite with treatments at the Best Western Premier Mount Pleasant Hotel, Doncaster, a piece of vintage jewellery with a value of over £2,500 by loveVintagediamonds.com and a £500 voucher for designer boutique Yasmine of Bawtry & Epworth. The winning lady also becomes the face of Go Racing in Yorkshire for 2018. See www.goracing.co.uk.)