Fashion at the Finish Line: Grand National Style

The Grand National, a cornerstone of British horse racing, has been as much about fashion as it has been about the sport since its inception in the early 19th century. Initially, the event was a display of upper-class style, with gentlemen donning their finest morning suits and ladies appearing in elaborate gowns and hats. This period marked the beginning of what would become an enduring relationship between the race and fashion trends.

As the decades progressed, so did the styles witnessed at the Grand National. The 20th century brought significant changes, particularly in women's fashion. Post-World War I, the 1920s saw a shift towards more comfortable and practical attire, reflecting broader social changes and the newfound freedoms of women. The later decades introduced a variety of styles, from the elegant dresses of the 1950s to the more daring and colourful outfits of the 1960s and 1970s, mirroring the evolving fashion trends of each era.

Over the years, the Grand National has showcased a plethora of memorable fashion moments and trends. Some of the most iconic include:

  • 1950s Elegance: This era was characterised by full-skirted dresses and sophisticated hats, often accessorised with gloves and pearls. The fashion was a blend of post-war optimism and the desire to maintain a sense of refinement and class.
  • Swinging 60s Styles: The 1960s brought a radical shift with mini skirts, bold prints, and vibrant colours reflecting the revolutionary spirit of the time. This era marked a significant departure from the conservative styles of previous decades.
  • 70s Glamour and Boldness: In the 1970s, fashion at the Grand National became even more daring. Wide-brimmed hats, flared trousers for men, and experimental prints for women were the order of the day, resonating with the global fashion scene's flamboyant trends.
  • Contemporary Fashion Statements: Recent years have seen a mix of traditional and modern elements. The focus has shifted towards individuality and self-expression, with racegoers blending classic race day attire with contemporary fashion statements.

Each decade's fashion evolution at the Grand National not only reflects the changing times but also serves as a testament to the enduring connection between this iconic event and the world of fashion.

Influence of Celebrity Fashion at the Races

The allure and prestige of the Grand National have long attracted celebrities, whose fashion choices at the event often set trends and capture public imagination. The phenomenon of celebrity influence on Grand National Fashion became particularly prominent in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Celebrities, often photographed and reported on in media, have used this platform to showcase high-fashion pieces, sometimes even overshadowing the races themselves.

The impact of these celebrity appearances is profound. Designers and fashion houses frequently dress these high-profile individuals, knowing that their creations will gain instant visibility and, in many cases, lead to consumer trends. As a result, the Grand National has become not just a sporting event but a fashion showcase, where the latest designs and styles are on full display, setting the tone for the season's trends in wider society.

The Role of Millinery in Race Day Attire

Headwear has always been a cornerstone of race day fashion, especially at the Grand National. The evolution and significance of millinery in Grand National Fashion can be observed in the following trends:

  • The Golden Age of Hats (Late 19th - Early 20th Century): During this period, hats were a symbol of social status and etiquette. Ladies wore elaborate hats adorned with feathers, ribbons, and sometimes even whole stuffed birds, reflecting the extravagance of the era.
  • The Revival of Millinery (21st Century): In recent years, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of hats and fascinators at the Grand National. This revival is partly attributed to public figures and royals who have embraced millinery as a key element of their race day attire. Contemporary millinery ranges from elegant and understated to bold and avant-garde, catering to a wide range of personal styles and preferences.

Millinery at the Grand National is not just about fashion; it's a statement of individuality and creativity. Each year, racegoers and fashion enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the array of headpieces, each telling its own story and adding to the rich tapestry of the event's fashion legacy.

Dress Codes and Etiquette: Understanding the Tradition

The tradition of dress codes and etiquette is deeply ingrained in the history of the Grand National, forming a fundamental part of the event's charm and allure. Adherence to these dress codes is seen as a mark of respect for the event's heritage and a celebration of its prestigious status. For men, the expectation often includes morning suits or smart, tailored attire, while women are typically expected to wear elegant dresses complemented by hats or fascinators.

The significance of these dress codes goes beyond mere appearance; they contribute to the overall ambience and experience of the event. Grand National Fashion is not just about individual style but also about participating in a communal, historical tradition. This respect for dress codes signifies a shared understanding and appreciation of the event's cultural and social importance, underscoring the Grand National's status as much more than just a horse race.

Dress Codes and Etiquette: Understanding the Tradition

Modernising Race Day Fashion: A Contemporary Twist

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to modernise Grand National Fashion, integrating contemporary trends while respecting traditional dress codes. This shift reflects broader changes in fashion and society, with a focus on individual expression and inclusivity. Key aspects of this modernisation include:

  • Incorporation of Contemporary Designs: Designers are increasingly blending traditional elements with modern fashion trends. This fusion results in outfits that respect the event's heritage while showcasing contemporary style, such as tailored jumpsuits for women or colourful blazers for men.
  • Embracing Diverse Styles: There's a growing recognition of diverse fashion choices at the Grand National. This inclusivity allows for a broader range of styles and cultural attire, reflecting the event's evolving audience and the global nature of modern fashion.
  • Focus on Comfort and Practicality: Modern racegoers are increasingly prioritising comfort without compromising on style. This trend is seen in the choice of fabrics, cuts, and designs that allow for greater movement and comfort throughout the day's events.

These changes in Grand National Fashion indicate a shift towards a more inclusive, expressive, and contemporary approach to race day attire, ensuring that the event remains relevant and appealing to a new generation of fashion enthusiasts and racegoers.

The Impact of Social Media on Race Day Trends

Social media has revolutionised the way Grand National Fashion is consumed and shared. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter have become digital runways, where racegoers and fashion enthusiasts alike showcase their outfits. This digital dimension has transformed the Grand National into a global fashion spectacle, allowing styles and trends to be instantly broadcasted and adopted worldwide.

The influence of social media on race day fashion is multifaceted. On one hand, it democratizes fashion, giving everyone a platform to display their style and creativity. On the other hand, it accelerates the spread of trends, with certain looks going viral and setting fashion standards for the event. Influencers and celebrities play a significant role in this dynamic, often dictating trends through their highly followed social media accounts.

Sustainable Fashion Choices at the Grand National

Sustainability in fashion has become a significant concern, and this is reflected in the choices made by attendees of the Grand National. The move towards sustainable Grand National Fashion can be seen through various trends and practices:

  • Eco-Friendly Materials: An increasing number of racegoers are choosing outfits made from sustainable or recycled materials, reflecting a growing environmental consciousness within the fashion community.
  • Vintage and Second-Hand Outfits: There is a rising trend of wearing vintage or second-hand pieces to the races. This not only promotes sustainability but also adds a unique, timeless quality to race day attire.
  • Rental Fashion: Dress and suit rental services have become popular, providing an eco-friendly alternative to buying new outfits. This approach reduces waste and allows racegoers to wear high-end fashion without the environmental impact of production.

These sustainable practices in Grand National Fashion not only make a statement about personal style but also reflect a broader commitment to environmental responsibility. They demonstrate how traditional events like the Grand National can adapt to modern values and concerns, ensuring their relevance and appeal in a changing world.

Sustainable Fashion Choices at the Grand National

Designer Spotlight: Pioneers in Race Day Fashion

The world of Grand National Fashion has been significantly shaped by influential designers who have left their mark on race day attire. These designers have not only set trends but also defined the aesthetic of different eras at the Grand National. Their work often reflects a deep understanding of the event's tradition, blended with contemporary fashion sensibilities. This unique combination results in creations that are both respectful of the race's heritage and reflective of current trends.

These pioneering designers have varied in their approach. Some have focused on elegant, timeless designs that echo the event's long-standing traditions. Others have pushed the boundaries, introducing avant-garde elements to challenge conventional race day attire. Their collective impact has been to keep the Grand National at the forefront of fashion, continually evolving while maintaining its distinct identity.

Accessorising for the Races: A Guide to Elegance

Accessories play a crucial role in completing and enhancing Grand National Fashion. They are not merely additions but integral components that can transform an outfit. Key aspects of accessorising for the Grand National include:

  • Hats and Fascinators: Perhaps the most iconic accessories at the Grand National, hats and fascinators range from understated and elegant to bold and artistic. They are central to race day attire, often becoming the focal point of an outfit.
  • Jewellery: The right jewellery can add a touch of sophistication to race day outfits. Pearls, diamonds, and colourful gemstones are popular choices, worn to complement rather than overpower the overall look.
  • Footwear: Comfortable yet stylish footwear is essential, given the amount of time spent on foot. Heels are common for women, but there is a growing trend towards more practical yet fashionable options like wedges or even elegant flats.
  • Clutch Bags: Small, elegant clutch bags are a practical yet stylish accessory, used to carry essentials without detracting from the outfit's aesthetic.

These accessories are not just about style; they reflect the wearer's personality and creativity, contributing to the diverse tapestry of Grand National Fashion. Each element, carefully chosen, adds to the spectacle and tradition of the event, making it a true celebration of style and elegance.


As we look towards the future, Grand National Fashion is poised to continue its evolution, adapting to new trends and societal changes. The event has always been a fusion of tradition and innovation, and this is unlikely to change. Emerging designers, evolving social norms, and technological advancements are likely to influence race day attire, offering new possibilities and directions for fashion at the Grand National.