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Del Mar Fashion: Dress For Success

Fashion and horse racing have always gone hand in hand. From the very first days of organized racing meets, people went to the races not only to see the magnificent Thoroughbreds run but also to be seen themselves.

Gentlemen would wear top hats and tails, and later bowler hats; these hats were so ubiquitous at the racetracks in the nineteenth century that in the United States, they came to be called “derby hats.” Ladies would don their flashiest gowns and top their ensembles with brightly colored wide-brimmed hats.

As time progressed, the trends in fashion of course changed, but the custom remained: when you attended the track, particularly as an owner or a person of means, you dressed to impress. It continues even today.

Now, what you wear of course will depend on several factors. More important race days will require fancier dress. Weather, climate, and season will influence your choices. As well, each track has its own unique culture and dress code (official or not).

How can you dress for success at the upcoming Del Mar racing meet in Southern California? First, check out these excellent fashion tips, and then click here to access the Del Mar meet calendar:

Official Dress Code

While the track itself does not have any specific dress requirements for attendance, there are certain areas of the Del Mar Race Track that enact stricter dress codes.

The Del Mar Turf Club, for example, is a restricted luxury area of the track which includes several dress code stipulations. Gentlemen are required to wear either a full suit or a collared shirt with a sports jacket and dress slacks. Women may wear tailored blouses and jackets with slacks, a ladies’ suit, or a daytime-style dress. Flip-flop sandals are not allowed, and children are expected to adhere to the dress code as strictly as adults.

The rest of the racetrack commonly refers to its dress code as “California chic.” The effect this gives is generally in between casual and formal, with special attention to light, airy fabrics that will not cause discomfort in the intense California sun.


Outside of the Turf Club, there aren’t any specific shoe requirements, but patrons should keep in mind that any trip to the track will require a good deal of walking. Stilettos are a bad idea, as are tightly-strapped sandals: rolled ankles and blisters are never fashionable!


There are many options available for those who want to be comfortable at Del Mar and still make a splash!

Those who want to lean into the chill California vibe of the track can adopt a bohemian look. Women may want to wear a flowy maxi dress or skirt with an assortment of vibrant colors and patterns, or loose palazzo pants. Men might opt for linen button-down shirts in lighter colors and khaki pants. Cropped pants are an excellent choice if you are concerned about collecting dirt on the track itself.

Those who wish to be a bit more formal might opt for dresses or suits, but avoid darker clothes or evening formal wear. Light and brightness is the key to Southern California!


The Plaza de Mexico is hosting its annual Opening Day Hats Contest on July 21st!

To garner attention in the contest, two key factors play a part.

First, you will want to ensure that your hat is coordinated with your outfit. Make sure that your color and pattern combinations match, or at the very least do not clash with one another!

Second, and most important, bigger is better! The 2022 grand prize winner, Steffi Poce of Park City, Utah, claimed her title with a hat several feet in diameter! The brim featured a model of the track and, in the center, a smiling jockey hoisting a horse on his back! Additionally, there are specific prizes for Best Racing theme, Best Flowers, Best Fascinator, and Most Glamorous.

Of course, even if you do not wish to take part in a contest, a hat is an essential accessory at the race track, especially in a sunny place where a wide brim is not only attractive but also shades your face. Men and women alike can be seen wearing floppy hats that serve a function and add to the aesthetic.

By Lindsay Griffin. Images courtesy of Jaguar MENA from Flickr.


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