Hats at the Horse Races

Whether one goes to bet or to just have fun, the one thing that never changes about horse races is the lavish display of hats and fashion.

After several cancelled games at Vancouver’s Hastings Racecourse, due to an unfortunate flu outbreak among the horses, the games are back in gear.

August fifth held the track’s biggest game of the summer, but there are still more to come for this summer and fall.

And although the Kentucky Derby and Del Mar are the most famous of races for both the games and style, the celebration of exuberant fashion still happens here in Vancouver as well.

The idea of showing off one’s style at the track has been around since the early 1900’s; shortly after the Hastings Racecourse opening in 1889.

The Pearley Family at the races 1952.  Photo courtesy of Women's Weekly http://wp.me/p39Uie-7n

The Pearley Family at the races 1952. Photo courtesy of Women’s Weekly http://goo.gl/JV7GU7

The main reason for such a trend was simply for women to show off their wealth and to display their own personal style. At a time where big hats were fading out of fashion, wearing them at the games made it all the more iconic.

Three women headed for the races in 1914.  Photo courtesy of Women's Weekly http://wp.me/p39Uie-7n

Three women headed for the races in 1914. Photo courtesy of Women’s Weekly http://goo.gl/JV7GU7

The early 1900’s marked the beginning of Haute couture, where Vogue Magazine was the first to report this style to the world.

However, over the years, the styles have become brighter and wilder. Women now wear hats adorned with butterflies, feathers or anything else they get their hands on, simply for the fun of it. As contests for the best style at the races take place, women’s hats have become more unique and outrageous.

1999.  An ascot racegoer with her outgoing hat.  Photo courtesy of Women's Weekly

1999. An ascot racegoer with her outgoing hat. Photo courtesy of Women’s Weekly http://goo.gl/JV7GU7

But aside from holding the most unique hat, how does one dress for the horse races?

Danielle Nicole from Fashion Bomb Daily suggests a simple and chic dress so as not to overshadow the hat. She pairs her outfits with colourful or classy heels and sometimes, large sunglasses.

One of Nicole's examples for the horse races.  Photo courtesy of Fashion Bomb Daily http://wp.me/p39Uie-7n

One of Nicole’s examples for the horse races. Photo courtesy of Fashion Bomb Daily http://goo.gl/TpFNbS

Rachael Dickhute, winner for this year’s best style at Del Mar, also gives plenty of good advice for fashion at the horse races.
She says in an article for Follow Horseracing that the best way to go is to keep the outfit simple and to accessorize with the hat.

“Women can make a statement with headwear. Whether it’s a fascinator, acorn hat or wide-brim, floppy hat, this should be the most prominent piece of the ensemble,” she says.

So why is fashion such a big deal for the games?
“It is one of the perfect places to debut spring fashion and be seen,” Dickhute explains. “Women look forward to finally being able to wear color and effortless day dresses, not to mention pairing their outfits with a statement-making hat that also serves as functional!”

The fashion worn at the tracks has changed a lot since the 1900’s, but the idea of showing off one’s hats has remained a tradition. For something that has been around for over a century, it still hasn’t lost its charm. So I suggest getting the biggest and most flamboyant hat you can find, and let the games begin!

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