What Headpiece to Wear with Your Dress at The Races

Woman wearing a blue headpiece to a race

From wide-brimmed hats to fascinators and headbands, there is a plethora of choice when it comes to choosing the perfect headpiece to wear with your dress for the races.

Select a size and style that suits both the occasion and your face shape, trying on as many as possible to get the best idea of what compliments your look.

Wide-brim hats look best in statement colors, whereas a fascinator can match your outfit for a more cohesive overall look.

Always remember to style your hair beneath your chosen hat and double check the back before you leave for your event.

Whether you have already chosen your dress for a horse racing event or you’re simply beginning your search, the headpiece to wear for such an occasion can make or break an outfit.

Go too small and it’s not significant enough, go to large and it’s a little too over-the-top.

Choosing a chic hat or headpiece finishes a formal race day outfit with the perfect added touch of glamour.

Is A Headpiece Always Appropriate for The Races?

Woman wearing a yellow dress and hat to a formal event

It is always appropriate to rock an elegant headpiece or hat to the horse racing to accessorize your outfit.

However, it is not always essential.

Depending on your individual event, check the dress code to see if a hat is part of the attire requirements.

If not, a lady tends not to have many occasions where she can wear a hat to a formal event, so if you can, why not go for it?

What Are Different Types of Headpieces/Headwear?

If you’ve made the decision to accessorize your look with some formal headgear, you’ll need to consider the different types of headpieces available.

You should also think about how they would suit you, your face shape, your chosen outfit and the occasion itself.

There are different levels of formality for every event and when it comes to the horse racing, it’s always better to overdress than underdress.

Full Hat

From small and chic to an ultra-glamorous, wide-brimmed hat, reminiscent of the French Rivera, full hats are an elegant way to accessorize your race day outfit.

Wearing a full hat on a slightly asymmetric tilt is the most flattering way to nail the look.

But, your hair should still be fully styled beneath.

Use extra products to avoid “hat hair”, should you decide to remove the hat halfway through the event.


The fascinator is a popular alternative to a full hat.

Although it has been deemed dated by some, is still an incredibly stylish way to add a touch of color or detail to a formal outfit.

A fascinator is much lighter than a full hat and is worn using either a narrow headband or a sliding comb.

Often easier to wear all day long, the fascinator should be placed on the same side as your parting.

Always remember to check your appearance from the back, once secured.

Top Tip: When applying with a comb, backcomb underneath the hair in the spot you plan to wear your fascinator.

This will ensure there is as much texture as possible for extra security in placement.


When you think of headbands, delete the image of prep-school and pink satin headbands with pigtails.

But, if you don’t want to wear a statement hat or fascinator, this is the perfect headpiece for you.

For a formal day at the races, a chic and elegant headband can be the best solution.

Choose a headband with exquisitely intricate detailing to floral creations with a touch of color.

So, don’t discount this style as it can be as luxurious-looking as any larger hat when chosen well.

Straw Hat

When it comes to straw hats, only a few styles are going to be formal and appropriate enough to take with you to the races.

Think traditional Victorian with floral embellishments and ribbons, rather than a trilby or fedora style of hat.

This is a slightly more casual way to accessorize your race day outfit but can work if chosen stylishly.

How to Coordinate It with Your Dress

Woman wearing a purple dress and matching headpiece for a formal event

Don’t become overwhelmed with the mission of trying to perfectly match your headpiece with your races dress.

Coordinating is often more elegant than a direct match.

So, allow yourself to look at different shades within the same color range.

Or for a statement look, opt for something entirely different.

The perfect coordination between hat and dress comes with balance.

You want your dress and accessories to be in sync with each other, rather than fighting for attention.

So, if your dress is slimline, opt for a wide hat.

However, if your dress is voluminous and A-line, choose a smaller, more discreet headpiece.

If You’ve Already Bought Your Dress

No matter where you’re shopping for your race day headpiece, take your dress or full outfit with you.

The hat store will never mind helping you coordinate colors.

It can even help you to avoid crucial mistakes with misremembering color tones.

If You Haven’t Already Bought Your Dress

If you’ve yet to select your dress but the hat is an essential part of your envisioned look, don’t be afraid to choose the hat first.

This can actually help you be more specific with the dress you’re looking for.

This will also ensure that the hat is the statement piece of your overall race day look.

Which Combinations Work Best?

When it comes to finding the perfect combination of dress and hat or headpiece, the most important thing is to do your research.

Using online platforms such as Pinterest, start to narrow down the types of style combinations that you like.

This way, when you start to shop it feels a little less overwhelming.

In terms of style and color combinations, the world is your oyster.

There are a few style tips to stick to for an elegant look but don’t be afraid to try something different if a hat speaks out to you.

For wide-brim hats, contrasting colors work best.

So, opt for a statement shade in a color that is quite distinct from your dress choice.

Smaller pieces and fascinators can match if you like a more cohesive overall look.

However, remember to always match exactly or find a fairly different shade in your chosen color.

Matches that don’t quite hit the mark can spoil a look.

If you’ve opted for a black dress, they look great with a pop of color.

So, don’t be afraid to go big and choose from lime green or even bright coral or yellow.

Consider Your Hair

When choosing the perfect color combination for your dresses and hats, remember to consider your hair color too.

Redheads suit neutrals and earth tones. like olive greens and soft beige.

Blondes look great in brighter colors; coral and lime and also navy.

Brunettes are complemented by bright but deep and rich jewel tones, like emerald or ruby.

How to Wear the Headpiece

Woman wearing a hat headpiece for a day at the races

Wearing hats or headbands is a personal styling choice and you’ll know how you feel when you start to try them on.

Some styles sweep across the face, whereas some are pinned further back.

Ensure you take the time to work out your own face shape to make sure your accessory complements both your dress and your face.

Angular-shaped faces are complemented by softer hats with feathers or veil details and larger and rounded faces suit asymmetrically styled hats.

Remember that placement is also important.

Where you don’t want your hat sat awkwardly on top of the crown of your head, you equally don’t want it in front of your eyes.

Find the perfect positioning with any tilted part of the hat a thumb-width above your eyebrow.

Remember Your Hair

When you’ve spent weeks or even months selecting the perfect hat or fascinator for your race day outfit, it might be easy to forget the hair that will be sitting beneath your accessory.

However, it’s still important to prepare your hair properly for a hat to ensure you avoid it looking like a last-minute addition to your look.

A thorough blow dry will give you the volume you need at the roots and a soft, curled updo tends to suit almost all headpiece styles.

Remember to use a little extra product, particularly for a fascinator to ensure it stays in place all day long.

Also, remember to take the time to check the back of your hair in the mirror and ensure the look you’ve gone for looks just as good at the back as at the front.

Avoid Sunglasses

Although sometimes it can’t be avoided, sunglasses are best avoided when wearing a statement hat or fascinator.

Too many accessories can kill an outfit.

A feathered headpiece, pairing with curled hair and a face of make-up, sunglasses on top of this look can be one step too far in the style stakes.

Wearing hats or headpieces for a day at the horse racing should be fun and a great way to show off your creative and stylish side.

Don’t get stressed about matching your outfit too much.

Instead, think about how to complement and enhance your overall look.

The most important thing is to take your time making your decision so that you don’t get it wrong.

As soon as you know you’re planning a race day outfit, think hats hats hats and you’ll have plenty of time to choose the perfect accessory.