David Beckham and Victoria Beckham at the royal wedding 2018
David Beckham and Victoria Beckham have great race wear style. Ian West/Getty Images

Bella Hignett is a British-based personal stylist and shopper who dresses clients for major race day events including the famed Royal Ascot— which is our answer to the Kentucky Derby. So we consulted the fashion pro who shares her top tips for making an elegant style statement at the track this season. "Important race days like the Kentucky Derby should reek of sartorial elegance and my number rule is to dress to impress." Here's how to make it on the best-dressed list at the Kentucky Derby.

Charlotte Hawkins attends Royal Ascot 2023
Neutrals and pastels are a winning race day look with a sculptural hat. Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images

Invest Wisely

"I'm a firm believer that we should wear our clothes again and again so I always tell my clients to bear investment dressing in mind when shopping for a race day look and choose classic pieces they can wear again. Brands I love for race days include Victoria Beckham, Ralph Lauren, Suzannah, Roland Mouret, Beulah and Emilia Wickstead."

Opt for Timeless Elegance

"The dress code for racewear should be timeless, elegant, and classic—beautiful tailoring is key. I advise clients to stick to a tailored dress or skirt suit and to pay attention to the length. Midi-dresses are always sophisticated, as are fashion-forward skirt suits (it's definitely the season of the skirt) and they should fall a few inches below the knee. A fitted top half of a dress is always flattering and accentuates your waistline — a gathered waist can hide a multitude of sins. Capped and puff sleeves are also very elegant and on-trend right now—and are a great option if you don't want to draw attention to the tops of your arms, as they are generally a 3/4 length."

Racegoers at Royal Ascot 2023
Neutral shades, florals, sleeve detailing are always chic. Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images

Neutral Shades are Always Classic

"Neutral shades and pretty pastels are perfect for spring and are a great foundation that can be juxtaposed with more playful maximalist accessories. I love cream, gold, bronze, silver, light blues, peach fuzz, and light khaki—these shades all lend themselves to statement accessories. You can also go all out and rock glittering metallic or sequinned dresses or try a sheer naked dress, which is also a huge trend right now."

Embrace Spring Florals

"The dress code for the 2024 Met Gala is "The Garden of Time" and this is also a perfect dress code for race day as beautiful floral prints are fun, flirty, feminine and always a spring favorite. You will never go wrong in a floral midi or mini dress."

 Lili Reinhart 2021 Met Gala
Lili Reinhart at the 2021 Met Gala. Courtesy of Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Go for Maximalist Accessories

"If your outfit is patterned or floral then it's best to keep jewellery to a minimum, to avoid too much going on. If you go for a more neutral shade you can make a maximalist statement via your accessories— shoes, bags, hat and jewelry. Right now it's all about ring stacking, long gold chain necklaces (layered up), and necklaces adorned with coins, charms, and spiritual motifs. Also on the radar are 70s-style boho jewelry (think long dangling gold feathered earrings), chunky sculptured cuffs and rings, your grandma's broaches and plenty of coquette aesthetic bows. Yes, bows and more bows, on necklaces, in your hair, on your dress. "

Ralph Lauren Fall/Holiday 2024
Ralph Lauren Fall/Holiday 2024. Courtesy of Launchmetrics Spotlight

Sculptured Hats are Back

"Fascinators are always chic, but I'm finding my clients are reverting back to larger sculptural embellished hats, which are super fun and make for a bold statement. Or try a hybrid with the hat-nator. The maximalist approach applies to headwear and I've seen some great sculpted hats adorned with florals, butterflies, and yes more bows. Again remember the rule, the louder the hat, the more minimalist the outfit."


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Shoes and Bags

"Navigating the grass can be tricky when it comes to shoes, so the best bet is chunky lawn-proof block heels or wedges (in classic black or a silver or gold metallic). Or if you are wearing classic black or navy add a pop of color on your shoe a la Victoria Beckham. I do love a classic stiletto heel and court shoes if you can pull it off. Bare tanned legs always look good. As for bags, a clutch always looks so elegant but can be a pain to carry, so add a shoulder strap, which is also a way to make a statement — go for a gold chain or colorful strap. Clare Vivier is a great option here. Remember all you really need is a phone, credit card and lipstick."

Race Day Style Commandments

"I tend to steer my clients away from the trouser suit and jumpsuit as they can look a little on the casual side. Also, pay attention to the fabric, as you don't want to look creased. Linen is a major crinkle culprit. Cloque is a gorgeous fabric that never crumples and viscose is good too. A good trick if you're nervous about creases is to give your outfit a good steam before heading out the door. Midriffs must be covered and dress straps should be at least an inch wide. Strapless and halter-neck are a big no in my book.

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