The Cheltenham Festival and the Queens of Country Chic
by CC MASON
The Cheltenham Festival is celebrated as one of the biggest horse racing events in England, brimming with talented jockeys riding stunning stallions and raucous crowds with pints in one hand and betting slips in the other. However, the fashion at Cheltenham is just as important as the racing itself. The extensive enclosed shopping village offers dozens upon dozens of the best and most in demand brands for the tweedy set, who flock there with their winnings in between races to treat themselves to the latest styles. Here’s what you can expect to see from the ultimate style mavens of the Cotswolds- the queens of country chic.
The core of true country chic style is rooted in practicality, with traditional silhouettes often mirroring those you might see during a hack, a hunt, or on the farm. The foundation of nearly every outfit is a pair of knee-high suede boots, most often the Fairfax and Favor ‘Regina’, which are based on the Spanish style riding boots. One does not have to look far to understand the grip these cult classics have, and this is bolstered by the sheer scale of Fairfax & Favor’s stall at the event, which is shoulder to shoulder with eager shoppers at every opportunity. Because these boots are the first piece most pick to build their Cheltenham outfits, the prevailing styles for bottoms are either skinny trousers, skinny jeans, which have just been allowed this year by the festival, much to the chagrin of many traditionalists who think they are too casual, or mini skirts.
Despite the wild outfits that are repeatedly photographed at Cheltenham, mostly due to their ability to grab headlines, the most popular colours, like the silhouettes, are also ones long established in country living – tan, olive green, navy, and black. Long, sharply tailored trench coats, classic tweed blazers, and shawls finished with coordinating furs are commonplace. Modest fascinators, adorned with feathers, and felt fedoras, more often than not by Hicks & Brown, put a literal and metaphorical topper on the looks. This is not to say that the ever-fashionable Cheltenham ladies shy away from colour or print. Much to the contrary, bold printed scarves in pinks, blues, purples, and more, sparkling statement brooches, and a menagerie of suede, leather, and croc handbags decorate the shoulders and necks of attendees.
In the last few years there has been a shift towards a new, more modern take on the fashions, with the rise of brands like Welligogs and Holland Cooper offering more daring looks. Those tweed blazers and long coats are now offered in modern pinks, striking teals, and dashing velvets, and the trench coats in bright plaids and bold houndstooths. One may be inclined to think that these two eras of Cheltenham would create a culture clash, a war between the classic tweed and the new school way of being, but what they’ve done instead is uplift each other. Both styles have transcended generations, with the newer and the more mature festival goers trading style tips and looks faster than the bookies taking bets at their windows.
The Cheltenham Festival, at it’s core, is a gathering of people who admire the immense skills of the horses and their riders, and long for the idyllic Cotswolds life. It’s a place for celebrities, royalty, and everyday people to come together to celebrate the undeniable Britishness of the sport and the tweed in equal measure.