In the four years that HerKentucky has been exploring the lives, traditions, and stories of Kentucky women, there's one question that we get asked more than any other. It pops up, time and again, in y'all's tweets, Facebook posts, and search engine queries:
What should I wear to Keeneland?
The answer I always give is, "Well, that depends on where you're sitting."
All seats in Lexington's storied Keeneland Race Course are not created equal. Basically, the closer to the ground (and the horses themselves) you are, the more casually you should dress.
If you're going to stay near the Paddock --General Admission, Grandstand, or Equestrian Room-- there's no need to dress up very much. Guys often opt for khakis and polo shirts, and women can wear slacks. You're actually dressing for a horse race in these sections. These are the areas nearest the track itself, and people are truly there to watch (and bet on) the horses. With that said, don't be surprised to see a lot of dresses and sport coats in the lower-levels. In recent years, a culture of dressy tailgating (think Steeplechase) has popped up among college students and twenty-somethings, and the second floor (General Admission) Sports Bar often resembles a campus bar or fraternity semi-formal. While the dress code says "casual", there's plenty of Vineyard Vines ties and Lilly Pulitzer to be seen.
If you'll be dining in the upper-level, enclosed dining rooms-- The Lexington, Kentucky, or Phoenix Rooms-- then expect to dress for a business event. The Lexington and Kentucky rooms -- dining rooms often reserved for business and social gatherings-- have a "business formal" dress code; these areas require men to don a coat and tie, and skirts/dresses/dressy slacks for ladies. The Phoenix Room-- another reserved dining room-- is "business casual", requiring collared shirts and slacks for men and dresses/pantsuits for ladies.
The members-only Clubhouse similarly requires coat and tie for men and dressy pants/skirts for ladies. I find that a skirt suit or a dress paired with a pretty cardigan or wrap is always appropriate for the upper levels. In general, if you'd wear it to church or a business meeting, you're golden.
Of course, some days at the track are a little more dressy than others. Weekends are generally for more high profile races, and Opening Day tends to bring out dressier clothing.
With the forecast in Lexington calling for rainy days and temperatures in the 50s, I'd suggest some traditional autumn layers with a feminine twist. So bundle up, look nice, and have a great time at the track!