If you are attending the 2024 or 2025 Belmont Stakes, it is likely that by now you know you won’t be at Belmont Park, the traditional home of the “Test of the Champion.” That storied track will be undergoing renovations which will put it out of commission for more than a year. Instead, the third leg of the Triple Crown will be hosted, for the first time, by the gorgeous and historic Saratoga Race Course.

Does this affect your packing plans? What should one bring to wear to a day at the races at “the Spa?” If you consider placing bets on horse racing, read on to get some tips regarding what to wear to the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga!

Weather Considerations

Although Saratoga Springs is in the northern part of a northern state, the summers can get very warm. The average daily maximum temperature over the past few decades for the month of June hovers around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that you should reconsider long sleeves, and also plan for sun and heat protection.

Rain is also not uncommon in Saratoga Springs at this time of year, with precipitation levels of more than .01 inches occurring on an average of 12.4 days out of each June. Keep in mind that many horse facilities ban or restrict use of umbrellas, as they can easily blow away and spook horses. An emergency stash of ponchos might be a safer and more convenient choice.

Dress Code

However, function should not be the only consideration when packing for a trip to Saratoga Race Course! Saratoga is the oldest organized Thoroughbred race track in the United States, having been in operation since 1863.

The annual summer meet at Saratoga is considered America’s equivalent of Royal Ascot- it is as much about the people attending the races as it is about the horses running in them. People attend the races with the goal of being seen, and their fashion choices are designed to reflect that.

Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course are in similar locations, but the cultural airs surrounding each location are fairly distinct. Although the Belmont Stakes Festival is not officially part of the Saratoga meet, the location is bound to inspire feelings of gentility, nostalgia, and high society regardless, even though Belmont Park itself is typically more of an “Everyman” track.

While patrons should dress comfortably, they might also want to invest in stylish new outfits; there are also portions of the track that have a strict dress code, such as the box seats.

Saratoga Fashion: Then and Now

Ladies who attended the races at Saratoga in the 1860s likely wore a fitted bodice with sleeves, many of which were set below the shoulder. The dresses had high necklines and a wide skirt, often broadened and supported by hoops.

This was all worn over a corset and drawers. Petticoats were also often on display, dropping below the skirt and featuring colors or ruffles. The outfit was usually topped by a bonnet, which tied under the chin, or a brimmed hat, which did not. Hairstyles- composed of real hair or of wigs- became increasingly complicated as time went on, with arrangements or curls and braids growing higher and higher in stature. Parasols were common sights as well, to keep the Sun from damaging a fair lady’s face.

Gentlemen of the time often wore loose-fitting jackets with wide pants. Coats and jackets could be as long as thigh-length, and trousers were supported by suspenders. Top hats were initially popular, but as the decade carried on, the rounded bowler or “Derby” hat came into fashion. Men kept their hair at or above the ear and neatly combed; they also wore a variety of styles of facial hair, such as mutton chops or handlebar mustaches.

Nowadays, the fashion selections on display at the track are as varied as the spectators themselves. Those racing fans who are only interested in the events in the infield or the betting window will likely be in typically summer casual clothes- shorts, jeans, sneakers, T-shirts, and baseball caps. In those cases, the main functions of the clothing are comfort and protection from the sun, and little is policed as long as public decency laws are followed.

However, as mentioned previously, there are certain sections of the track that have a stricter dress code, and that is where modern high fashion trends can be observed. The box seats require gentlemen to wear suits or sport jackets, but not ties (though they are permitted if desired). Ladies, on the other hand, have a few more options. They may wear dresses, blouses and skirts, or formal pantsuits. No one may wear jeans, shorts, rompers, tank tops, or clothes that might be classified as “abbreviated wear” (defined by the track as “clothing that is too short or revealing”).