Style Stakes: Get ready for race day

by Nicole Smallwood,

First Published: 13 May, 2024

Whether it’s Royal Ascot, Henley Regatta or your best friend’s wedding, take inspiration
for the summer season from Fashion Director Nicole

Meet Nicole

Nicole Smallwood is Fashion Director at Country & Town House Magazine, she’s also a freelance fashion stylist, art director and brand consultant.

Q&A with Nicole

Nicole, what was your inspiration for this shoot?

‘At the beginning, I wanted to create Fairfax & Favor’s own style guide, so it’s loosely based around Ascot and the rules for getting into the enclosures.’

In these outfits, there’s a range of fabrics and textures...

‘Yes, you wouldn’t necessarily think about sequins for race days, but the sequin dress from Emilia Wickstead is very wearable (see look 5). I love playing with textures, so I like the sequins with the boucle of this great Fairfax & Favor Esme jacket. And when the sun shines, sequins look amazing.’

Tips if a dress code is required?

‘Looks four and five were planned with the Royal Enclosure in mind. Ladies must wear a jacket or pashmina, as well as a hat, headpiece or hatinator with a minimum base diameter of 10cm – which look four definitely is!’

Do you have a favourite look from the shoot?

‘Looks four, five or six, but I think look four is my favourite!’

What’s a good approach when shopping event wear?

‘We’re shopping less for trends and more for premium purchases that we’ll have for longer. You can also rent outfits or buy second hand, and you can reinvent any of these looks and make them your own with accessories.’

For events, which bag would you suggest?

‘Who doesn’t love a crossbody bag?! The Finsbury is gorgeous and I like that the chain strap can be taken off. As ladies, we always go for safe black, but this Stone shade is light for summer with a great tassel (see look 7). This will look lovely in warmer weather. It’s also perfect for travel.’

What tips do you have for planning looks?

‘Brits can be quite safe but it’s good to express yourself. The footwear you wear, the clothes you choose, they’re all part of you. Whether it’s the races, a friend’s garden party or the polo, get ready and have fun.’

Best approach if you’re new to wearing hats?

‘Try a lot on! Go somewhere like Awon Golding or Lock & Co. The hat in look two is an Awon hat, I love her colour, shape and traditional style and the net has stars on it! She’s a genius, as is Victoria Grant (look 4). Also, Emily London (look 6) has done a range with Karen Millen.’

What’s your advice for getting ready for a special event?

‘Dress to your figure shape and don’t be a slave to fashion. As you get to know your figure, you’ll find the confidence to try new things on and appreciate if they don’t work.’

With the rural vogue scene, which are the occasions to dress up for?

‘Ascot, Henley and Wimbledon. For some events, it depends whether you can get a ticket. At the races, I think you see that different age groups will be in different areas. And for the Royal Box, you have to be invited. So younger people will probably be in The Village, but there is always something for everyone!’


Nicole takes us through her styling for race days, from Cheltenham to Ascot, on our SS24 campaign shoot.

1. Chic from head to toe

Nicole Smallwood: ‘This look has quite a Cheltenham vibe; a jumpsuit, chic tailored jacket with quilted velvet York heels. The headband is a great hat alternative.’

2. Go back to black

NS: ‘This simple and striking monochromatic look pairs the Finsbury clutch with Sorrento wedge and a race-day ready hat.’

3. Be confident with colour

NS: ‘The Sorrento wedge and Finsbury clutch add to this dress and chic Esme jacket. For men wearing a suit, these pine green Chelsea boots accentuate the jacket and add character.’

4. Perfect pairings

NS: ‘This is such an elegant look! The hat is see-through so it doesn’t detract from the rest of the outfit. The Newbury heel is a matching tan suede, so the Mini Belmont bag doesn’t feel out on a limb.’

5. It’s time to shine

NS: ‘This sequin dress (from Emilia Wickstead) looks lovely with the navy Esme boucle jacket. It’s a demure shape and it allows the Loxley bag to sing.’

6. Blazer trail

NS: ‘A tulle skirt could be a real Sarah Jessica Parker moment! It looks great with the Beatrice blazer. The Langham clutch or Mini Belmont bag would also work well. The hat and Newbury heels finish the look!’

7. Think pink

NS: ‘I’ve worn pink to the races before and I based this look on how it made me feel! This dress style is great for summer ccasions. And the Finsbury bag is ideal for events throughout the season.’

Special thanks to the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket for letting us photograph our Spring collections.