Race day designs
Bright frocks and fabulous hats reign supreme at Steeplechase
A little bit of rain never scares off the crowd at Steeplechase. Instead, it provides an opportunity for attendees to be even more adventurous in their sartorial choices for the day.
While storms from the day before left the grounds at Percy Warner Park slightly saturated, the ladies brought their A-game, showing a range of cheerful yet chic spring dresses. If there were an overall theme seen this year, it would be the bright, modern Technicolor floral patterns that were so popular on the Spring 2013 runway, which were a nice contrast to the generally overcast sky.
Kudos to the many women who tackled the somewhat soggy ground in their strappy, sky-high shoes, although the abundance of adorable rain boots proved a fashionable, yet functional, option as well. Some of our favorite finds for waterproof footwear include the most darling lace-up Coach boots and a truly fantastic pair of hot pink flats accented with gold bows, a smart choice for those who want to brave the mud, sans boots.
And the hats? It seems as though they get bigger and better each and every year. We were amazed by the amount of hats we found that boasted live flowers—a brave choice, considering they would have received a nice watering had the skies ever opened up (fortunately, they didn’t)! One of the most impressive—and daring—of the floral variety was a chapeau fashioned as one giant, robust red rose, which drew smiles from anyone who saw it. Speaking of drawing smiles, who couldn’t appreciate a man who wears a horse hat with confidence? They say that fortune favors the bold.
Another recurring trend in the headwear department was feathers, from simple ones woven among silk flowers to bright peacock feathers that demand attention, perhaps from potential suitors. And, proving that bigger isn’t always necessarily better, many ladies elected to wear diminutive, intricately designed fascinators that are way too fun to only reserve for Steeplechase each year.
Rocking it Gingham Style
While the old hats (so to speak) of the box seats have gotten increasingly casual in their Steeplechase attire, it was the men of the infield who brought their wardrobe game to the races. Men of the Iroquois still work the pastels, so much so it looks like the Iroquois is the new Easter Sunday for men’s fashion; or as one friend in the fashion industry put it, “It’s so nice to see Ralph Lauren in context.” Comfortably bright is the usual dress for the boxes now, with some dressing at each extreme. A close personal friend who shall remain nameless wore (gasp!) jeans and justified the choice with a dress shirt and tie up top. “No one can see below my waist anyway. [pointing] Business up here, party down here.” Or in other words: the mullet of men’s fashion.
For race day wear, there is a fine line between “festive” and “costume.” If your pants fabric looks enough like upholstery that the label could read Maria Von Trapp Playclothes, it might be going a bit far. Many fashion footward ladies wear their boots up the hill and change into sandals once settled. Men, however, should not change into flip-flops in the boxes. If you ever want to know where the line is, ask Jay Joyner. He’s standing on it, but at that highest point before it tips.
At the other end of the sartorial spectrum are the men who class up the boxes in their best seersucker. A man who identified himself only as a Southern writer appeared at our box in a canary yellow linen suit, straw hat, and features which would lend credibility to a Col. Sanders relation, stopping by to offer conversation and a sample of 187-proof peach moonshine from his jug. And while seersucker suits were both fine and dandy in the boxes, Paul Wieck managed to bring something new with his lime green version, accented with pink paisley tie, pink polo socks and pink bucks. This man knows how to dress for the races. (Or, I imagine, Easter Sunday.)
The increasingly casual dress nature of the men in the box seats was starkly contrasted by the increasing formality of the Men of the Infield (calendar coming soon). True, yellow pants and yellow shorts looked like the new popular thing across the field, but as the infield rose from the lower Meadows up to the Top Side, so rose the dress code. I haven’t ever seen a drunken crowd so absolutely well dressed (and as a Southerner, that’s saying something). And they wore it well. Colin Tam hosted a well-dressed and mud-booted bunch in the midfield; Benjamin Struebing dominated his cornhole competition in a full classic seersucker suit, while Tyler Parsels and Brett Redmond took their linen and bow ties to a serious game around a hand-painted Tennessee flag beer pong table.
Oxford cloths and seersucker placed at the races, but the real winner in the fashion game on Saturday was Gingham Style.
—Wilson Hardcastle, Photographs by Michael W. Bunch and Eric England