How to choose the perfect outfit for a steeplechase, horse show, or polo match

What to wear to the Devon Horse Show in 2016


Spring is in the air which means a whole new season of outdoor parties. And, in Wilmington, Delaware, that equals equestrian events – lots of them! First up is the Winterthur Point-to-Point Steeplechase, quickly followed by the Willowdale Steeplechase just down the road, and of course the Radnor Hunt. The season winds down with the world-famous Devon Horse Show, which I first began attending at age 10 (and is still my personal favorite every year).

Of course, every event requires a spunky new dress (somehow, my husband still does not understand this, even after all of these years!). And, since these events are usually quite crowded, I often go brighter than normal. For example, last year’s line-up included a shift dress covered in pink and lime green daisies, as well as a shocking pink cutwork dress that really drew the eye. But, as I was shopping this year, I was re-inspired by the polo match scene in the classic film Pretty Woman. Polka dots simply never go out of style!

You may be wondering, why choose a dress and not cute pants, shorts or capris? A dress is a necessity because it is often hot, hot, hot. A swingy cotton dress is breezy and will keep you cool and comfortable all day. For me, nothing is worse than constricting pants or even capris on a warm day.

In addition, I always take a cardigan, even if the weatherman predicts 90 degree temps. It’s easy to tie around the neck (keeping hands free) and if the weather suddenly turns cooler (or if you stay until the evening festivities, like at the Devon Horse Show) a cardigan tossed over a sleeveless dress is incredibly practical.

Shoe styles can be tricky. And, over the years, I think that I have tried them all. The ground is often uneven (a barely mown field in the case of a steeplechase or hunt) so no high heels or you are sure to stumble, if not fall. Sandals are out because there is an incredible amount of dust. Pointy toed flats, ballerina flats, or a straw/cork wedges are really the best options. I like a bit of a heel since I am short, so wedges provide me with some height, keep my feet out of the dust, and have a solid base for rough terrain.

When choosing a handbag I made the mistake of bringing a large bag once.  A cute bag (small and easy to carry with a strap) or wristlet should hold your phone, some cash, a key, and a lipstick. Nothing else is needed and — trust me — you will not want to lug around anything else.

Finally, I agonize every year over my hats. Big hats are not simply gorgeous accessories, they provide crucial protection from the sun.  Some gals go over the top with embellishments like flowers and feathers, some choose simple straw chapeaux. I believe that the dress really dictates the hat (although I have friends who shop in reverse and choose an absolutely amazing hat first, then pick a dress). Regardless of which comes first, and whether it is a Derby style hat or a more modest straw one, this is the one item never to forget.

A few of my picks are above. One outfit down… three to go!

Your guide to a life filled with STYLE! Susan Conforte McNeill is a wife, mother, author, entrepreneur, Harper’s BAZAAR Style Ambassador and Cover Girl Ambassador. Susan Said…WHAT?! was named one of the Top 50 Beauty Blogs in the World by in 2015. Susan is also the co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait! Read more about her in Family Circle Magazine.

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