Henley Regatta is a mainstay of my summer calendar – I’m from Henley and I’ve gone every year since I was in sixth form. Eight years have passed and I’m still yet to miss a single regatta, although I can no longer survive going three days in a row like I could when I was 18. And as you can imagine, I’ve seen a lot, and I mean a lot in my time… and I don’t just mean fashion dramas… but that’s a story for another time.
One thing that hasn’t changed though (and I suspect it never will) is the stress of finding an outfit. And for those who aren’t familiar with Henley Regatta, there are multiple things to consider when picking out what to wear. Luckily for you, I’ve tried almost every kind of outfit combo over the years and now know exactly what works and what I would never wear again.
So, if you’re planning on going this year, then treat this as your fashion bible – it’ll be a lifesaver!
Practical yet chic bags you can wear on the go
Lesson number one: the type of bag you take with you is so important. I can’t stress this enough. I originally fell into the trap of taking a clutch, which was a big mistake. It seems like a good idea as it’s an easy option to carry, but trust me, you’ll want to keep your hands free. Mostly for the number of drinks you will need to carry but also because you’re bound to place your bag down somewhere and forget it. So a clutch = a major no.
You also don’t want something too big so that you can move around comfortably when it starts to get busy in the enclosures (unless you are going for a picnic during the day) and if you take something too small then you run the risk of not fitting everything you need inside – lipstick, cards, perfume, house keys etc. As you can see, the struggle is real.
There’s one style however that I always turn to, and that’s the crossbody bag. It ticks all the boxes and is pretty much the only type of bag that works. Most of the time you’ll be moving from one enclosure to another, so you can simply fling a crossbody bag over you, and while you’re standing around drinking or waiting at the bar (which will be for a while) it’s the most practical option.
I’m loving these crossbody bags on the high street that’ll go with every outfit:
Shoes you’ll be thankful for at the end of the night
I’ve done Henley Regatta in every type of footwear you can think of. Last year I even went in wellies, while some people wore trainers. The weather didn’t stop us, and with the way it’s going at the moment, it might have to be another muddy year.
But if we’re lucky enough to get a sunny week, you’re probably thinking about wearing heels. No. I repeat, this is a bad idea. Take it from someone who couldn’t feel her feet at the end of the day, imagine what they were like by the end of the weekend! There’ll also be times when you will need to stand on the grass as some enclosures tend to be like small gardens. And most importantly, how do you expect to dance into the early hours of the morning if you’re in killer heels?
If your heart is set on wearing them however, then I recommend kitten heels or a type of block heel, like wedges. Sandals are my go-to options usually, but they must be comfortable. Another big no from me are flipflops. With the enclosures placed all along the river, it’s a mighty walk to reach them and there’s nothing more painful than wading through the crowds with a drink in hand while your feet are aching. It’s all fun and games until you have to crawl over bridges (yes, I’ve been there).
Finding a comfy pair of heels or sandals is easier said than done though, and with a lot at stake, you can’t afford to go wrong. So I’ve narrowed down the pairs I swear by next time you’re on the hunt – your feet can thank me later.
The Stewards’ Enclosure dress code
With lots of enclosures putting on entertainment throughout the day, the prestigious Stewards’ Enclosure is for members only who can also take guests. It has a grandstand area to watch the races, bars, and art exhibitions. If you do plan to visit, then your dress or skirt has to be below the knee. You can however also wear jackets and blazers with trousers or suit trousers. Although not a requirement, most women wear hats.
If you’re the guest of a member and going for the first time, or are struggling to find options that meet these rules, look no further as these are a dream come true:
The most stylish dresses:
Chic trouser suits:
The best hats:
What to wear in the Henley party enclosures
Although Henley Regatta (like most other regattas obviously) is a rowing event, younger crowds take the opportunity to treat it like a summer party. And who can blame them when all the enclosures have either live music, DJs, dancers and cool bars?
The hottest ticket? The Mahiki pop-up club, which mostly involves cocktails all day long in the sun and some obligatory dancing. Having visited Mahiki most years, I’ve worn lots of different outfits, some I regret and some I still have in my wardrobe.
So when I say these would be my go-to options this year (weather permitting), you know I really mean it!
The most stylish dresses:
The best jumpsuits and co-ords:
When you’re dancing the night away in a boujee outfit, not having lost your bag, and with your feet still intact, don’t forget it all for next year!