What to wear – Royal Ascot

With a week to go until Royal Ascot gets underway, I thought I’d take a closer look at the dress codes for Royal Ascot. Many of my followers on Instagram are attending and have been planning their outfits well in advance, but there are still a few last-minute ladies looking for outfits this week! Hat hire is a great option if you’ve left it too late to get a bespoke hat made or if you want a quality hat at a lower cost that you’re only going to wear once. Many of the milliners in my hat directory have hat hire options, or you could consult your nearest hat shop – the advantage of these is that you have the pick of hats from lots of great milliners all in one place. In London, X Terrace/The Old Brompton Gallery have a Royal Ascot/Summer wedding pop up shop. The Cotswold Hat Club is a new hat hire company with some pieces from top milliners, including Emily London, Sarah Cant, Bundle Maclaren and Martha Lynn Millinery. They also offer a membership for unlimited hat hire for 12 months for a one-off fee, which is a great idea for summer-season social butterflies.

Ascot has actually relaxed its style rules in recent years to include trouser suits and jumpsuits within the royal enclosure. They are aware that fashion evolves and are keen to embrace current trends. But there are still strict rules in terms of straps on dresses and substantial headpieces. Some people may not like such rules, but I’m happy for them to stay as long as possible. It’s entirely possible to find a fun and stylish outfit within these rules so there’s no need to resort to night club apparel! Dress and tradition are part of the fun of Royal Ascot. And as I say with any event – dressing appropriately is a sign of respect to your host and in this case the history and tradition that make Royal Ascot so special. Formal daywear is not something that is regularly worn by most people these days, so I think this is why some people sometimes find it hard to know what to wear – dressing up doesn’t mean wearing a party dress – the outfit should be appropriate for daylight hours not cocktail hour.

On consulting the Royal Ascot website, you will see the dress codes that should be followed for each enclosure. The strictest dress code is for the Royal Enclosure, which is relaxed a little for the other enclosures; e.g. strappy dresses and fascinators (if you must) are permitted elsewhere.

Royal Enclosure

The dress code for the Royal Enclosure is basically “formal daywear”, which is defined as:

  • Skirt/dress to be knee-length or longer.
  • Straps on dresses should be at least 1 inch.
  • Trouser suits are allowed, but they should be of matching colour and material.
  • Jumpsuits are allowed. They should be full-length to the ankle, with sleeves matching the regulations for dresses.
  • Hats should be worn. Head pieces are acceptable as long as the base is 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.

What NOT to wear:

  • Dresses of the strapless, spaghetti strap, halter-neck, or off-the-shoulder variety (including bardot style dresses).
  • Fascinators.

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For the royal enclosure I would recommend tailored long sleeve dresses or skirt/jacket ensembles. For a really stylish elegant look, I prefer matchy-matchy ensembles, so stick to two colours. Black and white is such a classy colour combination for Royal Ascot. I think it’s good to get the balance right with the black/white ratio and patterns/details so that you come across more My Fair Lady rather than Cruella de Vil! I love this ivory wide brimmed hat with black sequin lace by Nerida Fraiman – a real statement number. Ascot is a great place to wear wide brimmed hats – the sort of hat you can’t wear seated unless you want everyone behind you to hate you! This hat is definitely one for wafting around the royal enclosure in style. I’ve matched it with a white cotton weave jacket with lace trim and asymmetric hem by Roland Mouret, and matching pencil skirt. Clutch by Aspinal of London, classic black suede courts from Boden and black/gold floral studs from Accessorize. A really chic, timeless and sophisticated look.

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All white is another classic choice and a great summery look for Royal Ascot. It’s not a colour that you can wear at weddings without raising eyebrows! So Ascot is the perfect time to work those pristine stylish whites. Just be sure to protect your personal space at the Pimms bar – one drink spillage and it’s ruined. This beautiful lace dress is by Claire Mischevani. I’ve matched it with a rose & net sideswipe hat from Juliette Botterill, nude accessories from L.K. Bennett and pearl drop earrings by A. B. Davis. A perfect royal enclosure outfit fit for a Duchess.

Queen Anne Enclosure

  • Not as formal as the Royal Enclosure, but a hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times.
  • Strapless or sheer strap dresses and tops are not permitted.
  • Trouser suits and jumpsuits must be full-length and worn with a top that adheres to the guidelines above.
  • Midriffs must be covered.
  • Shorts are not permitted.

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Another colour that’s a bit taboo to wear at weddings is red, so Royal Ascot is a great opportunity to go for bright colours and stand out from the crowd. This stunning silk rose headpiece by Rachel Trevor Morgan is a great match for the red/black floral dress from Hobbs, accessorized with clutch from Hobbs, courts from L.K. Bennett and stud earrings from Anne Sisteron.

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If you’re more of a floaty-flirty lady when it comes to dresses, something like this summery green frock from Keepsake the Label would be ideal – sharpened up with my favourite emerald green volute headpiece by Camilla Rose Millinery. This summer frock could be worn at many other summer soirees too – evening as well as day time (bag: Zara; heels: Gianvito Rossi; earrings: Monet Jewellery).

Village Enclosure

  • Less formal than the Queen Anne Enclosure, but a hat, headpiece or fascinator should still be worn at all times.
  • Strapless or sheer strap dresses and tops are not permitted.
  • Trouser suits and jumpsuits must be full-length and worn with a top that adheres to the guidelines above.
  • Midriffs must be covered.
  • Shorts are not permitted.

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I love summery boater-style hats – they will give your outfit the formal edge required but aren’t as dressy as the more flamboyant statement hats, so are perfect for the outdoor setting of the Village enclosure. This one is the Amherst straw boater with hand sculpted ice blue Lady Amherst feather by Louise Georgette Millinery. As the Village Enclosure is a largely outdoor area, a wedge shoe or block heel is advisable over a spiky stiletto. These sandals are by Oasis and the courts are Rupert Sanderson. Dresses by Goat Fashion and Alice & Olivia and clutch by Emmy London.

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Another great floral frock from Hobbs that’s great for all sorts of summer events, including the races. Pictured here with an elegant shell pink feathered headpiece by Rachel Black Millinery, bag by Zara and Faber Novella block shoes. Headpieces like this are a great choice if you want something discreet and are in a crowded area. Infinitely better than fascinators.

Windsor Enclosure

  • No formal dress code is required but racegoers are encouraged to dress for the occasion, so it is recommended that ladies wear smart attire with a hat or fascinator.
  • Fancy dress, novelty and branded/promotional clothing are not allowed.

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Again, a boater-style hat like this one from Eugenia Kim is an option for this less dressy enclosure. Or you could wear a discreet button headpiece like this one below from Vixen Millinery. Jumpsuit by Whistles, yellow dress by Top Shop; bags by Zara; shoes by Office and Dune.

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For more daily race-ready outfits head over to my Instagram page: @theladysmaid where I’ll be styling more last-minute looks before Royal Ascot next week.

 

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