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Style Guide: How to Dress for Royal Ascot & Race Day Events
Few sporting venues can boast the rich history and heritage of the Ascot race course. Royal Ascot has been a highlight of the British social calendar for over 300 years; synonymous with sartorial elegance, Royal Ascot has long been seen as a spectacle of fashion with the Gold Cup day taking centre stage in the style stakes. Across the five day event, an estimated 300,000 race-goers will be in attendance, spending an estimated £24m on fashion and related beauty treatments – with many often preparing their Royal Ascot outfits and headpieces months in advance!
For centuries, dressing up has been at the heart of the Royal Ascot experience and it provides a timeline of the biggest historical fashion trends. The Victorian era saw the popularity of full skirts with angular hips and puffed sleeves to create more dramatic silhouettes with large hats full of feathers and adornments. The 1920’s saw hemlines getting shorter and hats getting smaller to form the now iconic flapper girl style, reflecting the younger generation’s rebellion against tradition post WW1, with outfits often finished with pearl necklaces and fur stoles. The 1950’s brought Christian Dior’s New Look to the forefront of fashion and at Royal Ascot this was no different, with both Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret wearing designs with nipped in waists and full skirts. The fashion at Royal Ascot during the 1980’s was an explosion of bright colours with statement hats, pointed heels and sharp, angular dresses; it was all about the 80’s power dressing. Today sees the fashion at Royal Ascot taking a simpler direction, with clean-cut feminine tailoring and dresses made famous by Kate Middleton the style of choice, although a lot of attention is instead placed on statement hats and headpieces to make a dramatic impact.
Although they have adapted and evolved over time to keep up with the changes in fashion, Royal Ascot’s strict dress codes have helped to create a sense of occasion around the event and it is now a major fashion event in its’ own right. There are several different enclosures within Royal Ascot and depending on which area you are in determines how strict the dress code will be:
The Royal Enclosure is often seen as the historical heart of Royal Ascot and the most prestigious area full of exclusive bars and restaurants that is strictly membership by invitation only. As the most prestigious area, a strict formal day-wear dress code is enforced – with men expected to wear black or grey morning dress, waistcoats and top hats. Ladies have to ensure any skirts or dresses are a modest length at just above the knee or longer, and strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck and spaghetti strap tops/dresses are strictly forbidden – even if you are wearing a jacket to cover up. Trouser suits are allowed as long as trousers are full length and the suit pieces match; a hat must also be worn at all times in the Royal Enclosure – no fascinators are allowed.
The Grandstand is the most popular area at Royal Ascot with access to numerous bars and restaurants as well as the parade rings. Although formal day-wear is still a requirement in the Grandstand area, it is not as strict as the Royal Enclosure – think summer wedding guest. Men can simply wear a regular suit with a shirt and tie, Ladies have no restrictions on dress/ skirt length as long as it is still suitable for a formal occasion, although strapless or sheer strapped dresses/tops are still not permitted. Full length trousers can be worn without a matching suit jacket, but any top will still need to meet the guidelines and can’t show the midriff. Ladies can also wear a fascinator instead of hat, but they will still have to be worn at all times.
The Silver Ring is the most vibrant enclosure and provides the greatest crowd experience, allowing you to get up close and personal with all the racing action. The Silver Ring also provides tantalising artisan food stalls, Champagne and Pimm's bars, you can even bring your own picnic to enjoy on the lawns and listen to some live entertainment. In the Silver Ring there are no formal dress codes, but it is an opportunity to get dressed up, have some fun and make the most of the Royal Ascot experience.
The Ted Baker Laavia dress is beautifully alluring; the above the knee skirt length paired with fluted bracelet sleeves and finished with a top layer of scalloped edge lace makes it a sophisticated choice that is in keeping with Ascot’s dress codes. The intricate detailing is all in the dress, so keep accessories classic and simple; try the Ted Baker Neevo patent court shoes and the Day Birger Ladies Day leather clutch bag for a chic, contemporary finish.
At Country Attire, we never pass up the opportunity to get dressed up so we couldn't resist creating a style guide for outfits to wear to Royal Ascot. If you have a similar race day event coming up and you are in need of a suitable outfit, here are three of our favourite outfit choices that will be perfect for any race day, including The Grandstand and Silver Ring enclosures at Ascot; we have everything you need bar the hats and fascinators, so don’t forget your headwear for that true racing day style.
You’d feel right at home at Ascot in this Gant jersey pique dress, with an understated yet classic design it creates a flattering fit and exudes sophistication. This versatile piece can be dressed up or down to suit your tastes, but we would pair it with these matching Elia B patent court shoes with an on-trend pointed toe as well as with gold accessories to add a touch of sparkle and glamour, such as the Hoss Intropia sequin clutch bag and the Day Birger trinket necklace.
However if you prefer trousers over dresses, The Grandstand and Silver Ring enclosures provide an excellent opportunity to experiment with the latest feminine and stylish tailoring pieces, making it easier than ever before to wear to the races. The Ted Baker Ebent suit trousers have a tapered leg fit and a subtle sheen for a formal style that will be perfect for Ascot and other race day events. There’s no need for a matching suit jacket apart from in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, so we suggest matching the trousers with a formal top, such as the Ted Baker Wolbrr pleated cascading floral top for a mix of vivid prints and delicate pleat detailing for an elegant finish. Style the outfit with some killer black heels, such as the Ted Baker Annabila broach trim court shoes.