Organisers for this year’s event have released their updated dress code for 2013 — and it’s stricter than ever.
So what should one wear to avoid committing a dreaded fashion faux pas? And where can you find the perfect hat, shoes, morning suit and dress in London for the occasion? Our concierges have been advising ladies and gentlemen on these matters for years, so keep reading for their advice…
Guidelines for ladies
• No fascinators in the Royal Enclosure
Controversially, the ban on fascinators in the Royal Enclosure has remained firmly in place this year. Despite being a favourite with Kate Middleton and the younger women who attend society events, the fascinators are still on the fashion ‘no’ list.
We do like seeing ladies step out in hats, as it’s so rare these days.
Whether you’re in the Royal Enclosure or the Grandstand Enclosure, a hat or headpiece should be worn at all times. While there are no rules on what constitutes good taste in the hat department, you may wish to avoid some of these hat disasters.
You may wear a fascinator outside the Royal Enclosure if you must, but they will probably be frowned upon.
• Dress straps
To avoid having women overexpose themselves, the rules stipulate that dresses must have two straps. And they go even further: each strap must be at least one inch thick. This applies even if you’ve got a shawl or jacket thrown over your top (although how they will know you’re flouting their rules under your jacket is not quite clear).
• Dress and skirt length
They emphasise the need for modesty in this department, and hemlines must fall just above the knee at the very least. Thankfully midi dresses are very popular right now, so you should be able to find a style that’s both fashion-forward (so it won’t make you feel frumpy) and appropriate for the occasion.
• Alternatives to dresses and skirts
If you’re not a fan of wearing a skirt or dress, they do welcome trouser suits. But keep things elegant with matching tops and bottoms. A white or tan linen suit can look very elegant in the summer.
We probably don’t need to tell you this, but shorts, fancy dress and midriff-bearing tops are not allowed anywhere at Ascot.
Guidelines for gentlemen
Within the Royal Enclosure, all gentlemen must wear the traditional morning suit, which has to include:
• a waistcoat and tie
• a black or grey top hat
If you’re not sure how to pull off a top hat, Moss Bros (who dress countless gentlemen for Ascot) has this advice:
“Don’t wear it at a jaunty angle. Resist the temptation to rest it on your ears.”
You must wear black shoes but no cravats at all. You should note that there are certain situations where it is OK to remove the top hat, such as your own private box or in the restaurant, but make sure you check first before taking it off or you may find yourself surrounded by Ascot’s fashion police who will be milling around on the day.
The rules outside the Royal Enclosure are more relaxed: men are simply advised to wear a suit with a tie and shirt (white is probably a good choice).
What to make of the rules
The dress code may seem harsh, but it’s the elegance and aspirational style that makes Ascot such a great British institution. We are all dressing more and more casually these days and comfort tends to trump glamour.
Ascot is one of the few occasions where it is entirely appropriate to dress up and cover up. Fashion blogger Simon Glazin agrees, and welcomes the stricter rules.
Still confused? The organisers have kindly released a video to help us get to grips with the rules and make sure there are no misunderstandings and blushes on the day…
What to buy and where to shop
For hats, Philip Treacy is one of the most famous milliners in the country and is known for his avant-garde creations while milliner Stephen Jones has been supported by Ascot themselves.
If you’re picking a designer, Alexander McQueen and Temperley are failsafe choices for women.
For a custom made morning suit investment piece, try Neal & Palmer in the Piccadilly Arcade (between Piccadilly Circus and Green Park tubes). If you’d rather hire something just for the day, Oliver Brown (found on Sloan Street in Chelsea) should be able to help.
If you don’t know where to start or what suits you, perhaps it’s best to put yourself in the hands of a seasoned personal shopper. Selfridges on Oxford Street has an excellent personal shopping service. Why not take advantage of our special shopping package while you’re staying with us?
What are you planning to wear to Royal Ascot this year? Why not let us know by leaving a comment below, or share your photos with us on Twitter and Facebook?