Getting Ready for Royal Ascot – The Dress Code
It is that time of the year again as Britain gets ready for Royal Ascot, one of the premier horseracing events in the whole world. In the 300-plus years of its existence Royal Ascot has gone from being a grand racecourse to a national institution. The best racehorses in the world go against each other in the presence of Britain’s who’s who, including the Royal family, making it one of the most happening events in the British social calendar. With over 600,000 racegoers in attendance, it is the fashion hotspot during the racing season there.
It was Queen Anne who saw the potential for a racecourse back in 1711 – and therefore fashion has always been a big part of Royal Ascot, with a specific dress code in place to ensure nothing mars the look and appeal that the Royal Ascot has. The dress code has been in place right from the beginning, changing every now and then to incorporate a latest fashion trend or drop an existing one. This year’s dress code has seen a major change being incorporated, with the jumpsuit being added to the dress code for women.
The Importance of the Dress Code at Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot is a showcase event that is covered by media from across the world. The dress code becomes very important because it helps showcase the traditional dresses and culture of Britain. The presence of the members of the Royal family, especially the Queen herself, makes this a very special event and attendees are therefore required to wear dresses as per the guideline as a mark of respect to the institution and to Britain.
The dress code at the Royal Ascot is determined by the organisers and announced after approval by the Board. The organisers contact people from the fashion industry to determine latest trends and approve new fashion garments if required, like the inclusion of the jumpsuit for this year. The major factor behind the dress code is the area of Royal Ascot it is applicable to:
- Royal Enclosure
- Queen Anne Enclosure
- Village Enclosure
- Windsor Enclosure
The dress code is, in fact, not unique only to Royal Ascot: there is a dress code in place throughout the year, and there are separate dress codes for both the Flat Season and the Jump Season. The dress code varies across the different enclosures:
- King Edward VII Enclosure
- Winning Post Enclosure
- Queen Anne Enclosure
- Fine Dining Areas
- Private Areas
Royal Ascot is very closely associated with the fashion industry, even otherwise. Collaboration with 8 of the top milliners in the UK has resulted in a highly exclusive 8-piece collection titled The Royal Ascot Millinery Collective. This exclusive collection features the work of some of the leading milliners in the world, including Jess Collett and Lisa Tan. The best in fashion come to see the best in the business of horseracing, including the best horses and jockeys.
What about placing a bet?
Integral to horse racing is winning money and while at Ascot there are a number of places where you can place a bet.
For the novice the easiest thing to do is use the various Totepool kiosks dotted throughout the course. For a more authentic experience making your way to the betting ring in front of the Grandstand is a must, however be careful, as it gets very busy before the race.
If you don’t want to ruin your look on the day by carrying around big wads of cash (from your winnings of course!) you can do it all from your phone with a large number of websites happy to offer you odds on all of the races.
A key thing for the novice gambler from an etiquette perspective it’s considered bad form to ask people how much they have won or lost, instead just celebrate or commiserate as appropriate.
The Dress Code at the Royal Ascot’s Royal Enclosure
There is a stringent dress code at the Royal Ascot for anyone attending the races. The disclaimer at the bottom of the Royal Ascot website says it all – there is no entry for anyone in fancy dress or even replica sports shirts. Beyond that disclaimer lies a lot of detailing into what you can wear and what to avoid. The dress code varies across different sections of Royal Ascot.
The general dress code for men at the Royal Ascot includes the following:
- A waistcoat with a matching tie.
- A black or grey top hat.
- Black shoes.
Men have the liberty of removing their top hat when they are in a private box, in a restaurant, a private club or on the balcony, terrace or garden of the club. Another area where a hat can be removed is enclosed external seating inside the premises of the Royal Enclosure Garden. No customization of top hats is allowed inside the Royal Enclosure.
The dress code for women inside the Royal Enclosure is elaborate and gives them a variety of options. They include:
- Dresses and skirts as long as they are of modest length, which means they need to fall just above the knee or a wee bit longer.
- Dresses and tops with straps of at least one-inch width.
- Jackets and pashminas are allowed as long as the dresses and tops beneath them are in compliance with the dress code of the Royal Enclosure.
- Trouser suits are permitted as a ladies’ dress option as long as they are full-length and matching in terms of both colour and material.
- Jumpsuits are permitted this year as long as they are ankle-length. The other rules that apply to dresses apply to the jumpsuit as well. This is a big change and after a very long time, given that the last major change to be incorporated into the dress code was in 1971 when the trouser suit was permitted as a dress option for women.
- Ladies must wear hats; an acceptable alternative is a headpiece with a base having a 4-inch diameter.
- Headpieces without the solid base of 4-inch diameter are not allowed.
- Ladies are not allowed to wear fascinators.
- Dresses that are strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck or come with spaghetti straps are not permitted inside the Royal Enclosure.
- Ladies must ensure that their dresses cover the midriff completely.
Children are allowed into the Royal Enclosure only on Friday and Saturday. The dress code for children in the Royal Enclosure is as follows:
- Girls in the age group of 10 to 17 years must dress in compliance with the dress code for Ladies. The only difference is the permission to wear a headpiece or fascinator instead of a hat.
- Boys in the age group of 10 to 17 years can wear a dress in compliance with the dress code for Gentlemen; an available alternative is a dark-coloured lounge suit with a shirt.
Overseas visitors at the Royal Ascot can wear their formal National Dress or Service Dress. Serving members of the military are required to wear their Service Dress.
The Dress Code at the Queen Anne Enclosure and Village Enclosure
There is a specific dress code in place for viewers in the Queen Anne Enclosure and also the Village Enclosure. The dress code expects ladies to wear any outfit that they would normally wear for a formal occasion. Ladies and gentlemen in this enclosure are free to follow the guidelines for dressing laid down for the Royal Enclosure as well. There are a few stipulations to be followed, however:
- Ladies must wear a hat, a headpiece or a fascinator at all times.
- Ladies are not allowed to wear strapless dresses; dresses that are off-the-shoulder and also sheer strap dresses or tops.
- Trouser suits must be full length and match in terms of colour and material.
- Only full-length jumpsuits are allowed. They have to be worn with a matching top that complies with the dress code laid down.
- Ladies must ensure that their midriffs are covered.
- Ladies are not permitted to wear shorts.
The dress code for gentlemen in the Queen Anne Enclosure and Village Enclosure is not as elaborate as the ladies’. Men in these 2 enclosures are required to wear a matching suit with a shirt and a tie. For children, the dress code is quite specific:
- Girls up to the age of 17 years must be formally dressed. They could wear smart summer dresses along with a hat, headpiece or fascinator. However the headwear item is not mandatory.
- For boys between 13 and 16 years of age the dress code in the Queen Anne Enclosure and Village Enclosure is simple: a suit or jacket with a matching shirt and tie. For boys aged 12 and below the requirement is to wear a smart dress; however a jacket or tie is not compulsory.
Dress Code at the Windsor Enclosure
The dress code at the Windsor Enclosure is not as rigid as the Royal Enclosure, or even the Queen Anne and Village enclosures for that matter. There is no formal dress code at this enclosure, actually. The basic requirement is to wear clothes that are smart and look good. There are a couple of don’ts, however:
- Fancy dress clothing is not permitted in the Windsor Enclosure.
- Replica sports shirts are not permitted in this enclosure.