With the racing season under way and Royal Ascot around the corner, Stephanie Smith has some advice for those who want to get in, and get noticed for all the right reasons.
We live in a world in which the lines between work and play, weekend and weekday, day and night, have blurred and merged. This means we have become used to a smart/casual wardrobe of easy, versatile pieces we can mix and match, dress up and down, taking us pretty much anywhere we need to go.
But not everywhere we want to go. There are still some occasions for which we really do have to dress up to the nines, and Royal Ascot is one, keeping the style bar high, so that decorum and seriously smart dressing still reign within its enclosures.
But even Ascot likes to move with the times and this year it officially welcomes the jumpsuit as an acceptable item of clothing for the Royal Enclosure. This follows the introduction of the trouser suit, back in 1971.
In Yorkshire, although sartorial rules tend not to be quite so stringent, there are a series of Ladies’ Days throughout the season across the county. For these, if you are not styled appropriately and to a fashionably high standard, you won’t get a look-in for the best-dressed competitions that lead up to the grand final in September in Doncaster.
And, of course, many Yorkshire race-goers visit Ascot too, and will now be putting the finishing touches to their finery, in the hope of getting snapped (for all the right reasons) by the society press.
This year’s Royal Ascot takes place from June 20-24. The leading fashion day is Thursday, the day of the Gold Cup which launched the Royal Meeting and became the focal point for flamboyant designer creations and millinery.
Here are a few rules from this year’s Royal Ascot Style Guide, the helpful bible launched each year with an accompanying fashion shoot (this time sponsored by Fenwick and Boss) to inspire and encourage sartorial correctness.
For the (poshest) Royal Enclosure, gentlemen are reminded that it is a requirement to wear either black or grey morning dress which must include: a waistcoat and tie (no cravats); black or grey top hat; black shoes. Children are admitted on Friday and Saturday only. Boys aged 10-17 should either dress in accordance with the gentlemen’s dress code, or may wear a dark-coloured lounge suit with a shirt. Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the formal national dress of their country or service dress. Serving military personnel are welcome to wear service dress or equivalent.
Ladies must wear formal daywear, which means dresses or skirts to just below the knee or longer, with tops with straps on one inch or wider, even if jackets or pashminas are worn over. Trouser suits are welcome as long as they are full length and matching, as are jumpsuits, if full length and with straps of an inch or more wide. Hats must be worn, with a solid base of at least four inches in diameter. All of which means: NO strapless, off shoulder, halter neck or spaghetti straps, no bare midriffs and no fascinators. Girls aged 10-17 should dress in accordance with the ladies’ dress code but may wear a headpiece or fascinator, without size restriction.
Phew. You have been warned. For the Queen Anne and Village Enclosures a hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times, but dress rules are much as above. Men must wear a suit with a shirt and tie.
There is no formal dress code for the Windsor Enclosure except replica sports shirts are not permitted, and fancy dress, novelty and branded/promotional clothing are not allowed on site at all.
In terms of trend for all race meetings, especially Ladies’ Days, bold print and multi-colours will catch the eyes, but choose a simple silhouette and keep make-up and jewellery understated to avoid looking too busy. Stick to a good midi heel, or a kitten heel instead.
Find a fab hat. It’s a great opportunity to get something made especially for you by one of the many milliners in Yorkshire.
Royal Ascot is proud of its reputation as a major fashion event in its own right, established in the days of Beau Brummell, perhaps Britain’s first fashion icon, who at the turn of the 19th century dictated the dress for men in the Royal Enclosure, and whose style is still reflected there today.
The cameras of the world will be fixed on the Thursday event, and Royal Ascot is determined to do British style proud. So no mini skirts, too much decolletage – and definitely no tracksuits.
Royal Ascot takes place from June 20-24. See Ascot.co.uk. Ladies’ Days in Yorkshire 2017: Ripon – June 22; Redcar – June 24; Pontefract – August 9; Beverley – August 16; Catterick – August 18; York – August 24; Thirsk – September 9; Doncaster – September 14; the grand final is at Doncaster on October 28. More info: www.goracing.co.uk