Royal Ascot is one of the UK's biggest yearly society events. Held during June, the 5 day race meet, features the very best in race horses, the most resplendent of fashion, the most flamboyant hats and the fanciest of foods.
The racecourse was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, who, whilst out riding from Windsor Castle, came across an area of open heathland where she is rumoured to have exclaimed " ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch" and gallop at full stretch they certainly do! The first race meeting was held on the 11th August that year. The first race, "Her Majesty's Plate", worth 100 guineas, was open to horses over the age of six and saw seven horses compete. To mark the celebration of Queen Anne's gift to racing and her founding of the Royal Racecourse today, Royal Ascot is opened with the tradition of the Queen Anne Stakes, a race which is run over the straight mile.
The yearly meeting is attended by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, as well as other members of the Royal family. Each day sees the Royal procession, where members of the Royal family, in horse-drawn landaus, arrive along the track. It is a tradition that dates back as far as 1825. It is no secret that Her Majesty loves horse racing and there have been many occasions where she can be seen cheering on her favourite horses.
Royal Ascot holds 4 enclosures. The Queen Anne Enclosure (the premier of the public enclosures), The Village Enclosure and the Windsor Enclosure are all open to the public. The Royal Enclosure is not open to the public and access to this most coveted enclosure remains by invitation only.
Ladies day, is probably the most popular of all the day, taking place on the third day of the meeting (Thursday), it holds The Gold Cup Race, Royal Ascot's oldest and most prestigious race.
Dress Code & Hat Etiquette
Within both the Queen Anne and Village enclosures both ladies and gentlemen must be suitably attired and whilst not following the strict dress code of the Royal Enclosure, men must wear a suit and tie and the ladies, dresses and a hat.
The Windsor Enclosure, however is the most relaxed of all the enclosures. With no dress code to follow, it is where the most vibrant, exciting and rowdiest fun can be had.
With headwear being mandatory in every enclosure at Ascot ,except the Windsor Enclosure, choosing a hat that will fit the desired outfit along with the official dress code is important. Within the Windsor Enclosure ladies are encouraged to wear a hat, headpiece or a fascinator and to be honest Ascot is such a grand event that is known as much for the hats that are worn by the ladies as much as the racing that takes place and the horses that run.
The Royal Enclosure Ladies Style Guide
Formal daywear is a requirement in the Royal Enclosure.
Dresses and skirts should be of modest length defined as falling just above the knee or longer.
Dresses and tops should have straps of one inch or greater. Strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck and spaghetti straps are not permitted. Sheer straps and sleeves are also not permitted.
Jackets and pashminas may be worn. Tops and dresses underneath should still comply with the Royal Enclosure Dress Code. Midriffs must be covered.
Trouser suits are welcome. These should be of matching material & colour and of full-length to the ankle.
Jumpsuits are welcome. As with dresses these should be of modest length, falling just below the knee or longer.
Hats should be worn at all times; however, a headpiece which has a solid base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat. Fascinators are not permitted.
The Royal Enclosure Style Guide for men
As with the ladies, gentlemen are expected to dress in formal attire when attending Ascot's Royal Enclosure. This is inclusive of a black or grey top hat and morning suit which is either black, grey or navy blue. The attire must include a waistcoat & tie, along with black shoes & socks. Novelty waistcoats or ties are not permitted, however, discreet patterns, including patterns of a patriotic nature, such as a national flag, are acceptable. All and any customisation of top hats is not permitted, this includes coloured ribbons or bands. Cravats and bow ties are also not permitted.
During the day a gentleman may remove his top hat within a restaurant, a Private Box, a private club or a facility’s terrace, balcony or garden. Hats may also be removed within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Gardens.
The Empty Seats of 2020
Whilst sadly 2020 has not seen Ascot in all its glory, it saw thousands of racegoers stay at home rather than trackside. They celebrated the day by getting dressed, contributing £5 to the #styledwiththanks campaign and partying at home. Social media was flooded with photos of the dressed up fans looking fabulous and prizes were awarded for the most Elegant, Most Uplifting and Most Original.
The campaign raised thousands of pounds in support of four frontline charities; The National Emergency Trust Relief Fund, NHS Charities Together, The Care Workers Charity & the Berkshire Community Foundation Coronavirus Fund.
An incredible £400,000 was raised with £166,000 coming from the #styledwiththanks campaign and a whopping £24,000 was raised by the millinery and fashion world in partnership with the British Hat Guild with an online auction of rainbow-themed hats. This was boosted to £30,000 when Champion Jockey Frankie Dettori signed and donated his commemorative "70th Royal Win" saddlecloth to the auction.
With a motto of "Like nowhere else" what other event could be described as a true British Institution? For us there isn't one, just Royal Ascot! One thing is for sure, Ascot always brings out the most beautiful, most outrageous, most spectacular of hat designs for the whole world to marvel at.