The pinnacle of the British social calendar, Royal Ascot has been bringing together the best of style, sport and entertainment, since Queen Anne decided that Ascot Heath would be the most wonderful venue for Racing Horses back in 1711. In her words the Heath (called East Cote at the time), "Looked ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch."
Jump forward 300 years and now over 300,000 people attend Royal Ascot each year making it Europe's best attended race meeting. The best horses from around the world are drawn by races for every age group and over every distance from 5 furlongs to nearly three miles.
A fabulously British cocktail of high fashion, spectacular racing and glorious surrounds; situated next to the wooded countryside of Windsor Great Park, Ascot Racecourse provides the ultimate stage for the races.
Royal Ascot as it is known today only really began when the Gold Cup was introduced in 1807. The Gold Cup remains the feature race of the third day (the Thursday) of Royal Ascot Races and is the day also know as "Ladies Day". Thursday and Saturday are the busiest days at Royal Ascot, and early booking advised, but the Style Guide / Rules apply to all days of Royal Ascot Races.
Dressing accordingly is an essential part of Royal Ascot Races. Whether you're enjoying the day from the Royal Enclosure or Grandstand (renamed for 2016 as the Queen Anne Enclosure), there's a different dress code for both ladies and gentleman, to maintain high standards and tradition at the Berkshire racecourse.
As a milliner, and running the Hat Hire service in Ascot, I'm constantly met by nervous customers terrified of breaking all the rules! The main one being the confusion between what is a hat, and what is an acceptable headpiece? Or worse than that, people thinking the 4" rule applies to hat brims, or heights! It doesn't, it's simply the minimum size of a cocktail hat, pillbox, or any other headpiece. And if you check your ruler, or tape measure you will find 4" is actually still really small. So, as long as it's a headpiece that sit's over the crown of your head, then 4" is absolutely fine, will get you through the door, and will look chic, smart and sophisticated.
The current guides are below for you, but Ascot Racecourse are essentially just asking you to dress respectfully for a formal event, and not a night out in Soho. Most of the style code is common sense for the type of occasion, but there are a few things that might surprise you (i.e Bardot styles dresses, popular and chic we know at the moment, but not for Royal Ascot), so do take a read through all the rules to be sure.
The Royal Enclosure
Ladies are kindly reminded that formal day-wear is required in the Royal Enclosure. Ladies may wear a formal dress or skirt and top. Dresses and skirts should be of modest length, defined as falling just above the knee or longer, and the straps on tops should be at least an inch wide (2.5cm).
Jackets and pashminas may be worn but tops underneath must still comply with the Royal Enclosure dress code. Trouser suits are welcome but should be full length, of matching colour and material.
Hats or headpieces with a head base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter, should be worn at all times.
Fascinators (creations on bases smaller than 4") are no longer permitted in the Royal Enclosure.
Halter Neck Dress, and Bardot Style necklines are not permitted in the Royal Enclosure.
Gentleman are required to wear either black or grey morning dress, including waistcoat and tie with top hat and black shoes. A waistcoat and tie must be worn. Cravats are no longer accepted in the Royal Enclosure.
The Queen Anne Enclosure
Ladies in the Grandstand are encouraged to dress as for a formal occasion. A hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times. Jackets and pashminas may be worn but tops underneath must comply with the dress code. Strapless or sheer strap dresses are not permitted. Gentleman are required to wear a suit with a shirt and tie.
Every year Royal Ascot Racecourse issue a new style guide for the Royal Ascot Races, What to Wear in all the Enclosures. This guide is for Men and Women and can be read on the Ascot website, is issued with Tickets, and also through a Video they make every year. Above is the 2022 Style Guide Video.
A few outfit ideas for Royal Ascot
Below are just a few examples of outfits for Royal Ascot that comply with all the rules. For more ideas on styles and colour combos you should read the Outfit Ideas for Royal Ascot Post. Where there are LOT's more ideas for you.
This post includes affiliate links - suggestions of items I've hunted out on the Internet for you. If you see anything you like, click the links and decide to buy the suggestion, then the retailer will give me a little commission (maybe even enough to buy a latte) to thank me.
I love the mixing hues of one colour, for a day at the races.
The pastels trend is going nowhere fast, but going all pastels is something most of us haven't attempted since we were 10 years old. Pastels work brilliant paired with their deeper counterparts. The outfits below brings in mixed hues of one colour. Choose your favourite colour - be it Green, Blue, Yellow, Purple, Orange, Pink... and select different shades for a winning Royal Ascot Ladies Day outfit. Adding contrast to your outfit not only gives it depth, but also means you don't have to spend months finding the hat that's an absolute perfect colour match to your dress.