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Fancy Dress at Royal Ascot

Added: 15 Jun 2013

So Ascot is on us once again. We help out a lot of our members round this time, some with ticketing, others with transport and a lot with fashion questions. Obviously, we're happy to help out in each case, but as the majority of questions concern what to wear and what not to wear, we thought we'd help out by considering the question in greater detail.


Like so much else about society events, Royal Ascot is all about insiders and outsiders. There's those going to the races and those not. Those in a box and those not in a box. Owners and non-owners. But the most noticeable divide is those in the Royal Enclosure and those not.

If you're not in the Royal Enclosure then you're not required to dress up, but it can be just as fun to, do read on later where we talk about top hats and so on. But otherwise you're also lucky, you can have a lot more fun with clothes.

If you're a girl, we recommend you get into the spirit and wear a hat or fascinator. In a lot of people's minds this is what Ascot is all about, the papers constantly write about the hats, for example.

If you're a guy, it's going to be a suit but we'd recommend something light and summery; linen if you have it. Something you can feel smart in, but also that you can relax in. However, this is all convention not rules, so you could go in chinos or even jeans if you wanted. But it's not really in the spirit!

Royal Enclosure

If you're in the Royal Enclosure then things are a lot more regimented. But that's part of the fun, isn't it!

Girls, like at school dresses should be below the knees and hats are a must. It's worth noting that the car parks are grass and though much of the enclosure is indoors, a lot is outside on grass too so be judicious in terms of heels. That's about all we can add, girls can wear pretty much anything within reason. If you are more or less conservative then you will be perfect.

Turning to the boys, everyone wears morning coat and trousers, waistcoat and tie plus a top hat, so on the face of it there is little room for manoeuvre. But all is not lost, there are actually quite a few choices left to your discretion.

Top Hat - Grey or black? Grey is, traditionally, the usual attire for a daytime event, black being used more generally for evening wear. But despite the precedent, it's generally the opposite way round when it comes to what looks smart! Black looks better, but it's also more expensive. To buy a new black silk top hat will cost between £200 and £2,000, depending on size (bigger equals more expensive) and quality. We can help here; give CityButler a call. Grey hats are a lot more affordable.

Morning coat and trousers - these are pretty standard. You can hire from Moss Bros, but you'll get something that about 20 wedding ushers have puked on in the last 2 years, and the quality isn't necessarily Saville Row. Better to check out some of the more affordable off-the-peg tailors (e.g. Ede & Ravenscroft) or else you might get something amazing second hand. The secret up our sleeve on this one would probably have to be Old Hat on Fulham High Street (near Putney Bridge). Call us and we can send someone down if you're stuck in the office.

Waistcoat, shirt and tie - ties you know already, we wouldn't advise a Homer Simpson cartoon tie or the likes, but otherwise you'll be fine choosing something. Best avoid footballer knots if you can. On shirts, technically it's jolly smart to wear a detachable collar, a pink shirt or blue with a white collar can look nice (Gordon Gekko meets Prince Charles). If you're going to go down this route Stanley Lee on Fleet Street are reasonably priced on the shirts, whilst New & Lingwood probably do the best deep collar (ask for a "Cameron" collar and get it 1/2 a size bigger than your shirt neck size). Tie pins etc, up to you.

Waistcoat is something you can either be conservative with (double breasted grey wool) or go a bit crazy with it (speak to David Saxby, also on Fulham High Street).

Shoes - presumably they prefer it if you wear Oxford lace ups, but we'd be tempted to wear some comfy black loafers, you'll be on your feet all day anyhow.

We think that pretty much sums it up, take a brolly and enjoy the week!