Royal Ascot - what do you wear to Ascot? Tips for a good day at Ascot
Hats off to Ascot
Tips on what to wear to Royal Ascot
Depending on which part of Ascot you are going to - the Silver Ring, Queen Anne Enclosure or Royal Enclosure, there are dress codes to think about. It's not too complicated but understanding what's what will ensure you have a great day at the races feeling perfectly at ease.
The Silver Ring
The Silver Ring area at Ascot is the largest enclosure and is a little easier on the wallet when it comes to buying a ticket. You can take a picnic into this part, and that includes taking your own alcohol. The rules says it must be the right amount for your own consumption - and the bottles must be unopened. They also want to see a proper amount of food in the picnic box as well. There are tables and chairs on the lawn, but these get snapped up quite early so if you don't want to stand all day, take something to sit on. A blanket is a good idea, or some chairs you can easily carry, and then some folk even take tablecloths, flower arrangements, napkins, matching china and fancy cutlery. You do have to carry these things quite a long way, even if you have a parking spot booked, so make sure you can take everything you need in one trip. Going back and forth to the car isn't really an option. The dress code in the Silver Ring is quite relaxed. That said, almost everyone dresses up to the nines in pretty summer outfits, and the girls usually wear fascinators. Absolutely no fancy dress will be tolerated though, so leave the fairy wings at home!
The Queen Anne Enclosure at Ascot
The Queen Anne Enclosure used to be called the Grandstand area and it has a few more rules about how to dress for Royal Ascot. A hat or fascinator must be worn at all times, and you should dress for a formal occasion. No short skirts, no midriffs on show and strapless frocks are banned. Think posh wedding or up-market garden party. Matching dresses and summer coats, floral patterns, linen skirt suits, tea dresses, fine cardigans matching accessories are the order of the day. Most woman have pretty hats with small feathers, or floral accents. There are a few who wear stunning creations that'll get them photographed, but these are few and far between. It's all about being elegant, well-dressed and feminine. You can wear trousers to Ascot, but they should be full length and preferably part of a suit.
The men have to wear suits, shirts and ties along with proper shoes and smart overcoats. They can add to their look by matching pocket handkerchiefs with their tie, and the odd flower in a lapel can be spotted too.
You can't bring food or drink into the Queen Anne Enclosure at Ascot, but there is a bewildering choice of food and drink to purchase, at just about every price imaginable, from a bag of chips to a 5-course gourmet meal and everything in between. You do pay a premium though, and a traditional jug of Pimms was priced at £30 in 2015. For that reason, the local pubs are heaving with pre-drinkers before the race. And on the train from Waterloo to Ascot, you'll see a lot of people supping a cheeky can of Gin and Tonic or mini-bottles of Champagne, while dressed in their finest attire. There are places to get a tea or coffee inside for those who like to keep a clear head.
The Royal Enclosure
The Royal Enclosure is where it gets serious. Top hats, morning suits and black shoes for the fellas and the ladies need knee-length day dresses, shoulder straps of more than 2.5 cms and a proper hat - no fascinators allowed. But to be honest, most of the people who get tickets to this part of the races know exactly what to wear at events like this. It is by invitation only.
And don't forget .....
Top tips for Ascot include planning for every weather condition known to man. It can be boiling hot, deathly cold, wet or dry and this can all happen in the space of one afternoon so be prepared for everything and it won't spoil your day. The most valuable wardrobe piece is the humble pashmina - you can pop it in your bag if it's not needed, you can wrap up warm in it, put it across your shoulders to stop you burning, drape it on a chair to reserve your spot or sit on it if the seats are all gone. Basically, you should not leave home without one. The other thing to keep handy is an umbrella. If you have one to match your outfit then all the better.
Your shoes need a great deal of contemplation for Ascot. You will be on your feet all day, off and on. Even the walk from the train station up the hill claims its fair share of footwear fatalities. By the time you reach the race-course entrance, you’ll spot many ladies already carrying their shoes in one hand. It doesn't look attractive, and they've probably spent a fortune on the perfect pair of heels for the day, so it’s a waste of money too. Also, if it has been raining a lot in the run up to the day, the grassy areas will have become very, very boggy. Although there are a lot of places where there is concrete, around the track is grass and it quickly turns into a muddy mess, so it might be a good idea to take a pair of pumps you can slip on when needed.
More than anything else, be comfortable. It's a long day from the time you leave home to the time you get back home so make sure you can move well, sit easily and go to the bathroom quickly in your chosen outfit. It's all about the fashion at Royal Ascot, but if you are squeezed into something impractical, you will have a miserable time.