But No Fascinators Allowed in the Royal Enclosure
Have you heard? Tomorrow marks the 2013 opening of Royal Ascot. With Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, now safely ensconced at home making final royal baby preparations and resting up for the mayhem that will surround the arrival of her new prince(ss), our neighbors across the pond will turn their eyes to another sport this week: competitive dressing for high stakes horse racing.
Recently kMg spotted this on her husband’s hotel website while he was travelling on business in London.
At first, we thought it was tongue-in-cheek, but after a bit of research, we discovered that this global social event comes with all sorts of traditions and rules. Like any other sport that we have encountered, the more you observe the more you learn. Let’s start with a primer then have a bit of fun.
What is Royal Ascot?
Considered by many the pinnacle of Britain’s summer social season, Royal Ascot lasts for five days beginning tomorrow. The Ascot Racecourse, located about 50 miles west of the heart of London and about 7 miles southwest of Windsor Castle, hosts Royal Ascot Week. Each day begins with a Royal Procession
when the Queen arrives in a horse-drawn carriage and ends with the traditional Singing Around the Bandstand. With all the pageantry and people-watching, the horses compete with the spectacular social and fashion scene. Though there is royal excitement everyday, the pinnacle of the week comes on Thursday, aka “Ladies Day”, when the fashion contest reaches its climax.
To attend, you must have tickets, which are the hardest to come by for Ladies Day. Like the British class system, attendees are relegated to one of 4 locations at Ascot:
- Heath Enclosure – the inside of the track. At the lowest ticket price, this is no doubt the rowdiest section in Ascot.
- Silver Ring – provides a good view of the Royal Procession and is a more informal location that makes a great spot for families with children in tow.
- Grandstand – with better views of the Royal Procession and races, you dress for success in these seats where fascinators are permitted.
- Royal Enclosure – not surprisingly, unless you have serious connections or loads of $$, you won’t be invited into the ultimate Royal Ascot destination.
More on the Dress Code
If you are schlepping in the cheap seats, i.e. the Heath Enclosure or Silver Ring, Royal Ascot prescribes the following attire:
Although no formal dress code applies in the Heath Enclosure or Silver Ring, racegoers are encouraged to wear smart clothes.
Please note that fancy dress, novelty, and branded or promotional clothing is not allowed, and bare chests are not permitted at any time.
Smart Clothes do not include blue jeans or trainers (a/k/a sneakers).
If you stepped up for a ticket to the Grandstand where prices range from $97 on Tuesday to more than $117 on Saturday, you also need to step up your wardrobe and follow these rules:
Grandstand Admission racegoers have the choice to follow the dress code for the Grandstand or that of the Royal Enclosure.
Ladies within the main Grandstand are encouraged to dress in a manner as befits a formal occasion.
Ladies are kindly asked to take particular note of the following:
- A hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times.
- Strapless or sheer strap dresses and tops are not permitted.
- Trousers must be full length and worn with a top that adheres to the guidelines above (i.e. strapless or sheer strap tops are not permitted).
- Jackets and pashminas may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Grandstand Admission dress code.
- Midriffs must be covered.
- Shorts are not permitted.
Gentlemen are required to wear a suit with a shirt and tie.
If you have the $$ or connections and have somehow made it into the Royal Enclosure, then you will gladly follow these rules, which go beyond the opening graphic.
Ladies are kindly reminded that formal daywear is a requirement in the Royal Enclosure, defined as follows:
- 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.
- Jackets and pashminas may be worn, but the dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Royal Enclosure dress code.
- Trouser suits are welcome. They should be full length and of matching material and colour.
- Hats should be worn; a headpiece which has a base of 4 inches (10 cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat.
Ladies are kindly asked to note the following:
- Strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck and spaghetti straps are not permitted.
- Midriffs must be covered.
- Fascinators are no longer permitted; neither are headpieces which do not have a base covering a sufficient area of the head (4 inches / 10cm).
Gentlemen are kindly reminded that it is a requirement to wear black or grey morning dress, which must include
- A waistcoat and tie (no cravats)
- A black or grey top hat
- A gentleman may remove his hat within a restaurant, a private box, a private club or that facility’s terrace, balcony or garden. Hats may also be removed within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Garden. The customisation of top hats (with, for example, coloured ribbons or bands) is not permitted in the Royal Enclosure.
- Black shoes
Obviously the Queen does not enjoy seeing skin.
A Little Royal Ascot Fun
I have been wondering about the difference between a hat and a fascinator, especially in light of the fascinator ban in the Royal Enclosure. Definitions differ. One site suggests that a hat provides full head covering for fashion and protection while a fascinator will only serve as decoration. Another site suggests that a hat must have a brim. With Royal Ascot’s allowance of a headpiece with a 4″ base, they are permitting what has come to be called a hatinator as popularized by Kate.
I am curious. Who enforces this strict dress code? Do Fashion Police stand outside the entrance to the Royal Enclosure? Will they be carrying 4″ tape measures? This inquiring American mind wants to know.
Take a look at these headwear fashions from Royal Ascots recently past. Can you tell which ones would be banned in 2013 from the Royal Enclosure? Which ones wouldn’t you be caught dead in?
Like the Kentucky Derby, Royal Ascot is about fashion and racing but at a more sophisticated level. Ever since I picked Secretariat to win the first leg of the Triple Crown in 1972, attending the Kentucky Derby has been on my Bucket List. Now I think that I have to add a visit to Royal Ascot, but only if I can figure out how to get into the Royal Enclosure and wear this
Philip Treacy orchid confection.
p.s. Speaking of the royal baby-to-be, don’t forget to enter our Royal Baby Pool. Pick the date and time of delivery and the right gender, and you could win a fabulous Lilly Pulitzer Murfette scarf from the Pink Palm. The Pool closes on June 30, so enter today.