The Royal Ascot has long been an opportunity for attendees to don their finest attire and impress. While the trends change from year to year, one thing has remained consistent – the rules and traditions of Ascot’s dress code. Hems need to be knee-length or lower, shoulders must be covered, and hats are a necessity, the Ascot dress code is so famous, more people look for what to wear than for bookmaker help for the days races. From the spectacular flapper dresses of the Twenties to the elegant parasols and gowns of the Forties, here’s a look back at the various fashions that have graced Royal Ascot over the past few decades.
The standard was set by Queen Victoria who was so renowned for influencing fashion that when she wore a white wedding dress to marry Prince Albert in 1840, she sparked the tradition that still exists today. But in terms of Ascot fashion, she was the leader of wearing the porter bonnet which was a headpiece that covered the wearer’s face from observers which swiftly caught on. However, it was actually Beau Brummell, a regency dandy and friend of future King George IV, who implemented to first dress code for Ascot. In 1807, he stated that men of elegance were required to wear waisted black coats with white cravats. However, he didn’t provide guidance for the women attending, who were left to their own devices in terms of what to wear.
Following World War One, Ascot became the location for showcasing the trends that had taken hold on both sides of the Atlantic, from shorter hemlines and furs to the cinched waists and A-line skirts of Christian Dior. In fact, Princess Margaret was such a fan of the silhouette that she wore a cream Christian Dior dress to Ascot in 1952.
In the spirit of keeping up with the changing fashions and modern views on how men and women should dress, in the 1970s Royal Ascot made it allowable for women to wear trouser suits. This changed once again in 2017 when women were allowed to wear jumpsuits for the first time. Officials at the event have reportedly stated that a key aspect of the event has always been fashion, so organisers are always looking at adapting the dress codes to reflect the trends and standards.
It wasn’t until 2012 that event organisers actually released guidelines to help attendees wear appropriate attire for the event. The guidelines outlined the dress code regulations for each enclosure so that they could dress accordingly. While the strictest rules are reserved for the Royal Enclosure, each area of the event has its own standard that visitors are expected to adhere to, from waistcoats and top hats for men and knee-length hemlines or lower for women.
There are even strict rules about the base size of headpieces that women are allowed to wear. The ever-evolving nature of fashion trends means that attendees have plenty of opportunity to interpret the dress codes in different ways and racegoers have always found ways of being creative with their Ascot wardrobe.