How to Dress for Royal Ascot

author avatar by 9 years ago

The Royal Ascot is famous for many reasons, particularly and most interestingly, for the fashions. One of the most outrageously stylish events of the year… the Royal Ascot introduces the latest, and often the most outlandish fashions of all.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” William Shakespeare

One assumes that if he or she has attended a formal event, then they may have just as well attended them all. However, this is decisively not true, particularly when the case in point is the Royal Ascot… the number-one gambling fashion event of the year! Here, we are most certainly speaking about what is expected, and it is essential that one understands the subtleties. The differences are decidedly clear. So, let us commence to differentiate between the outfits. If the disparity is no clearer than the difference between a soft 17 and hard 17, fear not. While the Royal Ascot dress code requires some deciphering, we have painstakingly broken it down below.

Not the Typical Gambling Affair

The Royal Enclosure is not your typical gambling affair. The area in which the Queen and the Royal Family members attend requires the highest level of security and, need we say it… a much more luxurious dress code… the quintessence of royalty!

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This being said… the greatest concern for the event is not whether or not one’s badge will have the right security credentials. The quandary is whether the badge will match the outfit of the day. Fashion and style must not be taken lightly, particularly in the Royal Enclosure. Furthermore, the sanctity of the Royal Ascot dress code must never be violated!

Ladies – Hats at all times!

royal-ascot-hatLadies are most kindly reminded that daytime formal wear is a requirement in the Royal Enclosure. These rules are defined as follows:

Dresses and skirts should be modest in length, falling just above the knee or longer. Furthermore, all dresses and tops should have straps of one inch or greater. Jackets and pashminas may be worn; however, both the dresses and tops underneath should comply with the aforementioned dress code. Trouser suits are accepted wear, but they should be full length and of matching material and colour.

Possibly the strictest rule and the biggest part of fashion most anticipated are in regards to headwear. Hats should be worn at all times. A headpiece that has a base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat. We highly recommend this Time article highlighting the most bizarre hats at last year’s Royal Ascot Races.

Gentlemen- Regiment and Circumstance


The gentlemen’s dress code is more rigid, calling for grey, blue or grey morning dress. One must not overlook:

  • The compulsory waistcoat and tie (certainly no cravats)
  • A stately black or grey top hat
  • Formal black shoes

It should be noted that while the gentleman may remove his hat while in the private box, a restaurant, a private club, or while in the facility’s terrace, garden, or balcony. He may also remove it while ensconced in an external enclosed seating area inside the Royal Garden. In addition, please take note that customizing any of top hats in a less than traditional way ((i.e. no ribbons or bands) will simply not be allowed in the Royal Enclosure!

Young Women and Men

Young women, men, and adolescents (between the ages of 10 and 17) should also dress for the formality required by the occasion. Smart summer dresses and colourful hats, headpieces and fascinators, are indeed most welcome!

Moreover, young boys may wear their most striking dark lounge suits, of course with shirt and tie. Otherwise, boys should dress in accordance with the gentlemen’s dress code, although boys are not required to wear top hats.

Much Ado about Everything

Please take heed… If one thinks that the lower society seating selections might include a more relaxed dress code, please think again. Just last year, Kristina Rihanoff, one of the Strictly Come Dancing dancers, was removed, rather embarrassingly, from the races because her outfit did not conform to the prescribed dress code. Might we add that the jacket of a most resourceful security guard quickly shielded the exposed skin? Ms. Rihanoff was abruptly escorted away from the tracks. However, she was permitted to exchange the outfit for something much more modest and then reenter. Sadly, the scene could have been avoided had she only obeyed the dress code!

Rules for the Grandstand

The code for Grandstand Admission tends to be more relaxed. Here, race-goers have the choice to follow the dress code for the Grandstand or that of the Royal Enclosure. The Grandstand attire is described as follows:

Ladies are encouraged to dress in a manner befitting a formal occasion while in the main Grandstand Enclosure, with the exception of shorts…. a definite no-no.

Gentlemen are required to wear the traditional suit, dress shirt, and tie.

Teenaged boys, 13 to 17, are encouraged to wear a jacket, shirt, and tie, or a suit. While teenaged girls between the same ages ought to dress as befitting a formal occasion.

Younger boys, 12 and under, do not have to wear a suit, jacket, or tie. However, they should dress in a dapper way, suitable for such an event!

“To breed a winner, let alone at Royal Ascot, is unbelievable. I’ve got four children and they all love the mother. We pat it most days and she’s a lovely mare.” Michael Owen

The Silver Ring and Heath Enclosure – Relaxing the Rules

While there is no gender breakdown, the code committee found it worth mentioning, “Bare chests are not permitted at any time.” (One can only assume that they mean for both ladies and gentlemen!) Furthermore, novelty, promotional, and branded clothing is not permitted within the area of the racecourse. Although no formal dress code applies in the Silver Ring Enclosure and Heath Enclosure, those in attendance are encouraged to wear stylish and demure attire.

Our hope is that this article has helped expunge any questions concerning Royal Ascot attire. If not, please follow this link and let us know what you think!