Royal Ascot is one of the world’s finest sporting events, so I was thrilled to cover it for FAJO.
The event has a steep history, spanning back to the 1700s when Queen Anne came upon an area near Windsor Castle that looked like an ideal spot for horses to gallop at full stretch, and held the first ever race on Aug.11, 1711. The first four-day event then took place in 1768, followed by a permanent building in 1793 to hold over 1,500 people. In 1807, the Gold Cup was introduced (known as the Ladies’ Day on the third day of the races today).
Around the same time, the traditional Royal Enclosure dress code emerged: men had to wear waisted black coats and women — hats. The layout of the Ascot is segmented into sections around the racecourse, in addition to the Royal Enclosure, there is also the Grandstand Admission and Silver Ring (picnic area). The Parade Ring is where leading jockeys are presented to the crowd, and winners are rewarded throughout the day.
Coming into the Ascot Racecourse from London, I attended the fifth day of horse races. Upon arrival, I checked out the facilities and eventually settled down in the Silver Ring, where each guest was able to bring in a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne, along with a substantial picnic, to start the festivities. At 2 p.m. was The Royal Procession, where I caught the first glimpse of Her Majesty The Queen and members of the Royal Family, who entered the racecourse and proceeded up the straight mile in horse-drawn landaus, waving at the crowds from the Golden Gates, past the Silver Ring, Grandstand and Royal Enclosure, into the Parade Ring. The first race began at 2:30 p.m., with attendees eagerly awaiting the results of their first big (or small) bid. Bidding on races is a big part of the Royal Ascot and a fun way to participate in the event.
But let’s forget about the horses, because it’s all about fashion! I was looking to scout out the best dresses and stand-out hats; this is one day where the bigger the hat, the better. We were lucky enough to have great sunny weather this year, which meant that no jackets were required! However, there are some other strict dress code requirements for those in the Royal Enclosure, including dresses and skirts of modest lengths (just above knee or longer), one inch or greater straps on dresses, and tops and hats that are worn with a headpiece which has a base of four inches or more for the ladies (no fascinators). Meanwhile, gentlemen must wear a waistcoat and tie, a black or grey top hat, and black shoes. For Grandstand Admission, a hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times, while gentlemen are required to wear a suit with a shirt and a tie. Some of my favourite outfits included beneath the knee fitted pencil dresses in prints, or solid colours matched with a bright hat, clutch and shoes. Head-to-toe white and neutrals, full-length skirts and prints were also common trends for women. Men looked extra dapper in suits, waistcoats and top hats.
In keeping with the tradition, Ascot is a quintessentially British event, offering a great excuse to dress up. Everyone was having fun, showing off statement hats, elegance and style. Check out some select looks in our FAJO photo gallery below!