Royal Ascot: The essential dress code guide

Zoe Gunn

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26 May 2022

Because getting turned away at the gate isn’t a good look for anyone

26 May 2022 | Zoe Gunn | If you purchase something via our website, we may earn an affiliate commission.

T

he London season is upon us once again which means it’s time to dust off your hat collection and dig out your tails because anyone who’s anyone is heading to Royal Ascot. And, while the Home Counties’ premier racing event may ostensibly be about having a flutter on the world’s greatest racehorses, in truth, it’s as much about what’s happening off the track, with everyone from The Dorchester and Moet & Chandon to Marco Pierre White and Gaucho setting up shop for a piece of the action.

Horses and hospitality aside, Royal Ascot is also famed for its notoriously strict dress code. Each of its four enclosures - Royal, Queen Anne, Village and Windsor - requires slightly different forms of dress. Get it wrong and it doesn’t matter how much cash you’re willing to drop at the bookies, you’re not getting in. Allow us to do the hard work for you with our essential guide to nailing the Royal Ascot dress code…

Royal Enclosure

3.1 Phillip Lim printed midi dress, £710, net-a-porter.com; Mallorca embellished hat, £1,190, mervebayindir.com; Coco Crush 18k yellow gold cuff, £19,250, chanel.com; Hettie leather bag, £285, tusting.com; Giaborghini x RHW Rosie mules, £430, farfetch.com
Chesham morning coat, £720, favourbrook.com; Randwick waistcoat, £290, favourbrook.com; Emma Willis silk-jacquard tie, £135, mrporter.com; Royal Ascot stripe trouser, £250, favourbrook.com; Connaught Oxfords, £470, crockettandjones.com; Black Christys top hat, £475, favourbrook.com

The Royal Enclosure is the most prestigious, and therefore the most formal, of all the Royal Ascot enclosures. For women, this translates to a dress or skirt knee length or below and a ban on strapless, off-the-shoulder, halter and spaghetti straps, as well as sheer straps or sleeves. Full-length trousers and jumpsuits are allowed but all women must also wear a hat with a solid base of at least four inches (strictly no fascinators). While this may sound a little draconian, it doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun with your outfit. 3.1 Phillip Lim’s artistic design is chic and seasonal while meeting modesty requirements and forms the perfect base for a series of pastel-hued accessories you’re guaranteed to wear again.

For men, an invite to the Royal Enclosure at Ascot (and it is invite-only) presents the perfect excuse to invest in a new top hat and tails, with full morning dress required of all gentlemen. You could shop around but why make things difficult for yourself? Favourbrook is the official menswear licensee of Royal Ascot and even produces a special collection for the races each year. Finishing touches from Jermyn Street favourites Emma Willis and Crockett & Jones will see you suitably outfitted.

Queen Anne & Village Enclosures

Emily London Maha headpiece, £445, harveynichols.com; Brinker & Eliza Love Knot necklace, £135, brownsfashion.com; Roksanda Rosemary dress, £1,195, harveynichols.com; Cult Gaia Fana clutch, £544, net-a-porter.com; Emilio Pucci Onde espadrilles, £325, farfetch.com
Paul Smith wool suit jacket, £675, matchesfashion.com; Paul Smith wool suit trousers, £295, matchesfashion.com; Eton silk floral tie, £85, harrods.com; Eton slim-fit poplin shirt, £100, harveynichols.com; Manolo Blahnik Perry leather penny loafers, £645, mrporter.com

Next down on the rung of formality are the Queen Anne and Village enclosures, which operate minorly different dress codes. Fascinators are allowed here (we’re big fans of Emily London’s veiled designs) but dresses must still be formal and adhere to the same neckline regulations as the Royal Enclosure - Roksanda's pretty pink design will serve you well for Ascot and for many a wedding invite to come. Royal Ascot’s organisers also note that, as the Village Enclosure is a grassed area, wedges or block heels are advised making it the ideal occasion to don your favourite espadrilles.

For the gents, the Queen Anne enclosure demands a full suit in a matching colour or pattern to be worn with a tie (bow ties and cravats are banned) while the Village enclosure gives a little more leeway, with separates, ties, bow ties and cravats permissible. Luckily, there are no restrictions on colour or pattern so feel free to experiment. Paul Smith’s powder blue number is surprisingly flattering and looks great with a classic white shirt and contrasting patterned tie.

Windsor Enclosure

Suzanne Kalan 14k gold necklace, £445, libertylondon.com; Ragbag gold-plated earrings, £130, brownsfashion.com; Zimmermann Rosa jumpsuit, £775, matchesfashion.com; Stella fascinator, £169, rowleyhesselballe.com; Bottega Veneta raffia mules, £780, net-a-porter.com
Tom Ford tasseled velvet loafers, £1,110, matchesfashion.com; Etro floral-print blazer, £1,000, farfetch.com; Fear of God pleated wool trousers, £640, selfridges.com; Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Limited Edition 40mm watch, £39,000, mrporter.com

The Windsor Enclosure at Royal Ascot may be the least prestigious of the four - but it is also the place where you'll get the most freedom to really show your summer style. There is, in fact, no official dress code for men or women in the Windsor Enclosure, with both genders merely encouraged to wear smart daywear. Translation: you’ll still need a nice dress or tailored trousers so leave the jeans and trainers at home.

Instead, think smart garden party. Printed jumpsuits a la Zimmerman’s Mediterannean-inspired number are guaranteed to land you on the best-dressed list and, while a headpiece isn’t strictly necessary, the chance to wear one doesn't arise too often so why not indulge in one of Rowley Hesselballe’s sculptural creations? Likewise, men, we recommend you go all out with a look-at-me blazer. Etro is your friend here, with options running the gamut from picnic blanket checks to jacquard tigers.

Read more: The summer holiday packing guide