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Ladies' day at Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot recently tightened the dress code in the enclosure, which has only served to make women more inventive than ever

blog imageI love watching Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot. It's one of those completely British, mad, eccentric traditions where the usually frumpy British briefly look at their best.

There's been much talk this year about the tightened dress code. Fed up with orange legs, strapless dresses and micro-minis, the powers that be have issued a new set of rules. Maximum shortness of skirt is rumoured to be two inches above the knee (it's actually at the discretion of the organisers and it's been noticed that Princess Eugenie broke it but wasn't chucked out). All dresses must have shoulder straps at least 1 inch wide (no halters, strapless, shoestrings or off-the-shoulder items allowed). No bare midriffs, and no fake tan lines either. Break any of it, and you can be turned away at the gate - unless you're a royal, obviously. You must also wear underwear - Royal Ascot does not want Britney-style crotch shots, thanks very much.

blog imageThe rules only apply to the Royal Enclosure, of course. Outside of it, as more than one commentator has noted, there was a flurry of pink strapless mini-dresses, usually, in that hopeless British way, with plenty of back fat on show.

The code is equally strict for men, of course, but it has never changed - morning dress only, which means tailcoat, pinstripe trousers, top hat and weskit - de rigeur for posh English weddings. At Ascot, the tailcoat is traditionally grey rather than black, and in theory you can wear an 'ascot' - a cravat - but most men prefer a tie because then you don't have to wear a wing collar.

One rule that has relaxed over the years and looks set to remain is about hats. Ladies' hats used to have to 'substantially cover the crown', but that was relaxed some time ago and this year a hat need only be a 'substantial fascinator'. Fascinator, what a great word. Model Jackie St Clair's poppy hat, above (one of a series of flower-themed hats she's worn on different days) certainly qualifies, though, sadly Gertrude Shilling is no longer with us to model her son's mad millinery.

For more 'substantial fascinators', including the bathroom hat and the Stilton cheese hat, click here.

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