With the Royal Ascot Britain wouldn’t be complete without one of the most glorious events on the social calendar that captures the very finest in equestrian sports. Showcasing the finest in traditional pomp and ceremony. The worlds top jockeys, prestige horses attracts a global interest and of course this means a plethora of fascinating, colorful guests attend were gallons of champagne, strawberries are consumed by all. It is a day of fun merriment and the dazzling occasion is covered by the world’s media as the Royal party make their official entrance at 2pm in grand splendor in open air carriages. May I wish all those attending a fabulous time and of course I would love to share a few tips and suggestions to make it even more splendid.
Races’ official dress codes
Royal Ascot, The Epsom Derby and the Hurling ham Club Polo require a smart outfit both for ladies and gentlemen within the parameters of formal wear, which make the experience of attendance even more niche and exciting.
At Ascot ladies’ hats (or eventually headpieces) must have a base of 4 inches (10 centimetres) or more in diameter for the royal and grandstand enclosures. Ladies’ dresses and skirts should be of modest length, just above the knee or longer. Also trouser suits of full length are allowed.
Off the shoulder, uncovered midriffs, halter neck, spaghetti straps and dresses with a strap of less than one inch (2, 5 cm) are unsuitable.
Gentlemen are required to wear either black or grey morning dress with a waistcoat and tie, a black or grey top hat and black shoes. The top hat may be removed within a restaurant, a private box, a private club or that facility’s terrace, balcony or garden. Hats may also be removed within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Garden. Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the formal national dress of their country or service dress. Girls and boys should also be dressed in accordance to gentlemen and ladies’ codes, although hats are not compulsory for them.
This smart dressing code ensures the events to remain an iconic example of pure timeless chic Britishness.
Looking fabulous at the races
My top and most important “Tip du jour” is quite simple: be confident!
Ascot dates back 300 years. It represents the event where society would flock to be seen and promenade the latest styles. Great style icons such as the Duchess of Devonshire never put a silk heel out of place when it came to her attire. Her most opulent hat became famous as the Gainsborough hat, from what she wore to sit for the artist himself.
Going back in history, there was the famous ‘Black Ascot’. When Edward the VII passed away, the ‘Black Ascot’ took place. Everyone wore their finest outfits, embroidered, laces, plumes, accessories, all in black. This later became the inspiration to Cecil Beatons black and white scene in ‘My Fair Lady’.
For me, great style is an individual attitude being graceful yet with a fabulous deportment. Dressing up to any event like this is about carrying it off like the swan, effortlessly. Wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident! Remember: at the end the day, is about enjoying yourself and not taking it too seriously.
If you lack confidence and are weary of press photographers zooming in on you, then take a few minutes when getting ready to practice in the mirror. The key is to relax and keep it natural. Your posture should be upright, shoulders up, arch lower back; breath in so upper chest is fuller, elongate neckline as this also accentuates millinery better. Think of the days as a child being taught ballet, well, this is the time to showcase it!!! A good bit of advice is to research some of the great stars who entertain the media: Sophia Loren would be one of my top choices.
Never smoke and the only glass you carry should be champagne. Also, I personally wouldn’t advise wearing sunglasses unless you really know it’s working with your look.
Who style icons inspire you most at the races?
To keep you in tune of what is current with designers and the stars look out for the big carpet events such as BAFTA and The Oscars, at which stars appear at their best. So much can be learnt here about getting it right and, well, about getting it so wrong.
Although there is a plethora of ladies I admire, I am mentioning just those that I consider great inspiration for the races. I am a great believer that true style is ageless, colourless, not about size and it is all about your inner goddess.
Where else to start but the Duchess of Cambridge: she has hit the global stage at breathtaking breakneck speed, with so much media coverage, there is the risk of endless faux pas. But, I have to say she has never got it wrong. The key to her success is less is more. She knows her style and more importantly it fits the Royal protocol. In a few years time, I would love to see her outfit developing to more couture statement pieces, especially the cocktail dresses. She has the figure, poise and can carry it off as well as anyone. Plus it would be a huge bonus supporting British designers.
Penelope Cruise exudes Spanish charm and melts the camera with her personality and warm, uplifting energy. She is every designer’s dream. She can flitter before jeans and simple top to couture dresses and still look fabulous. It’s her sexiness and refined style that keeps her on top of her game.
Christina Ricci is perfection and should be bottled as a perfume. Put her in a Givenchy dress and you will see how she can work an outfit. She can carry off strong makeup that should be reserved by only a select few ladies. I could see her wearing different looks that suit her quirkiness.
I adore Judi Dench. She is the kind of mature lady that I admire in so many ways. On numerous occasions I meet ladies saying to me they don’t feel comfortable wearing millinery as they feel hats are young ladies’ accessory. I adorn them with a hat and ‘voilà’, I have another lady converted to the love of millinery.
I and half of the planet are drawn to a celebrity with great curves and jaw-dropping Grammy Award winning voice: Adele. She has captured the world’s hearts with her refreshing down to earth attitude. I am enamoured of her total by dressing in signature black. For years I have been harping on that no matter what size we are, we must embrace, celebrate and love our physique. She is a fine example of how a fuller figure lady can carry off a look so well, again it is all about real confidence and believing in yourself.
So what advice can I give on celebrities to inspire you? Well, if you have the time, have some fun doing the following: create a mood board. Get an A4 piece of card, flip through all your favourite fashion magazines and cut out the outfits, accessories and celebrities you like. Once you have created your board, start to take elements and build up your look. Remember, this can be a gentle guide to your current style or if you are feeling like a radical makeover then goes for it. However, before you go for any extreme change, I would definitely suggest you put yourself into the hands of a professional stylist and get the honest advice of a best friend/family member.
Your Style: Dress to Impress:
Be realistic and honest with yourself. Only go for a look that you know you can carry off effortlessly whether it is statement couture or eccentric. If a statement hat is required, don’t get lost in it but held yourself regally as if it is an extension of you. Explore vintage dresses, you can rarely go wrong here and it is part of the quirkiness we adore the British for. Explore more ways to have your hair done. Putting your hair up in a French chignon to one side is very chic when wearing a hat, as this elongates the neck and is flattering in photos.
Let’s face it ladies, our total weakness is shopping and a splurge on accessorise is akin to falling into a bathtub of warm chocolate! When it comes to the races finishing off your look may be about minimising your accessories, as your main feature is your hat. Downsize jewellery, especially earrings, stylish clutch bags are great and can be custom made if you decide to have a bespoke dress made. I love delicate details such as gloves, especially vintage style lace. Checkout Stardust online vintage boutique or have a fun Saturday morning exploring the fabulous Portobello market. As far as shoes are concerned, we are spoilt by some incredible cobblers who make creations that could stand quite comfortably on a plinth as an art installation in a museum. I should be somewhat responsible and give you some practical tips as it is the races: it is a long day so comfort is necessary. However, I won’t be so tedious and bore you with all this, because let’s face it, if you are a shoe addict then your prime belief is beauty knows no pain! Hereafter, some of my favourite designers: Roger Vivier’s feather sandals that could be matched to a fabulous feather hat; Daniele Michetti’s creative accessories that will make you feel unique; Brian Atwood’s eccentric shoes that will match well your glamour colourful dress; Stuart Weitzman’s elegant bags to enrich your outfit; Burak Uyan’s contemporary creations; Christian Louboutin’s trademark glossy red soles that are an undisputed stamp of fashion excellence; and finally Jimmy Choo Couture, where you can have the master create a bespoke work of art.
Please Look at MY HAT…
Some horse meetings attract the media worldwide and one of the most talked about subject is what the ladies are wearing and of course…‘their hats’. So I cannot emphasise the importance of getting a pretty spot-on ensemble as in my experience I have seen media coverage that can be cruel showing the best but also the worst dressed and trust me… comments can be cruel. However, let’s not get you overly concerned about that as I am sure you will get it right and remember that the day is about enjoyment and not fear of a camera zooming in on you.
Every year I am asked what the current hat colour to wear is. To be honest I personally would not recommend one. Millinery is a passion, expressing your individual style and taste. This is a great time to express who you are whether understated or quirky. Start by choosing your hat and work the outfit from there. Choose a colour that you adore and remember that the races are all about variety, textures, prints to blocking colours so try not to restrict yourself. We all look forward to the Queen arriving in wonderful colour variations… well, she is not dictated by fashion.
How the hat is trimmed could be what really creates the ‘wow’ factor turning the heads of your admiring onlookers. There are endless hat embellishments from feather plumes, quills, fabric pleats, silk flowers, pearls, crystals, vintage elements. Your milliner, if that is ‘moi’, is creating a bespoke hat, and you can explore the shapes of the brim being blocked and reverse it so the look becomes more unique. Maybe elongate the crown or bunch flowers in the inner of brim so it silhouettes your face. If you are intending to be photographed, reduce the width of the brim. Millinery comes in endless shapes so take your time exploring what works for you. The most important thing is you wear the hat and not vice versa and enjoy the day with a glass of bubbly.
What hats to choose to suit your features…
I am always asked what face shapes work with styles of hats. I have listed some guidelines. However with past experience I would strongly advise that wearing a hat is such a personal experience. Much of it is about you emulating your style and carrying off the hat with your inner confidence. If for example you were in a department store, take your time trying on hats and enjoying the moment. I can bet when you put on the hat that best suits you, you will know instantly it’s the one. Shop assistants and critical friends are there to guide you and when you wear “the” hat, it will be love at first sight.
First, it is important to determine your face shape to get that special hat. Therefore, look at yourself in the mirror and with a lipstick outline your face on it…
If you have a round face shape remember that the crown of the hat has to be broader than your face, prefer broad and asymmetrical brims to small ones and try to avoid round crowned hats. The best way to wear your hat is at an angle to confer the illusion of lengthening your face.
An oval face? Well, most hats fit your face but they should be appropriate to your height. Wear it tilted towards the eye brown and across the hair.
If you have a square face, prefer wearing tall or round crown hats with asymmetrical and circular brims. Wear your hat slightly slanted to hide your square edges.
Oblong face- Choose full brim hats and avoid high crowns and narrow shapes. Achieve a good balance!
If you have a heart shaped face, avoid heavy and large hats, make sure you wear those hats which are small and have trims.
To sum up, remember that the crown of the hat has to be broader than your cheekbones and that a petit lady should avoid brim hats as they can overwhelm your overall appearance. Moreover, angle your hat in many ways as this can be the twist that adds character.
Dos and Don’ts:
- Dresses must adhere to height restrictions, as we have previously mentioned. It would be disappointing to be turned away after making such an effort.
- Use shawls to cover your shoulders in Royal enclosures.
- Remember with millinery that the crown must be covered.
- Minimise over consumption of alcohol and constantly hydrate, it’s a long day especially if it is a hot one.
- Apply a simple and precise makeup. Have pre-trials if you are going bold and out of your unusual parameters.
- Fake tanning is a risk area. If you are going to do it, don’t let it be your first time at the races… I have witnessed tangerine, orange horrific moments.
- Moisturise the whole body especially those fabulous legs.
- Carry a sample size of your favourite perfume as well as a water mister for refreshing the makeup on hot days.
- Minimise the amount of staff to carry, but be armed for variable British weather.
- Don’t over play the cleavage, it may be considered borderline vulgar.
- Chipped nails… ‘quelle horreur’.
- Always carry spare hairpins for hats and for windy days.
- Get Indore as soon as possible if it rains, you need to protect your hat!
- Look to celebrities as points of inspirations but remember what works for them might not be ideal for you.
- Only be escorted by a gentleman!
- You are taking a lady out so play the gentleman role to perfection.
- Remember polished shoes, well groomed.
- Choose a suit that doesn’t look like it has come from the office. Go for sharp tailoring. I advise Ozwald Boateng or maybe go for a bit of British quirky individual style.
- The tie can be an expressive accessory but please no cartoon prints!
I personally find that a man in full top n tail is the supreme in elegance.