The Official SL Guide: What To Wear To Ascot

Royal Ascot gets underway later this month, and if you’re heading to the legendary race course chances are you’ll be thinking about what to wear. We spoke to a panel of experts about how to dress appropriately but still on trend. Here are 6 rules to remember when dressing for the big event…

If In Doubt, Stick To A Midi Dress

Jumpsuits and suits may be approved by even the Royal Enclosure, but if you’re nervous about getting it wrong, stick to a smart midi. Founder of smart ready-to-wear label The Fold, Polly McMaster tells us ‘The secret to nailing the Ascot dress code is to wear something with an exceptional cut or statement detail - flattering to a fault but also comfortable enough not to feel remotely self-conscious or restricted. Clean lines and feminine silhouettes feel modern and right for now.’ Natasha Rufus-Isaacs, founder of Beulah London, agrees – ‘I would suggest a midi dress which will comply with the dress code, but try a bold colour or print to keep the look modern and less formal.’

A Bit Of Structure Is Best 

At this time of year, there’s naturally a host of feminine, floaty dresses to choose from. But if you want to smarten up the look, Polly suggests adding a bit of tailoring – “a sharply tailored jacket will add a modern flourish.” “Try to contrast floaty dresses with sleek lines and graphic edges with your hat, shoes and an oversized clutch,” advises occasionwear designer, Suzannah Crabb. Our tip? Strike a balance between cool and conventional with long-line blazers that cinch ever so slightly at the waist. Reiss has a particularly good selection.

Embrace Bright Colours

Whilst monochrome will never be inappropriate, bright colours are preferable for Ascot – just think of all the royal outfits over the years. Polly advises you use the opportunity to think outside the box – “Events like Ascot are a great opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and experiment with bold shades and playful prints. It’s colour that will make you stand out.” We suggest finding a bright dress, and keeping everything else simple – that means classic shoes and a block colour hat.

Ditch The Stilettos 

Teetering on the grass isn’t desirable, even on the driest of days. We advise a block heel or even a wedge for maximum comfort – according to Natasha, you just have to get the balance right. “I would suggest balancing the style of you dress with your shoe preference; a maxi dress or boho style could work well with a wedge where as a more formal or tailored look would suit a block heel.” Espadrilles may fall a little short of the elegant dress code, so look out for shoes with a metallic wedge.

Layer Up

The advice from all our experts is to add layers to hedge your bets against the British summer time. From lightweight coats to blazers, they all suggest just getting the proportions right – Polly says, “If you are wearing a dress with a jacket its crucial to make sure your jacket and dress sit at a flattering spot, accentuating your best features and working in harmony, not against each other.” That means ditching short cuts, and opting for longer, hip-skimming styles. Alternatively, pick a duster or similar, which has a few extra inches on your dress or skirt. “Opt for light layers in technical fabrics that are breathable and ideally with a hint of stretch so you don’t feel too hot or restricted,” Polly advises. 

Don’t Forget A Hat

Your hat is an essential part of your Ascot look. For more detailed tips on getting it right, consult our feature on finding the right hat for occasions – or for a shortcut, just take Suzannah’s advice. “Ascot is an opportunity to exaggerate your millinery in modern statement shapes, which will give you the necessary Ascot theatre but in fashion relevant shapes. This season try exaggerated Boaters, coulies, hatbands and plumes for a look that is both modern and elegant.”

Dos & Don’ts

Do have a backup outfit in case of bad (or very good) weather.
Do take spare shoes if you can. Our fashion ed’s top tip? Fold those pedicure flip flops into your handbag – you’ll be grateful on the journey home.
Do respect the dress code – or risk being turfed out.
Do make a statement – this is one of the only sartorial opportunities to go big with your hat, and your look in general. There’s no danger of upstaging the bride here…
Don’t wear strappy dresses – only straps of 1 inch or thicker are permitted.
Don’t get your midriff out.
Don’t wear shoes you can’t walk in. You’ll only regret it.
Don’t forget to come prepared. That means both sunglasses and an umbrella.
Don’t wear all black. It isn’t a funeral.

Things To Remember:

  1. Fancy dress isn’t permitted in any shape or form.
  2. Military personnel are permitted to wear Service Dress or equivalent.
  3. Stuck for where to find hats? Check out our recent guide.

 Here’s our official guide on what to wear for every enclosure…

    Royal Enclosure

    David Hartley/Shutterstock

    Look 1

    Look 2

    Look 3

    Queen Anne & Village Enclosure

    Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

    Zuzanna Lupa/Racing Fotos/Shutterstock


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