Bearing in mind the extraordinary heritage of the occasion and its unimpeachable reputation for sartorial elegance, it is hardly surprising that the dress code for Royal Ascot often garners as much attention from commentators as the horses. To the uninitiated, this code can seem Byzantine, exclusive and even arcane. Given Oliver Brown’s proud involvement with the event, we would like to take the opportunity to reassure readers that is, of course, quite the opposite.
The spirit and the letter of the code have been specifically designed to put one at ease. After all, there is so much that is unwritten in British custom, social life and etiquette that without a code one might spend more time worrying that one is somehow ‘getting it wrong’ than having a wonderful time.
The stewards have their trademark bowler hats, the ceremonial guard – the ‘Yeoman Prickers’ – have their velvet uniforms, and gentlemen in the Royal Enclosure are asked to wear a grey or black morning suit and a top hat. The ladies’ dress code is only a little morecomplex (formal daywear, a hat at least 10cm in diameter, a dress that hangs just above the knee or below, with straps at least an inch wide). The dress codes for other enclosures are equally straightforward and can be found on the website: https://www.ascot.co.uk/Royal-Ascot.
It has been said that grace can be defined by a rare combination of style and artistry under the appearance of ease. After three centuries, Royal Ascot’s dress code is there to ensure that one will not find a more graceful few days – or a more graceful crowd - in the entire social calendar.