Fashion crimes of Royal Ascot

Bare shoulders, bare heads and high hemlines were banned – and at the merest hint of a transgression, the fashion police were on hand to issue pashminas and hats.

Yet even as Royal Ascot’s strict new dress code was brought in, plenty of guests managed to push the regulations to the limit.

Following criticism that the genteel meet was becoming dominated by a rather less distinguished breed of racegoer, organisers have imposed tough sartorial rules this year.

In the royal enclosure, that means hats with a diameter of four inches or more are mandatory. Skirts must sit no higher than just above the knee, and dresses that are strapless, off the shoulder, halter-neck or with straps narrower than an inch are off limits.

Even in the less formal grandstand, ladies must wear a fascinator or hat, and ties are a must for gents. Oddly, though, there is nothing in the new style guide to prevent racegoers displaying their tattoos.

While the distinctive cherry hairpiece worn by Joanna Southgate, 34, paled into insignificance compared to the inkings on her arms below the short sleeves of her red dress, she was still deemed appropriately dressed.

But she did avoid coming in for too much scrutiny from the fashion police by covering up with a leather jacket as she entered the grounds.

The dress code was enforced by an immaculate team of 60 young women (with a few young men thrown in) in uniforms of purple linen dresses and jackets from High Street store Hobbs, along with Ilda Di Vico hats.

The fashion officers – who preferred to be called ‘dress code assistants’ – prowled the entrances carrying baskets packed with colourful fascinators, pashminas and ties. Guests who fell short of the dress code for the grandstand were given appropriate attire for free.

Meanwhile, anyone heading for the royal enclosure who had failed to bring a hat was ushered discreetly to an office in which there was a huge array to choose from for a £50 deposit. However, as no identification was taken, one assistant admitted she was ‘not that hopeful’ of getting them all back.

Despite some racegoers in rule-breaking attire apparently slipping through the net, Ascot’s head of communications, Nick Smith, declared himself ‘delighted with the standard of dress’.

“We always said that we would adopt the new rules sensitively, using common sense and discretion, especially in the first year, and that is what we are doing,” he said.

“The most important thing is that people have an enjoyable time.”


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