Ascot decoded

As well as banning fascinators from the royal enclosure, Royal Ascot’s new dress code demands that skirts must fall just above the knee or below, that cravats are no longer acceptable for men and that in the grandstand a “headpiece” is compulsory.

What do style and etiquette experts and race­goers make of the changes?

Why has the dress code changed?

Nick Smith

Head of communications and international racing at Royal Ascot

Our customers came to us and said: “It’s meant to be different. It’s upsetting for us if we make the effort and others don’t.” I think people have been a bit ashamed to dress up. In general, their offices have probably got less formal, and they want a contrast between normal life and events like this.

What does it mean?

Peter York

Co-author of Cooler, Faster, More Expensive: the Return of the Sloane Ranger

As the world gets rougher, dress codes get tighter. In these harder times, people will require that you don’t look slack in employment and that you aren’t louche: showing flesh and being too bling. There’s a more uptight and puritan movement coming from austerity. The idea of being respectable is coming back. Yet there are quite a lot of people who don’t know what a strict dress code looks like, partly because they may not have seen many exemplars of proper dress and partly because they have become used to shoes that don’t need polishing, shirts that don’t need pressing, and clothes derived from sportswear. It’s the obligation of greatness to be smart.

Liz Wyse

Etiquette adviser at Debrett’s

The fact that Ascot felt the need to tighten the dress code is significant. I think the feeling might be that the pendulum had swung too far away from smartness in dress and behaviour. The Duchess of Cambridge has given people something to aspire to; she’s so restrained and well-dressed. Change is in the air and there’s a fascination with ritual and spectacle in the UK: with the world looking at us we are playing up to an image of Britishness.

What should you wear?

Danielle Baggioni

Personal shopper at Harrods

A classic outfit with simple accessories: let your hat be the real statement. Roland Mouret’s dresses are perfect, as are Dolce & Gabbana’s lace dresses with matching bolero – both offer sophisticated and ladylike designs with the correct skirt length. If clients wish to dress in a trouser suit [permitted in the royal enclosure], I suggest Armani for their classic cuts, fluid lines and sophisticated approach, but my perfect outfit would be an Alaïa dress – they are extremely comfortable and offer appropriate hemlines and designs that cover the shoulders; with classic Louboutin court shoes, Chanel 2.55 handbag and a hat by Philip Treacy.

Debbie Lovejoy

Global sales executive for Atelier Swarovski

I agree with the new dress code completely – there were some scary sights in the royal enclosure last year! If I go, I will wear a jade green Roksanda Ilincic dress in light wool crepe – it’s tailored and sleeveless and the fabric will be fine for all weather. An exposed zip down the back gives a little edge to a quite classic look. As for shoes, probably nude snakeskin Manolo Blahnik strappy heels and Philip Treacy hat.

Emilia Wickstead

Designer worn by the Duchess of Cambridge

A woman can dress appropriately and be glamorous at the same time. In recent seasons we’ve certainly seen a return to appropriate dressing: it makes such a difference to how we feel when we make an effort and those around us do too. When I put together inspiration for a new collection, I often start with an event/occasion/era from the past. I think of how women made such an effort and looked flawless.

For full details of the Royal Ascot dress code, see

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