There’s a certain anxiety that comes with dressing for a big event. Black tie, cocktail, ambiguous wedding themes … picking an outfit that fits within the confines of the dress code while also being, you know, stylish, can become a laborious and stress-inducing enterprise. But even the most seasoned dresser, one who pulls out a perfectly on-point ensemble for any given occasion with apparent ease, would be overcome with panic ahead of Royal Ascot.
A tradition dating back to the 1700s, the five-day racing affair is the crème de la crème of British social events, attracting the entire royal family, as well as a heavy dose of celebrities and top models. The dress code is among the most rigorous of any event globally, with the style guide clocking in at a cool 36 pages. A taster of the kind of rules to be adhered to in the Royal Enclosure: hats must have a base of 10 centimetres; no fascinators or headbands allowed; and dress straps must be wider than an inch.
All this may sound a little intimidating, but once you get past the whole 36 pages thing, the dress stipulations are actually pretty … logical. No spaghetti straps, no short skirts, no midriff-baring. Within those guidelines — the same you’d likely follow at any raceday — there are actually ample opportunities for interesting outfits. Plus I found, unexpectedly, that navigating the dress code actually adds to the old-world glamour aspect of the thing. Much like Australian racing season, which still draws a crowd of about 700,000 each year, Ascot’s appeal lies partly in its apparent exclusivity.
“At first, I was like, 36 pages? Woah,” says mega model Georgia Fowler, laughing. The New Zealander attended her first Ascot this year as a guest of Longines. “It can definitely make it more difficult to find an outfit, but I also think that’s part of the fun. I really wanted to find something effortless and elegant that had sleeves but still felt like me. I had so much fun getting really dressed up.” Fowler and her stylist tapped Philip Treacy to create a bespoke headpiece for the frock she had initially planned to wear, though she swapped to another Treacy creation — a sculptural beige headpiece — to match the fit-like-a-glove blush Tom Ford dress she ultimately chose. “When you’re wearing pastel, you don’t want to be too matchy-matchy, so we picked a simple silver watch by Longines and a bold green mini handbag by By Far,” Fowler explains. “And when you’re wearing a big, beautiful outfit like this, I think less makeup works better. We kept the beauty look very simple.”
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