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Hats, horses and champers – it’s time for Royal Ascot. Plus more posh parties to dress up for this summer

Royal Ascot: a centuries-old British tradition, a multi-million pot of prize money, but mostly – hats. 

Easily England’s top sporting and social engagement of the year, the event on June 18-22 might be a fun opportunity for a flutter on the horses (not to mention quaffing lots of bubbly), but it’s the fashion that gets the most attention – and if you don’t dress up, you’ll miss out.

And that’s not just because you’ll feel a bit bogan without your top hat and tails. There are strict dress codes for Royal Ascot’s various enclosures, which all adds to the deep tradition the meeting, founded by Queen Anne in 1711, is steeped in.

Thanks to this sense of occasion, many racegoers choose to adopt the exclusive Royal Enclosure style no matter where they’re watching from. This includes morning dress for gents and formal day dresses for ladies, while hats are also a requirement. Emphasising the seriousness of the situation, fascinators are banned. Avoid making a faux pas - check out the official style guide here.

“The wearing of hats is a tradition that traces its origins to the royals, as it was not considered respectful to have one’s head uncovered in the presence of the monarch,” says William Chambers, a milliner at British Fashion Council initiative Headonism, which celebrates emerging hatmakers.

This focus on headgear has resulted in some weird and wonderful creations turning up by the track, such as the ‘Full English’ effort on TNT’s front cover this week, and the collection of birds pictured right. You simply cannot arrive at Ascot without something fabulous adorning your bonce, so we asked Chambers to let us in on what makes the perfect Royal Ascot hat.

“For me the best hats have substance: large or small, they are refined and elegant, whilst still making a statement,” he advises. “The Ascot lady should look confident, charming and chic, wearing the hat with style – as opposed to the hat wearing them!”

We think there’s a chance the hats are having their way with some of the ladies pictured here, so we also prodded the expert for a comment on what constitutes a millinery misfire, so as to save TNT readers’ blushes. 

“Real misfires happen when hats have way too much going on, with colours, trims, feathers, shapes and materials all fighting with each other and the outfit,” he decides. “Two of these five are usually enough, so as not to distract from the woman’s own charm and personality. As Coco Chanel said, ‘Adornment, what a science!’”

Once you’ve got the science sorted, why not make sure you give your hat the outing it deserves? TNT has teamed up with Royal Ascot to offer you some exclusive discounts, from a £30 Silver Ring ticket with drink vouchers thrown in (score), to a Grandstand and Pavilion package with complimentary afternoon tea and more for £85. Book by June 14; for deets.

New for 2013 at Ascot is the Pavilion Club with a designated view of the track with a tasty afternoon tea included in the ticket price. Plus there's the specially chartered Ascot Express taking visitors from Waterloo to the races.


In the mood for more hoity-toity festivities? Our picks over the page ››


Royal Ascot. June 18-22. Gates 10.30am, last race 5.35pm, followed by singing around the bandstand at 6pm. Tickets £10-£62 depending on enclosure (Royal Enclosure is for members only).  

Ascot Racecourse,
High Street, Ascot, SL5 7JX  
Station | Ascot 


A day at the races: Royal Ascot and more posh things to do in London
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