A day at the races is as much about fashion as fillies, and no self-respecting show pony wants to be seen in last season’s leftovers, but it can be tricky to obey the strict dress codes in place at all the major meets, yet still look effortlessly chic. Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby demand morning suits of men and impose myriad guidelines on ladies; Glorious Goodwood is more relaxed, but achieving understated glamour can be harder than it sounds. Just what is a racing fan to do? Here’s a handy style guide to help you stay the course…
Scan the list of all that’s not allowed under Ascot’s Royal Style Guide – anything strapless or off the shoulder, high hemlines, fascinators – and you might think options are limited. However, plenty of this season’s dresses come up to scratch, and won’t scream ‘overkill’ at Goodwood. Alexander McQueen’s gold hummingbird-print pencil dress is bold, but smart, and Paul Smith’s pretty, pleated, floral dress stops just below the knee.
The rising stars of London Fashion Week have much to offer, too – Christopher Kane’s beautiful grey crepe and organza dress with bolt detailing is unique; Erdem’s brightly embroidered organza dress is elegant, and its silk bodice eye-catching; and Roksanda Ilincic’s ¾ length dress is simple and smart.
On the high street, you cannot argue with the value of the Hobbs Invitation ‘Dorset’ dress and the lace-panelled, blue bodycon dress from Reiss.
Headwear is notoriously tricky to get right – just ask Princess Beatrice. Too big and it’s ostentatious, too small and you won’t get past the gates, as the Royal Style Guide demands hats have a base of four inches or more and strictly forbids fascinators, much to the delight of milliner Philip Treacy, who this week dubbed them ‘no more than headbands with a feather stuck on.’ Quite. For fabulous hats that make the cut, take a trip to top milliner Stephen Jones’ shop in Covent Garden.
If shade is what you’re after, William Chambers’ Mega Milano and Piers Atkinson’s Greta should do the trick, though the cat-like ears on this mini Mich Dulce piece are undeniably fun.
SHOES & ACCESSORIES
Not afraid of a towering heel? Make a bold choice with these blood red Alexander McQueen beauties, or Giuseppe Zanotti’s embellished white sandals, which are as high glamour as they are, well, high. Fans of colour blocking will also enjoy Sergio Rossi’s yellow, red and metallic green offering.
Of course, spike heels and soft grass don’t always go together and, for the Goodwood crowd, less is sometimes more, so let Ferragamo’s wedge sandals rescue you from potential sinking situations. Adding in a few extras, like Alexander McQueen’s yellow python clutch and Paul Smith’s Eliza bracelet will take you straight to the starting line.
Men must also ensure their outfits are up to scratch and, at Ascot, a gentleman entering the Royal Enclosure must wear a morning suit, top hat and tie. Of course, not every man has these items languishing in his wardrobe, but you can hire everything required from retailer Austin Reed, starting at £69 for a three-piece suit. Just don’t lose any pieces after one-too-many champagnes, should your horse come in… For those looking to purchase a morning suit and the accessories, look to Gieves & Hawkes’ grey three-piece suit and the exclusive Royal Ascot suit from Moss Bros. Both brands are featured in the Royal Style Guide.
For the more relaxed events, you will need to have a re-think, or risk being mistaken for somebody’s butler. Handily, there are plenty of smart/casual options out there. A. Sauvage’s striking blue suit, as seen recently on Jude Law, is a great start, and Hackett’s three-piece linen suit is a summer staple.
Or why not be brave and go down a quirkier road, teaming Jonathan Saunders’ red trousers with a white shirt from Richard James, Paul Smith’s bow tie and a pale blue cotton jacket from Mr. Start? The odds are good that you’ll be winning in the style stakes.
The ladies don’t get to have all the fun when it comes to accessories. For formalwear, the Balmoral and Leeds shoes from British heritage brand, Cheaney, hit the right note, as do Lanvin’s gold-plated cufflinks.
With a relaxed dress code, the options are infinite, but why not take inspiration from Red Rum’s name with a crimson-strapped Jack Spade watch, Ferragamo’s red brogues and a knitted cotton burgundy tie from Drake’s? Meanwhile, shield your eyes from the blistering sun – it will come out, have faith – with Ksubi Eyewear’s stylish shades. The gold mesh detail on the Cisco style makes them rather slick.
I was commissioned to write this feature for The Daily Telegraph, and it was published on 26th April. You can read a version of it on the web site here.
All images © 2013 copyright owners. All rights reserved.
PRICING / STOCKISTS
Alexander McQueen gold hummingbird-print pencil dress – £580 at alexandermcqueen.com
Paul Smith pleated red floral print dress – £810 at paulsmith.co.uk
Christopher Kane crepe and organza dress with bolt detailing – £1925 at net-a-porter.com
Erdem neon embroidered organza dress – £4730 at net-a-porter.com
Roksanda Ilincic’s ¾ length cocktail dress – £785 at thecorner.com
Hobbs Invitation Dorset dress – £159 at hobbs.co.uk
Reiss lace-panelled blue bodycon dress – £129 at reiss.com
Stephen Jones ‘Squall’ hat – £960, ‘Sun’ hat – £1185, and ‘Moon’ hat – £960, all at Stephen Jones (020 7242 0770)
William Chambers ‘Mega Milano’ hat – £350 at williamchambers.co.uk
Piers Atkinson ‘Greta’ hat – £635 at Fenwick of Bond Street
Mich Dulce cat ear hat – £310 at Fenwick of Bond Street
Red Alexander McQueen heels – £470 at Alexander McQueen (0207 355 0088)
Giuseppe Zanotti’s white sandals – £715 at shoescribe.com
Sergio Rossi yellow, red & metallic green heel – £630 at Sergio Rossi, 020 7811 5950
Ferragamo wedge sandals – £539 at Ferragamo, 020 7838 7730
Alexander McQueen yellow python clutch – £1345 at alexandermcqueen.com
Paul Smith ‘Eliza’ bracelet – £140 at paulsmith.co.uk
Austin Reed suit hire – from £69 at austinreed.co.uk
Gieves & Hawkes grey three-piece suit – £1100 at gievesandhawkes.com
Moss Bros Royal Ascot suit – £499 at moss.co.uk
A.Sauvage blue suit – £1500 at asauvage.com
Hackett three-piece linen suit – £825 at hackett.co.uk
Jonathan Saunders red trousers – £395 at matchesfashion.com
Richard James white shirt – £125 at mrporter.com
Paul Smith bow tie – £85 at paulsmith.co.uk
Mr. Start blue cotton jacket – £450 at mr-start.com
Cheaney ‘Balmoral’ shoes – £395 at cheaney.co.uk
Cheaney ‘Leeds’ shoes – £285 at cheaney.co.uk
Lanvin gold-plated cufflinks – £150 at mrporter.com
Jack Spade watch – £285 at jackspade.com
Ferragamo red brogues – £689 at Ferragamo, 020 7838 7730
Drake’s knitted cotton tie – £95 at mrporter.com
Ksubi Eyewear ‘Cisco’ sunglasses – £120 at ksubi.com