Your guide to the very British traditions and etiquette at Royal Ascot

Wednesday 31 January 2018

Royal Ascot is Britain’s most prestigious horse race and sees some of the world’s finest racehorses compete for huge cash prizes. Her Majesty The Queen has attended every year throughout her reign, and the Royal Procession that starts the day is truly a special moment to witness. As with any traditional British event, great occasion comes hand-in-hand with ceremony and strict etiquettes to follow.  With 5 days of socialising there’s a lot to learn, but not to fear, we’ve created some top tips to help you keep ahead of the race and looking your best...

Royal Ascot Race Meeting at the prestigious Ascot racecourse in Berkshire. Royal Procession. Arrival of members of the Royal Family, including Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Phillip II by horse-drawn carriage.

Dress to impress: Royal Ascot dress code

An event proudly steeped in tradition of course means that the dress code is no laughing matter. This does vary depending on the area of the course you will be visiting, however, there are some base dress rules that must be followed throughout the entire racecourse.

Royal Ascot Race Meeting at the prestigious Ascot racecourse in Berkshire. Group of women in formal dress standing on the balcony of the grandstand - Image credit VisitBritain, Ben Selway
Image credited to Ben Selway and ©VisitBritain

Gentlemen’s dress code for Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot Race Meeting at the prestigious Ascot racecourse in Berkshire. Men dressed in morning suits and top hats discussing a race. Credit ©VisitBritain, Ben Selway
Image credited ©VisitBritain & Ben Selway

According to Debretts, men must wear a black or grey morning dress with a waistcoat. A top hat must be worn throughout the Royal Enclosure, except in a private box, and it absolutely goes without saying that jeans, sportswear and shorts are not permitted anywhere at Ascot. 

Ladies’ dress code for Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot Race Meeting at the prestigious Ascot racecourse in Berkshire. Group of women wearing large hats. Sitting at a table, chatting. Image credited to ©VisitBritain, Ben Selway.
Image credited to ©VisitBritain, Ben Selway.

The fashion at Ascot is world renowned and is just as much the talk of the event as the races. Expect to see ladies in a stunning array of classic formal dress in many beautiful colours, though, as with gentlemen’s dress, there are some rules.

Ladies’ shoulders and midriff should not be on display at Ascot, and shorts are duly not permitted. Strapless or sheer dresses and tops are not permitted, and trousers and jumpsuits must be full length. Branded clothing is also not allowed, nor is fancy dress and novelty clothing. 

If you are lucky enough to have secured a place in the Royal Enclosure, expect and even more formal affair with dresses stipulating to fall just above the knee or longer, and dress straps having a thickness of at least 1 inch.  

How-to's on hats

ASCOT, ENGLAND - Racegoer attends day 2 of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse on June 18, 2014. Photo by Chris Jackson, Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse.
Photo by Chris Jackson, Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse.

Ladies must wear a hat. Recent rules have also stated that all headwear, especially worn inside the Royal Enclosure, must have a diameter of at least 4 inches so that headpieces aren’t worn in place of a hat.  However, this doesn't mean that one has to scrimp on style, the hats at Royal Ascot sometimes turn more heads than the races. 

Dining at Royal Ascot

Dining at Ascot is an occasion in itself and is a delight to participate in whether you’re enjoying one it’s many restaurants or tucking into a picnic. 

Dine in a panoramic restaurant

One of Ascot Racecourse's fine restaurants, image credited to Ascot Racecourse
Image credited to Ascot Racecourse

Choose from one of 14 restaurants ranging from the Royal Enclosure to The Villiers Club: Ascot’s prime social spot. From unique views of the track and panoramic views to Michelin-starred food in beautifully dressed surroundings, there’s something a little bit special about dining at the racecourse. Make sure to book your table in advance though as some restaurants are fully booked some weeks before the event. 

Pack a picnic

Royal Ascot Race Meeting at the prestigious Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire. Wine cooler with three bottles of champagne.
Nothing says British quite like a summer picnic, but throw Ascot into the mix and you’ve got yourself a rather splendid day out indeed! Ascot welcomes racegoers to bring their own picnics in specially designated areas, so pack those strawberries, prepare the cucumber sandwiches and chill the champagne, Ascot here we come! For those wanting an experience with added flair, purchase a picnic from Ascot and settle down in the Windsor and Heath Enclosure. Informal picnics are also permitted in the car parks and coach parks. 

Sip on some bubbles

Champagne flutes filled with golden champagne at Ascot Racecourse. Image credited to Ascot Racecourse.
Image credited to Ascot Racecourse.

In the true celebratory spirit of Ascot, attendees heading to the Windsor and Heath Enclosures (only), are allowed to bring one bottle of sparkling wine or champagne to accompany their picnic, we’ll drink to that! Though do note, no other type of alcohol is permitted into the racecourse grounds, it must be bought from the bar. 

Ascot's new Village Enclosure

Outdoor pavilion at Royal Ascot, decorated for a party. Fun use of banners, pinwheels, bottles and flowers.
Image credited to Courtney Weittenhiller, Ascot Racecourse.

As of July 2017, Ascot Racecourse will see the first new enclosure to open at the Royal Meeting in more than 100 years. The new ‘Village Enclosure’ will provide a new perspective of the track with views looking back towards the final Furlong with Ascot’s iconic Grandstand as a backdrop. The enclosure has a style and tempo all of its own, with a ‘pop-up’ summer theme that boasts boutique dining experiences, innovative bars, and live music throughout the day and into the evening. 

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