Attendees of the Royal Ascot horse races this week will be facing a more rigorous once-over upon entry. But the tighter checks are not for security reasons. This year, event organizers brought in a team of dress-code experts to help ensure the event's elite crowd upholds the event's revamped wardrobe regulations.
Apparently, some of the five-day horseracing event's high-society guests feel that over the years, other guests have pushed the acceptable boundaries of formalwear.
To clarify what's acceptable and what's not, event organizers issued a new set of standards for guests, most notably for those in the Royal Enclosure (home of the best seats in the house, and also the spot where the Queen and other royals watch the races).
New restrictions inform men of acceptable suit choices — with black or grey morning suits the only allowable options — while women face restrictions on hemlines, necklines and styles.
Men must have top hats to go with their morning suits and ties. But the big news this year is that for the first time ever, women have a hat requirement as well. Historically, the dress code simply said, "Some women choose to wear a hat." This year, not only are women are required to wear a hat, but that hat must cover at least 10 centimeters (4 inches) of their heads.
The primary effect of the new regulations on outfit toppers: a ban on the increasingly popular whimsical hair decorations known as fascinators. Yes, that icon of British headwear favoured by so many in the UK — including the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton — is strictly off-limits this week. The feathery fashion item is not allowed in the Royal Enclosure. It's been deemed too informal for this annual high-society event.
The Royal Ascot is not only one of the biggest society events of the year but also one of the annual highlights of the fashion pages, so the new dress code has created quite a buzz.
As hats are often the show-stealers of the event's fashion parade, this year all eyes will be looking to see whose tops are tops. This year, some of the best UK milliners, such as Siggi Hats (the official milliner of the Royal Ascot from 2002 to 2004), William Chambers (winner of the Best Accessory Designer 2012 at the Scottish Fashion Awards), Stephen Jones (favoured by fashion icon celebs like Gwen Stefani and Dita Von Teese) and Rachel Trevor-Morgan (a royal family favourite) have adapted their lines to follow the stricter guidelines.
With hats being on the top of everyone's minds this season more than ever, expect some truly beautiful and inventive creations as women try to outdo one another in the race for best bonnet.
by Leigh Bryant
Above: Princess Eugenie, Queen Elizabeth II, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, attend day one of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse on June 19 in Ascot, England. (Photo by Danny Martindale/Getty Images)