UK's Royal Ascot redefines concept of fashion police

Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:11am EDT
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By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) - Ladies, forget those flimsy fascinators and get yourself a proper hat: one that has a base of at least 4 inches in diameter.

So says a new dress code coming into force at this year's Royal Ascot, the annual horse-race meeting attended by Britain's Queen Elizabeth and a highlight of high society's summer season.

"Strapless, off-the-shoulder, halter-neck, spaghetti straps and dresses with a strap of less than 1 inch (2.5cm) are not permitted," says the dress code for lady race-goers lucky enough to have tickets for the exclusive Royal Enclosure.

The document states that ladies' dresses should be "of modest length", defined as falling just above the knee or lower, while gentlemen should wear grey or black morning dress, which must include a top hat, waistcoat and tie -- but no cravat.

Fashion has always been a feature of Royal Ascot and spotting the most daring outfits is as much of an attraction as watching the races. But the new dress code suggests organizers felt some race-goers were becoming rather too risqué.

They have trained a team of "dress code assistants" who will stop transgressors from entering the enclosure and supply them with emergency items to bring their outfits into line -- waistcoats, ties, pashmina shawls and the like.

The British media were quick to dig out photos of women at Royal Ascot in previous years sporting short or otherwise revealing dresses that would fall foul of the sartorial squad.

Particular attention was focused on the issue of fascinators, a type of headpiece attached to women's heads with clips or pins and often adorned with feathers, lace or netting.   Continued...

A racegoer rides an escalator down from the Royal Enclosure on the first day of racing at Royal Ascot in southern England June June 19, 2012 REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth