Ten flattering style rules every woman should learn from Ascot this summer

No sooner have we finished dissecting who wore what to the Royal Wedding than up comes the hats-and-hemlines parade of the year: Royal Ascot. 

This horse-racing spectacle, which starts on Tuesday, is a chance to scrutinise some of society’s best-dressed women. 

Ascot has strict rules on what to wear. But whether it’s for Ladies’ Day or another formal summer occasion, it offers top tips on looking both demure and stylish . . .

Fashion experts revealed essential style tips to follow at this year’s Royal Ascot. Tatler fashion director Sophie Goodwin advises considering your height when choosing the right hat. Pictured: Boater, £824, racheltrevormorgan.com


The big style challenge of Ascot is that you must wear a hat (or a headpiece or fascinator — the rules vary depending on which area you have tickets for).

Tatler fashion director Sophie Goodwin says: ‘Your best bet is a chic, compact pillbox or boater.’ Consider your height — the taller you are, the bigger brim you can get away with — and face shape.


Princess Anne has mastered the art of looking good at Ascot. Her top trick? A well-tailored jacket.

‘Princess Anne always looks the part, with proper hats and nipped- in jackets in tasteful prints,’ says Tatler’s Sophie Goodwin. A structured jacket over the right dress will make it ten times more formal and define your figure, too.


You can rely on the royals to show up at Ascot in an elegant court shoe. So follow their lead and, whatever you do, don’t go for tottery stilettos. Sophie Goodwin says: ‘Your best bet is a block heel. Or flats can be wonderful for outdoor events — just watch your hem length, because an on-the-knee skirt looks awful with a flat shoe.’ 

Jumpsuits were a popular choice in the Royal Enclosure at last year's Ascot. Pictured: Satin jumpsuit, £950, escada.com; Hat, £285, awongolding.com

Jumpsuits were a popular choice in the Royal Enclosure at last year’s Ascot. Pictured: Satin jumpsuit, £950, escada.com; Hat, £285, awongolding.com


Satin jumpsuit, £950, escada.com; Hat, £285, awon golding.com 

Last year, the jumpsuit finally made its way into the Royal Enclosure, confirming its status as a style staple. In the Royal, Village and Queen Anne enclosures, they must be full-length and follow the existing top and neckline rules. But, let’s be honest, jumpsuits might be fun, but they are not the most forgiving. If you can pull one off, stop yours from looking too ‘ utility’ by choosing a luxurious silky fabric and rich jewel tone.


Dress, £279, whistles.com; Flats, £139, pretty ballerinas.co.uk; Hair clip, £20, Issa at houseoffraser.co.uk 

It seems no sooner does a revealing new fashion trend pop up than the Ascot committee squashes it. For example, in the new ‘casual’ Windsor Enclosure, you’d get away with this statement bardot neckline (right) or the Duchess of Sussex’s shoulder-baring frock worn recently at Trooping The Colour. 

But, this year, the event’s official guide has had a ‘neckline review’ — and it explicitly bans bardot styles from the Royal, Queen Anne and Village enclosures. 

If in doubt, it’s best to play it safe. The secret to looking good at a formal event is that it’s all about blending in. Tatler’s Sophie Goodwin says: ‘ Attention-grabbing get-up is always a disaster.’


Top, £92, intropia.com; Skirt, £250, piphoweson. com; Hat, £440, awon golding.com; Bag, £295, russellandbromley.co.uk 

No mini skirts are allowed in the Royal Enclosure, of course: you must stick to ‘modest’ length, defined as ‘falling just above the knee or longer’. Tatler’s Sophie Goodwin says: ‘The Duchess of Cambridge has mastered the perfect hemline.’ Perhaps the best example of this was the supremely elegant white lace Dolce & Gabbana dress that saw the Duchess gallop home with the frock trophy at Ascot in 2016.


In the Royal Enclosure, women’s dresses and tops should have straps that are an inch or more thick — alternatively, why not ditch the measuring tape and wear sleeves?

In truth, sleeves are the easiest and most stylish option. They are always elegant — and helpfully cover any bingo wings, too.


Ascot tends to reflect the trends of the day: in the Twenties, the women were decked in pearls and fur — you rarely see real fur there now — while the Eighties were all skirt suits and shoulder pads.

This year, we are set for a flourishing of florals. To stop them looking frumpy, choose a big, bold print and consider confining them to a skirt, rather than a whole dress.


Dress, £175, Ghost stores; Hat, £415, carameehan.com; Shoes, £295, lkbennett.com 

Above all, Ascot’s dress rules teach us never to attend a formal occasion in anything garish. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t show your midriff. And, generally, steer clear of too much make-up, revealing cut-outs and sheer panels. Sophie Goodwin adds: ‘Colours can go wrong, too: “shouty” shades are to be avoided at all costs.’

Sophie recommends choosing subtle colours for Ascot. Pictured: Dress, £175, Ghost stores; Hat, £415, carameehan.com; Shoes, £295, lkbennett.com

Sophie recommends choosing subtle colours for Ascot. Pictured: Dress, £175, Ghost stores; Hat, £415, carameehan.com; Shoes, £295, lkbennett.com


Jacket, £275, and matching trousers, £150, reiss.com

Despite its restrictive rules, Ascot has always been a place where new fashions are paraded.

In the Fifties, a young Princess Margaret introduced the Dior ‘New Look’, with its tiny waists and full skirts, to the race meeting.

And, in 1971, the Ascot committee ruled trouser suits would no longer be banned for female racegoers. But if you want to wear yours in the Royal Enclosure, it has to be a proper suit: full-length and of matching material and colour.

It’s a rule we could all learn from: a full-length trouser elongates the leg gracefully, whereas cropped styles cut you off in an unflattering way, particularly with a matching jacket.

Jacket, £275, 

matching trousers, £150



Styling: Amy Kester / Pictures: L+R

Hair and make-up: Julie Read

Model: Karen Meyerhoff @ MO T

Fashion assistant: Alexandria Dale

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