We Brits are an eccentric bunch, which is one of the things I love about living in the UK. Visit any of our major cities, and you will pretty much see that anything goes when it comes to expressing yourself through your appearance or what you wear. A good friend of mine once said, in response to a somewhat draconian new 'dress code' at the office, "I should be able to put whatever I want to on my body". Hear hear! After a good few years of attending Royal Ascot I now feel just about qualified enough to give some friendly advice if anyone's asking.
There are of course certain conventions, social norms and laws that temper our freedom of expression but many of these are rapidly changing. Office attire has become far less formal in most organisations, with men rarely wearing ties these days, unless they are going for an interview - dead giveaway. Women's working wardrobes have changed enormously. I can recall, some 15 or so years ago, when it was finally ruled that women were 'allowed' to wear trousers at the firm of accountants where I worked. Women have battled with the shoulder pads of the Dynasty power suits and traversed through a whole myriad of written and unwritten dress rules - don't wear navy with black, cleavage or legs but not both, dress for the job you want, and so on. It's no wonder we sometimes feel that we get it 'wrong' and are less confident about how we look on the outside, than how we feel on the inside.
No event strikes fear into your average female than attending a formal event like Royal Ascot. If you've never been before you will probably spend hours mulling over the options, googling the dress codes and images of previous fashion victims. Once you have been, you begin to realise that the draconian dress codes are far more liberal in reality than you probably imagined and that most people there are just wanting to relax and have a good time.
But let's get specific - this is our fourth year so we reckon we've just about cracked it.
Royal Ascot - in The Grandstand
The most important thing is that you must wear a hat, headpiece or fascinator. And if you're looking to make a statement, nothing is too outrageous - think big and bold. The next most important thing is shoes - you will be on your feet an awful lot so you need to go for comfort. Also, bear in mind that if you want to go trackside you need to avoid a spiky stiletto heel. In my view, Ascot are surprisingly relaxed about what you wear but avoid anything shorter than thigh high, and if you want to be a bit different a nice wide legged trouser suit or jumpsuit would really stand out. They also have a thing about shoulders - so no strapless, halter neck, spaghetti or sheer straps.
The biggest dilemma is often whether to wear a cardigan, jacket, or bring an umbrella. Personally I wouldn't bother unless it's part of your outfit as there are plenty of places to shelter and keep warm should the heavens open. However, if you hear that torrential downpours are forecast then you might want to reconsider.
Royal Ascot - Royal Enclosure
Similar to The Grandstand but likely to be less tolerant of short hems or bare shoulders so best to play it safe. Also, you should stick to a hat rather than a headpiece, unless the latter has a substantial base. Whilst is not uncommon to see fitted black dresses worn in the Royal Enclosure, I do think this is a rather safe, dull option.
Royal Ascot - Silver Ring
Anything goes. No, really...anything goes.