Guest poster Charles continues sharing his preparations attend Ascot this year with an explanation of the dress code. Enjoy!
As almost anyone who is aware of Royal Ascot knows, the event is a 5-day fashion extravaganza! No matter the enclosure, attendees bring out their best fashion, and that includes hats or fascinators for almost everyone woman. Even those who attend in areas with very limited dress guidelines “dress to impress.”
But the best fashion and people watching happens in the Royal Enclosure. With very strict guidelines on appropriate fashion for women and men, the Royal Enclosure sees cutting-edge fashion and hats like no other place on earth. The first year I attended I walked up to two women who were both “turned out” beautifully. When I complimented them on their hat selections it happened that one woman was British and one American. The American woman exclaimed, “I spent more time selecting this hat than I did for my first wedding dress!” Now that’s dedication.
For me personally, after having attended Royal Ascot and the Royal Enclosure in 2012 & 2013, I made notes to myself about ideas for future years when I might attend. I’ve already shared my experiences gaining knowledge of the differences in top hats and my own adventure into purchasing an antique silk topper. As a man, it is more difficult to make that splashing fashion statement as much of the attire is prescribed – black or gray morning dress including a waistcoat and tie as well as a black or gray top hat. So how does one make his attire a bit more interesting?
What does black or gray morning dress actually mean? There are a few basic elements to morning dress – morning coat, almost always in black fabric; “cashmere” striped trousers (more on this later); waistcoat, usually in buff/tan, powder blue, or gray; white or pastel shirt (always with white collar and French cuffs); tie (no cravats); black shoes.
An alternative to the black morning coat and striped trousers is the gray morning suit – here the three basic elements of coat, trousers, and waistcoat are all fashioned from identical gray fabric. The Prince of Wales often wears a beautiful version of a morning suit in a light gray material.
But wait! There actually are variations on proper morning attire for a gentleman. In addition to cashmere striped trousers (these are the familiar gray with thin black and/or white stripes – cashmere being the style, not the fabric) a gentleman can wear trousers fashioned from houndstooth fabric or, and this is where is gets interesting, one’s family tartan. Yes, a man can wear trousers fashioned from his family’s tartan plaid along with the black morning coat! Also, some time ago it was relatively common to see a gentleman wearing trousers in a Glen plaid pattern.
Traditional cashmere stripe morning suit trousers
To add to one’s personal style, men are often seen wearing vibrant waistcoats in various patterns and fabrics. The traditional waistcoat is buff/tan, powder blue, or gray but for weddings and days at the races it is acceptable and appropriate to “have a little fun” with one’s waistcoat. Summer colors such as yellow, pink, floral patterns, and lots of fabrics with a horse theme are seen on many men in the Royal Enclosure.
Lastly, shirts and ties are a place where a man can make a personal, sartorial statement. A gentleman’s shirt should be either white or pastel but always must include a white collar (this goes back to the days when the collar was separate from the actual shirt) and French cuffs, also allowing for a bit of being a dandy in the selection of a pair of nice cufflinks.
Thanks, Charles! Morning suits are not commonly worn in North America and this explanation is so helpful! In his next post, Charles will share what he’s planning to wear next week and tell the tale of a very special pair of trousers. Stay tuned!