Thursday, 21 June 2018

Royal Ascot: Racegoers, Very Proper and Properly English

We have put Royal Ascot on our calendars to welcome summer and a high season of sport and social events that epitomise elegance; and not only. The days at Royal Ascot are full of activity and entertainment with the finest things of life and in glorious weather (we hope)! With over a three hundred year old history, change and consistency are battling each other. In the process they are reinventing the game and the experience.

For the early 18th century racegoers the entertainment included ballad singers, gaming tents, jugglers and much more besides. A ceremonial guard in velvet uniforms, the Greencoats, was established in 1744.  As the event becomes more popular, the dress code is more formalised representing different aesthetics to those that originate it. The strict dress code is a more recent practice. It actually dates back to the 19th century rejecting ornate fashion and establishing the man’s tailored suit and necktie. This is not an edgy affair.

It is the most prestigious and spectacular week of racing with guests attending formally dressed – men in morning suits and top hats, and ladies in day dresses – and the Queen arriving with family Members along the track in horse-drawn landaus to mark the opening of the day’s events. All the names of the week’s races have a Royal theme. Jockeys are instructed to wear the colours of their horse’s owners, with colours unique to the owner of each horse.

Associated with the Royal British family the race courts came into existence in the early eighteenth century, founded by Queen Anne. The first race, ‘Her Majesty’s Plate’, with a purse of 100 guineas was held in August 1711. Subsequent Acts of Parliament in the nineteen century cemented the event by establishing the Ascot Authority to manage the racecourse. The world’s finest racehorses compete in more than £7 million prize money. There are three enclosures for guests, with the Royal Enclosure being the most prestigious one.

The race courts were redeveloped in the 1960s. A massive redevelopment followed, and was completed in 2006. It drew criticism for benefiting hospitality at the expense of viewing. But the event kept growing in significance and numbers. In Royal Ascot everything changes, so that everything can stay the same.

Royal Ascot's synonymousness with sartorial elegance is a delight to observe. The event is underway (until 23 June), bringing with it another flamboyant display of hats. See our pick of the most attention-grabbing hats at Alfies, from statement-making to delicate headpieces....


Tuille hat, available from June Victor at Vintage Modes

1960s brown straw floral hat, available from June Victor at Vintage Modes

1960s Chiffon hat, available from June Victor at Vintage Modes

Edna Wall 1960s hat, available from June Victor at Vintage Modes

1970s Jean Muir turban, available from June Victor at Vintage Modes

1950s floral straw hat, available from June Victor at Vintage Modes

Vintage white yellow and blue hat, available from June Victor at Vintage Modes

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