Royal Ascot: What–and What NOT–to Wear

Designer Isabell Kristensen Reveals Royal Ascot Collection

Here’s what you need to know about Britain’s Runway Race Day

There are few occasions on the British social calendar more sartorially daunting than Royal Ascot. The Queen herself is in the habit of attending this legendary thoroughbred racing meet, scheduled for June 20-24 this year, and the bold and the beautiful have been flocking here for the big event for more than 300 years. (Well, not the same people, mind you, although a few attendees appear so well-preserved that you might wonder).

Queen Elizabeth II rides into Royal Ascot in a horse-drawn carriage.

Events kick off with the Queen’s procession from neighbouring Windsor. (Yes, she is the tiny regal canary in the yellow suit). Hey, it’s called “Royal” Ascot for a reason.

Rocking up in the proper attire is essential. In fact, Ascot has devoted an entire section on its website to the dress code, which varies according to where you sit.

Amy Laughinghouse in a feathered fascinator at Royal Ascot.

That peacock perched on my head is fine for most areas of Ascot, but it would never cut the Grey Poupon in the Royal Enclosure.

For the coveted Royal Enclosure, men must wear a top hat, and everything from the size of a lady’s headpiece to the width of her dress straps is specified down to the inch.

Exposed midriffs are verboten in the Royal, Queen Anne and Village Enclosures.

“Fancy dress” (as in costumes, not “fancy dresses”) are forbidden everywhere…and Daisy Duke cut-offs are, presumably, right out.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a bit of fun and stand out in the crowd.

If your feathered fascinator needs refreshing and last year’s dress is looking bedraggled, Danish-born designer Isabell Kristensen has the couture cure for what ails you.

Kristensen, whose clients include Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, Katy Perry and Monaco’s Princess Charlene, recently debuted her 2017 Royal Ascot collection at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London.

Here are a few of my favourite looks from Kristensen’s show.

models in champagne-colored fascinators at Isabell Kristensen's 2017 Royal Ascot Couture Collection runway show

Beautiful in beige. Or, given that we’re talking about Royal Ascot, perhaps we should call it “champagne.”

Baby blue, buns and bows play a strong role in Isabell Kristensen's 2017 Royal Ascot Couture Collection.

These ladies have got the buns, hon. Oh, and a bow, too.

model in rose-shaped hat at Isabell Kristensen's 2017 Royal Ascot Couture Collection

Everything’s coming up roses.

models in baby blue and pale pink dresses on the runway at Isabell Kristensen's 2017 Royal Ascot Couture Collection catwalk show at the Hyde Park Mandarin Oriental London

Feeling blue? This should cheer you up.

A black dress trimmed with white made a dramatic impression on the catwalk at Isabell Kristensen's 2017 Royal Ascot Couture Collection runway show.

Of course, you could eschew colour altogether. Black and white needn’t have a negative image. (See what I did there?)

Isabell Kristensen's ruffled black hat proves the frill is not gone when it comes to Royal Ascot fashion.

Isabell Kristensen’s ruffled black hat proves the frill is not gone when it comes to Royal Ascot fashion.

Isabell Kristensen's 2017 Royal Ascot Couture Collection places a heavy emphasis on monochromatic black and white.

But depending on where you sit at Royal Ascot, you don’t necessarily HAVE to wear a hat. In the Windsor Enclosure, where there is no formal dress code, a Mona Lisa smile will do just fine.

Detailed tailoring and clean, classic lines reigned at Isabell Kristensen's 2017 Royal Ascot Couture Collection catwalk show.

Everything’s gonna be all white. Bonus: you could wear this again for your wedding. How often can you say that?

From the runway to the racecourse. It’s a safe bet you’ll be seeing some of these designs by Isabell Kristensen at Royal Ascot this year.

Designer Isabell Kristensen (sixth from left, in black) joins her models at the top of the catwalk following her 2017 Royal Ascot Couture Collection runway show in London.

Designer Isabell Kristensen (brunette in black, on the left) joins her models on the catwalk following the debut of her 2017 Royal Ascot Couture Collection, where petal pink, baby blue, black and white reigned supreme.

woman in high heels walking on crutches

Just remember…if your heels aren’t high enough to require that you walk on crutches, you’re not really trying.


Get geared up: For more information on Isabell Kristensen’s boutiques in London and Monaco, click here.

Getting there: From London’s Waterloo Station, the train to Ascot takes less than an hour. For rail tickets, visit

Getting in: Royal Ascot tickets range from £37 ($48 USD) to £88 ($113.50 USD). Tickets are selling faster than a racehorse on crack, so it’s not too soon to start planning. You can buy your tickets here.

Get tucked in: 11 Cadogan Gardens—an iconic boutique hotel in London’s Chelsea neighbourhood—is offering a Royal Ascot Glam Up package with Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa. Ward is the celebrity hairstylist who ensures Kate Middleton’s royal ‘do is never a “don’t,” so if you’ve ever longed for luxurious locks like the Duchess of Cambridge, this is your chance. The package, available from June 20-24, includes:
· Richard Ward Glam Up (Kérastase conditioning treatment, blow out, head piece fitting, manicure, full make-up application)
· Overnight stay (from Superior Queen)
· Breakfast for two
· Champagne in the room upon arrival
Rates from $580 USD.

Coworth Park, a five-star country house hotel and a member of the Dorchester Collection, is conveniently located within the town of Ascot on the borders of Windsor Great Park. The hotel is sold out during Royal Ascot this year, but it’s worth planning ahead for next June. Amenities include two restaurants, a spa, tennis,  and croquet. If Royal Ascot has awoken your inner equestrian, you can also go horseback riding or take polo lessons at one of Coworth Park’s two professional polo fields. Rates from £345 ($445 USD).

thoroughbred horses racing on the track at Royal Ascot

Run, don’t walk, to get your tickets for Royal Ascot 2017! Or, you know, just order them online while you sit there on the sofa.


  1. Denise says:

    So, I guess my Cicinnati red baseball hat is a strike out?

    • Au contraire, ma cherie! As long as it has “a solid base of 4 inches (10 cm) or more in diameter,” you should be fine! Anyway, we both know YOU could probably get away with just about anything, punny lady. ‘-)

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