Tuesday 21 May 2013

Society Events Dress Code Races Ascot Epsom

What to wear to the Races

The social season is under way now and we're rapidly approaching the races. Whether you're heading to a smaller event or to the coveted Epsom or Ascot, the races are an occasion to go all out and dress like a real lady.

Last year I had my fifteen (more like five) minutes of fame when I was photographed at the Epsom Derby by Grazia Style Hunter. What a compliment! Obviously I wore a dress...

Ascot dress ideas
'Explaining' my outfit.

The Epsom Outfit

Dress - discovered on a mannequin in a local charity shop. It's a handmade 1950s dress made of crepe de chine over a pale yellow slip with ruching at the waist. The lightweight material creates a feminine silhouette which is ideal for a day at the races. £55 well spent.

Hat - £295 from Yvette Jelfs from LoveHats.

At the races you'll have some serious competition so it's well worth making the effort. Do not underestimate the power of a good hat and avoid unnecessary fussiness - if you've got too much going on you'll spoil the overall effect.

Where to start?

With the strictest guidelines to date at Ascot, miniskirts, sheer dresses and spaghetti straps are no-no’s, and for those ladies in the Royal Enclosure, fascinators are banned and headpieces must have a base of at least 4 inches.

I personally am rejoicing at this; I really dislike fascinators and am seriously considering taking a leaf out of Ascot's book and applying a similar dress-code to our wedding day...

But I digress.

Take a look below for fabulous inspiration for a range of budgets:

Take your cue from Kate Winslet and choose an Ellsewhere animal piece:

Kate Winslet fox
Love, thy name is Peacock. I am in awe of Natalie Ellner's designs; they are brilliantly eccentric but somehow totally stylish at the same time. Go on - be brave. (c) Paul Grover Photography for Ellsewhere

For the sophisticate:

Ascot dress ideas
Large organdie pleat bell with bow
Ascot dress ideas

Faith Hot Pink Pleated Dress REISS, £189

Show your dedication to the sport in this fairytale creation. Let the dress do the talking by accessorising it with a classic wide-brimmed hat:

Ascot dress ideas
Italian straw picture hat with petersham ribbon

Nala Dress with merry-go-round print, Project D

Ascot dress ideas
Sticking with the animal theme, this Anna Sui creation is fantastical yet chic: 
Ascot dress ideas

Anna Sui Lace-trimmed Woven Straw Kitten hat, net-a-porter.com, £396
Cloud Organza Boat Neck Dress, Orla Kiely £338
This outfit comes in under £100 and channels 1920s sportswear chic:

Maddy Disc Hat, John Lewis £40

Ascot dress ideas

Tricolor Dress,Zara £49.99
 For quintessential race day glamour, look no further:

Ascot dress ideas
Ascot dress ideas
I am dangerously in love with this dress, so if any kind soul out there fancies bestowing it upon me then that would be okay. Just the right amount of sparkle for summer social eventsBalanchine Sequin Detail Dress, Alice by Temperley, £465
Ascot dress ideas
Move your bloomin' arse!
I would normally recommend staying well away from maxi dresses for the races, so this is an exception. Take inspiration from My Fair Lady with the next outfit...
Ascot dress ideas
Striped fine straw ring disc with bow

Julia Cuts dress, Acne - £1,250

 Be a breath of fresh air in blue:

Ascot dress ideas
Justine Bradley-Hill, £310

Ascot dress ideas
Limited Edition Chiffon Skater Dress, Topshop, £120

Or go all out and wear the colours of your jockey, (or support the guy (or girl!) wearing your colours...):

Ascot dress ideas
Sweety Dress, Acne - £330

For more dress inspiration, check out:


Quick tips:
  • Don't be afraid to trawl charity and vintage shops. It can be hard work, but when you discover a gem you'll be elated. As will your bank balance.
  • The hat is crucial so do spend time on this. It can make or break an outfit. Etsy and Ebay are really good resources for hats if you're tied to a budget.
  • DIY. I just bought a vintage hat for £8 and am in the process of upcycling it with lace, Liberty prints and silk flowers (photographs to follow). If I can do it, you definitely can!  
“The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners,
but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no thirdclass carriages, and one soul is as good as another.”
George Bernard Shaw, My Fair Lady

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