Dress Code: The Royal Enclosure

Words by: Andrew Williams


I’ve just had confirmation on my tickets for this year’s Royal Ascot, one of the great horse racing events in the flat season.

Our Royal Enclosure tickets will mean hiring a morning suit and top hat. This strict dress code may appear to leave you little room for individuality or possibility for error, but there are mistakes to be made, and plenty of people make them.


Firstly you have a choice of four types of morning dress; first, a light grey jacket, trousers and waistcoat; secondly, the charcoal grey jacket, waistcoat and trousers; thirdly, black jacket, and light grey trousers and waistcoat. Finally, the most common and most versatile is the black jacket, dove grey waistcoat and black and grey stripe trousers (you can substitute hounds-tooth trousers for stripped ). Any colour variations on these four are an aberration fit only for weddings in Las Vegas.

You’ll find that black and grey top hats are interchangeable with each morning suit choice according to individual taste.

The key to dressing with style at Ascot is (a) not looking like you hired your kit, (b) appearing to be at ease, and (c) using the freedom afforded you. Five tips you may want to remember;

1- Try to avoid the ultra-conservative and traditional single breasted dove grey waistcoat. It makes it look like you hired your suit. Some hire companies offer a single breasted buff waistcoat, and if you’re not looking to spend any more cash, then go for this option.

2- Go for a double breasted waistcoat if you can, and preferably one made of Linen. While bright colours and patterns can work well, try to avoid shiny materials like silk, they’re better suited to evening wear, and can also make you look as though you’ve hired your kit. The best most elegant dressers pick soft pastel colours with a matte finish.


3- Plump for the black top hat. Traditionally, grey is for weddings while black is for Court functions (Investiture, Garden Party etc). Those who really know what they’re doing go black.


4- A formal dress code can be intimidating and lead you to play it safe, through fear of ‘getting it wrong’. Ascot permits a little more individuality than you imagine, so ditch the white shirt. If you want to show yourself truly at ease in morning dress, go for colours, stripes or white collar and cuff with an appropriate tie. However, they should complement, not match, your waistcoat to avoid being OTT.


5- Do not under any circumstances be tempted to wear a Cravat/Ascot. This is a day collar and tie event, lured down any other road and you’ll look like a man in search of a wedding. Despite the similarity in dress code they are not the same thing.