The 4 Enclosures of Royal Ascot
The busy season in American millinery is slowing down as we move closer to summer and the weather is starting to heat up. In England, it is nearly time for Royal Ascot, the biggest week of racing, British society and millinery fashion. Always an exciting event for hat lovers, the world’s top designers of both fashion and millinery will be represented. In fact, Royal Ascot fashion is an international news event in its own right and sets trends and styles for the coming seasons.
Royal Ascot, the Royal Week of horse racing at Ascot racetrack in Berkshire, occurs during the third week of June. It is not only the premier racing event of the year in Britain, but it is also one of the UK’s biggest social events as well. Famously, Royal Ascot is always attended by the Queen and other members of the Royal family.
As well as the Royals and social elite, over 300,000 other racing and fashion enthusiasts attend Royal Ascot each year. There are four different Enclosures (viewing areas) at Ascot Racecourse – The Royal Enclosure, The Queen Anne Enclosure, The Village Enclosure and The Windsor Enclosure. If you attend Royal Ascot, your ticket (or badge) determines which areas you are allowed to enter.
Royal Ascot dress code rules, for both men and women, vary by Enclosure. These rules are related to skirt length, strap width and hat sizes.
The Royal Enclosure
Each day of Royal Ascot opens with the British Royal Family arriving in horse-drawn carriages. The Royals and their invited guests spend their time in the Royal Enclosure, where only the finest food, drink, and fashions are found. No fascinators here! All headpieces must have a base of 4” or greater and men must wear waistcoats and top hats.
The Queen Anne Enclosure
The Queen Anne Enclosure is named for the race’s founding monarch. While not as exclusive as the Royal Enclosure, it is more upscale than the Windsor and Village Enclosures and offers elevated lawn viewing of the racing. The dress code is formal, with women required to wear a hat or a fascinator and men to wear a suit and tie. Queen Anne Enclosure badge holders can participate in the Ascot tradition of singing around the bandstand, fine dining and enjoy the beautiful landscaping.
The Village Enclosure
The Village Enclosure was added in 2017 and is in the center of the track, facing the Grandstand. The dress code is less formal here. Ladies are still required to wear a hat or fascinator, however, and men must still be in suit and tie. There are restaurants and live music in this area, as well.
The Windsor Enclosure
Ascot’s Windsor Enclosure is more relaxed and informal, with a view of the Royal Procession and horses. There is no formal dress code for this enclosure but attendees are encouraged to dress for the occasion.
Royal Ascot puts out an annual Style Guide to help explain the style rules for each Enclosure. It features the work of top British designers and milliners, with tips and recommendations on Ascot dressing and style. In recent years, they have also put together a wonderful Millinery Collective.
It is a huge honor and thrill as a milliner to have one of your pieces worn to Royal Ascot and a huge media opportunity to get your work photographed or featured there. Following Ascot fashion is also a great source of inspiration and a good way to keep up with current millinery trends and materials. To see Royal Ascot hat styles from previous years, download HATalk’s Special Royal Ascot Editions.