It’s finally that time of the year when ladies don their best hats and men put on their finest suits to head to Royal Ascot! I’m lucky enough to have been a member of Royal Ascot for two years, but this was my first time attending the races. I was also invited by Stella Artois, so I have them to thank for my amazing day as well!
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when anyone thinks of Ascot is the outfits, and I was no different. I was so excited to choose what to wear, but didn’t have time to go shopping until the day before the event…! There is a strict dress code at Ascot, so I was worried it would be difficult to find something that ticked every box in the short time span. Ladies have to have dresses of ‘modest length’ falling just above the knee, dress straps have to be one inch or more, suits must be of matching material or colour and hats or headpieces (over 4 inches!) must be worn. I thought I would try my luck with John Lewis as I’ve had beautiful pieces from there before, and thank God I did! The personal shopping experience I had there was excellent – the assistant helping me could not have been more helpful and complimentary and the selection of dresses on offer were gorgeous. Being me, I couldn’t narrow down my choices so I ended up with 5 dresses. I was attending another event the evening of Ascot, so I wore one dress during the day and one during the evening, and I can’t wait to debut the other three.
I want to say a personal thank you to Jess Collett (@jesscollettmilliner) who provided me with my stunning hat for the day. I messaged her on Instagram on Thursday night, hoping I hadn’t left it too late, but they replied instantly and on Friday morning I was in the shop trying on hats! The assistants were so friendly and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.
I was so nervous on my way, and in such a rush that I had to paint my nails in the car! I’d never been to an event quite like this one and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, my journey there was relaxing, despite worrying I was going to spill nail varnish on my new dress, as I had chosen to travel by car with an Ascot chauffeur – one of the many travel options offered by Royal Ascot. However, next year I’ll definitely be going in one of the helicopters they offer guests!
The day itself was such an exciting day out. I went with a big group of friends, and we had such good luck with the weather – it had been raining all week but the sun shone throughout the day.
We had a delicious lunch – foie gras for a starter, chicken and vegetables for the main and an absolutely divine panna cotta with raspberries. At 2pm, we watched the Royal Procession, a tradition that has been in place since 1875, and then the races kicked off at 2.30. I’m not much of a better but I got into the spirit of the day and decided to take a chance. I got lucky, winning £300!
Of course, the highlight of the day for me was seeing everyone’s outfits. I saw loads of cool celebs in amazing outfits and interesting hats, and I’ve been scrolling through Instagram since I got back to see even more of them. Even the jockey’s outfits were astonishing – in fact, the only reason I picked my winning horse was because of the outfit he was wearing. He was dressed like a bumble bee, in bright yellow with massive black dots, which I thought was cute. The horse was also called Defoe, and I know the footballer Jermaine Defoe so that sold it for me – and how lucky that I did!
The structure and layout of the day was strangely old fashioned, and for a lot of people this is where the charm lies. Where you sat depended on what kind of ticket you held, with the lower-tier tickets being out in the blazing heat and the higher-tier or VIP tickets in an enclosure. The highest tier of ticket was reserved for the VVIPs who watched the races from cabanas separate from everybody else. I felt extremely lucky to be in the Royal Enclosure, and later learned that the Royal Enclosure was established in 1807 for the guests of King George III, which made the experience even more exciting. Yet even within the enclosure, I noticed that there were multiple tiers of guests, again reflecting the very traditional nature of the day. In fact, the guests of the event reflected this too, as I did feel that I was one of the only mixed race women in attendance. Living in London, you forget that the metropolitan, diverse bubble does not exist everywhere.
One part of the event I was not expecting at all was the breakout of multiple fights across the weekend. On Friday, 10 men were involved in a brawl in the Windsor Enclosure which has led to Watford FC’s Reece Miller being suspended pending an enquiry. Three people were also arrested as part of this, and it definitely something I could not have predicted at this type of event! With everyone dressed in their best clothes and in such a formal atmosphere, I presumed formal behaviour would be the mode of the day. However, apparently these fights happen every year, fuelled by alcohol, the heat and the competitive atmosphere. Luckily, nothing happened on the day I was attending and everything ran smoothly.
Perhaps the most traditional aspect of the day, and the part that most guests see as a highlight, is the attendance of the Royal Family. The Queen attends Royal Ascot every year, and I managed to catch a glimpse of her, which I couldn’t quite believe. She was wearing lime green which looked pretty fab, and made it easy for her to be spotted. I was hoping to see Megan and Harry, but seeing as they’ve just had a baby, they weren’t in attendance. Maybe next year!
I definitely won’t be missing Royal Ascot next year, and can’t wait for my next day at the races. It was a perfect day and I feel so privileged to have been able to attend. It has to be said that I’ve developed a new passion for racing.