I know nothing about horses, gambling or how to wear a hat, but I can be hedonistic, and I enjoy a glass or two, maybe even three, of a certain French drink with bubbles. My lovely friend Hilary invited me into her private “Winning Post” enclosure again, so Mark and I draped ourselves in Best of British finery and headed on down to Royal Ascot on a wet and tempetuous Tuesday, the sort of blustery day to which Winnie the Pooh is rather partial.
The Ascot Gavotte (My Fair Lady)
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ev’ry duke and earl and peer is here
Ev’ryone who should be here is here.
What a smashing, positively dashing
Spectacle: the Ascot op’ning day.
Ascot came galloping into my radar when I was about six years old. I had just watched My Fair Lady with my friend Tina, and within days, we were crooning away to anyone who would listen to us, with the not-so-quiet assurance that we could do a great cockney accent. A few years later, Tina and I morphed from Eliza Doolittle into Frida and Agnetha of Abba, although to this day we still fight about who was which pop star.
Who can possibly forget the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady? The costumes were designed by Cecil Beaton, and it’s one of my favourite film moments. The Ascot hat and dress worn by Audrey Hepburn were purchased by the actress Debbie Reynolds, and later sold by auction for a staggering $3.7 million.
- In 1711, Queen Anne came across a stretch of land that she thought would be an ‘ideal place for horses to gallop at full stretch’. The first race took place in August of that year.
- 1825 was the year of the first Royal Procession.
- Ladies’ Day is on the third day of Royal Ascot, and it’s the busiest.
- The Queen has attended every Royal Meeting during her reign. Her racing colours are purple body with gold braid, scarlet sleeves and black velvet cap with gold fringe.
- In 1955, divorcees were allowed to enter the Royal Enclosure.
- 300,000 visitors will come across the 5 days.
- The money pot this year is worth £6.58 million.
- Approximately 400 helicopters and 1000 limousines will be used as a transportation mode this year.
- There are more than 100 bars and food services surrounding the racecourse, and 247 private boxes.
- Some of the food and beverage we will consume:
- 51,000 bottles of champagne
- 160,000 glasses of Pimms
- 35,000 spears of English asparagus
- 2,900 lobsters
- 30,000 chocolate choux éclairs
Not all Breeds are tolerated
The Royal: You can’t just waltz into the Royal Enclosure. Membership is by invitation only. Newbies must be sponsored by a Member who has attended Ascot for four previous years, and an invitation to the races for existing members is sent by Her Majesty’s Representative.
Ladies, the Ascot Fashion police will not tolerate any horsing around with your hats and hemlines. Trashy and flashy are not permitted, and even fascinators were recently expelled. Hems should fall just above the knee or longer, and straps must be one inch or greater. Thanks to the ultimate dandy Beau Brummel, gentlemen also have a dress code dating back to the 19th century: grey or black morning suits, waistcoats and top hats are all on the dress menu.
The Queen Anne: Tickets for this enclosure can be purchased, and the dress rules are more relaxed. A hat, fascinator or headpiece must be worn, and strapless or sheer dresses are not allowed. Gents are required to wear a suit and tie.
The Windsor: The Windsor is less formal, and barring sports shirts, there is no formal dress guideline here. Nevertheless, it is expected that you’ll make yourself smart and presentable.
Ladies’ Day. Held on the Thursday of Ascot week, Ladies’ Day is the most competitive fashion event of the social calendar. The hats can take your breath away, from the startling to the stunning, and from horrendous to bewildering.
Horsing around with friends