Last week, one of the largest morning dress events of the year took place in Ascot. Although primarily a horse race, Royal Ascot is well known for its formal etiquette in the Royal Enclosure as well as the extravagant hats of the ladies. Last year, I wrote about the dress code at Royal Ascot and today, I want to present to you a number of highlights and faux-pas as well as general impressions.
Royal Ascot Do’s
First of all, I would like to draw your attention to David Weir . One might argue that his vest resembles the ones you get at formal wear rental establishments, and while that’s true he has my respect. Finding morning wear when you are in a wheel chair is not easy, and it leaves more able men without excuse not to wear morning wear at Royal Ascot.
When we talk about sartorially advanced Princes of the British Monarchy, Prince Charles will certainly be one of the first on the list and even his father, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh dresses splendidly. Some may even think of Prince Michael of Kent or Prince Edward dress well while Prince Andrew is often forgotten. At this year’s event, the latter was among my favorites. In the picture above, he is wearing a top black silk plush top hat that fits perfectly. His morning wear ensemble with pink micropattern tie, stick pin and buff waistcoat looks great on him. Note the wide button stance of the 6×2 waistcoat with cloth covered buttons and how the watch chain suits him and his figure perfectly. His rose boutonniere is simple and he skips the pocket square. Some may argue that his collar gaps a bit but I think this is just due to the movement. The shoes look great and it is difficult to say whether they are actually patent leather oxfords or simply spit-polished. In the 1920’s, men wore patent leather shoes for daywear but today that’s not really the case. Regardless, they shine like a patent leather shoe and look fantastic! What do you think? Patent leather or not?
The older generation of the British Royals is generally very well dressed, while the younger ones seem to dress, let’s say, “interestingly” at times. However, this year it seems they were all well put together.
Generally, I enjoy looking at the outfits of Prince Michael of Kent because he doesn’t fear mixing bold patterns. He is open to more unusual looks yet he always looks classic. Here, he pulls of a horizontally striped Winchester shirt with one of his big tie knots, a dark pearl tie stick pin, a buff vest, a grey top hat and most importantly, a notched lapel morning coat with partial silk facings. Now that’s something out of the box!
Prince Edward was properly dressed in a charcoal peaked lapel morning coat with a dove grey, a single breasted waistcoat and a slip. Blue always works well with yellow, though Edward added a pastel rose boutonniere, white pocket square and a printed pheasant tie, which adds a twist to his outfit.
Prince Charles made a splendid impression in his three piece morning suit. Paired with a light blue winchester shirt, a spread collar and a pastel tie, he looked very dapper. The fit is excellent, and his black top hat adds a bit of contrast to the otherwise low-contrast outfit. Note, his shoes are polished black leather oxfords that he has worn for years and while they are shiny, they are not as impressive as Prince Andrew’s.
Earl Spencer wears a very classic uneventful morning coat ensemble. Now, some may think it is a bit boring but considering how many poorly executed morning coat outfits exist, the simple and classic approach is often the best way to dress at an event like Royal Ascot.
In this category, I’d like to highlight details that are a bit edgy and may not work for everybody.
Generally, I am quite fond of the outfit of the Earl of Mornington. The trousers and morning coat are cut slim, which suits his built. The delicate slip accentuates the V of the vest. Aside from the top hat that is too bulky for his head, the other questionable feature of his outfit is his slippers – what do you think of them?
This young chap’s top hat is very nice indeed, and so are the stripes on his trousers. The patent leather square-toe wing tip shoes, bold striped tie and flowery socks definitely lend a modern touch to the outfit. Personally, I would not wear any of these specific items but that doesn’t mean they might not be a good fit for you.
Contemporary morning trouser fabrics are rather thin and prone to wrinkles. Hence, I prefer vintage trousers in heavy cloth because even if I sit all day, chances are there are none, if any, wrinkles when I stand up again.
Overall, this is a decent outfit – just the soft, wavy collar and the wristwatch don’t go well with morning wear.
Gary Lineker wears his morning coat with a single breasted vest, which is fine in itself, but the trousers are too short and made to be worn with a belt. Generally you should always avoid belts with vests, but wearing it with a morning coat ensemble is simply inappropriate.
Of course, all general rules of fit apply to morning dress as well. Headphones and sunglasses make awkward companions for a top hat.
Sheik Mohammed certainly knows his horses, but when it comes to morning dress, he has a lot to learn. Interestingly, it’s not just the overall look that is rather poor but also details – for example, the shirt cuffs are not only inappropriate, they are also ill-fitting. The tie shows from underneath the vest and the trousers may be more suited for hip-hop videos rather than Royal Ascot.
Who would have thought a hat could draw that much attention?!
I don’t know of any other place in the world – and this may be the first time I have used this phrase in three years – that showcases more top hats than Royal Ascot. While most of them look alike in the pictures, there are huge differences in quality and the materials used. As a consequence you can buy new wool felt top hats in a clunky shape for $100 or refined Victorian masterpieces made of silk plush for $25,000 – the difference is all in the detail. While vintage top hats are generally of much higher quality than new ones, most of the old hats don’t fit our larger, modern heads. For more details about top hats, take a look here.
Personally, I love this picture from the Royal Enclosure because it is so British! Green lawn, benches with enough space in between not to disturb each other, and gentlemen in morning dress and ladies with dresses and hats. For more information about morning wear, please take a look at the Morning Dress Guide.