Royal Ascot headwear, what should you wear to the races?

Well ladies, for all you lovers of fabulous headwear, it’s almost here! 

Royal Ascot

20th – 24th June 2017

It isn’t too late to order but the clock is most definitely ticking if you want to commission a piece, just 2 months to go.

I’m a sucker for the formality and tradition that surrounds Royal Ascot.  I love the uncompromising high standards that are demanded in attire, and the keen attention to detail.  I loathe seeing ladies days at the races descending into glitzy prom/nightclub territory, a sea of synthetic shiny froth and flounce.  If that makes me a snob, I’m sorry but I’m not sorry!

My aim in this blog post is to get to grips with the nitty gritty surrounding your all important headwear.  If this is your first outing to Ascot you must ensure you are fully versed in the regulations for your enclosure, as each area has different requirements.  Failure to comply will result in a failure to be admitted, so take heed.



This is what the official guidelines have to say with regard to headwear.

Royal Enclosure

“Hats should be worn; however a headpiece which has a solid base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat”

“Fascinators are not permitted; neither are headpieces which do not have a solid base covering a sufficient area of the head (4 inches/10cm).”

Queen Anne Enclosure and Village Enclosure

“A hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times.”

Windsor Enclosure

“Whilst we encourage racegoers to wear smart clothes, no formal dress code applies”



Well you probably will be, I make them and I am!   I’ve been doing a little research to see if I can get any clear definitions as to what is what and as a result, I probably need to revisit the classifications of some of the designs on my website.

Generally the press seem to call anything not instantly recognisable as a hat with the full crown and brim, a “fascinator” but this isn’t correct, it’more complicated than that.  I’m not going to categorise every type of headwear, I’ll try to keep it to just 3.



"noun: fascinator; plural noun: fascinators

1. a woman's light, decorative headpiece consisting of feathers, flowers, beads, etc. attached to a comb or hair clip."

As far as I can establish, a fascinator is a hair decoration mounted usually on a comb or clip with feather trimmings, sinamay loops, flowers or bows.  Fascinators do not have a base.  They perch on the side of the head and do not cover it.  They come in all shapes and sizes.

Below left to right these fascinators are from Accessorize, Coast and Phase Eight.  If this is what you are looking for in headwear then you can't beat the high street for value, very affordable and decorative.  Quality does vary but generally the makes I've shown offer value for money.  Sadly they are also my least favourite type of headwear to look at or make, they just don't have any real presence but I can see they have their place for wedding guests just wanting a little bit of something without blowing their budget.  The huge popularity of this style of fascinator, their mass manufacture and widespread availability triggered much public derision from couture milliner Philip Treacy and prompted him to say "the fascinator is dead and I'm delighted."

Below are some examples of Philip Treacy's take on the fascinator, a far cry from the high street imitations but with a price tag to match. Please note, though exquisite and inspiring, they are still not Royal Enclosure worthy.

I really don't know how I dare post images of my fascinators next to those of Philip Treacy pictures but please bear with me, a professional reshoot of my non bridal pieces is in the pipeline (albeit lurking very deeply).

Ok, I think that's fascinators covered but always happy to answer any questions you may have.



"noun: headpiece; plural noun: headpieces; noun: head-piece; plural noun: head-pieces

1. a device worn on the head as an ornament or to serve a function"

Ok, this category I confess has me a little stumped.  I’ve Googled, chatted to experts and sifted through photographs to try and define what constitutes a “Headpiece”.   I’ve come to the conclusion there are 2 general types, as far as Ascot and occasion wear millinery are concerned.

Firstly, the “Cocktail Hat”.  These are smaller that traditional hats, usually brimless but with a formed base.  They are generally worn perched on the side or top of the head.  They are usually trimmed or embellished in a relatively dramatic manner.  Remember though to be Royal Enclosure worthy it must be a base of 4inch (10cm) diameter.

Secondly, the “Saucer”.  These are big plate like pieces with subtle shaping to the curve of the head.  My larger saucers usually have a secondary base under them which does meet thesize criteria and others I do can be made that way too, thus removing any remote doubt.

I wasn’t clear whether these met with the criteria for the Royal Enclosure initially, as whilst the size is certainly beyond 10cm diameter, the area in direct contact with the head varies.  They have however been widely worn by younger royals and TV presenters, to the event though so I believe the precedence is firmly set. 



"noun: hat; plural noun: hats

1. a shaped covering for the head worn for warmth, as a fashion item, or as a part of uniform."

I don't think I really need to elaborate on this one, so I won't.  Suffice to say if you can't rock a fabulous hat at Ascot, I can't think where else you would want to go to try.  It is "the" best occasion in the social calendar to make that millinery statement.



There are a list of strict dress code requirements for clothing, these cover dress, skirt and trouser length, matching fabrics rules, strap width, etc.  I won’t repeat it all here, instead you are best taking the official advice from the experts by clicking on the link below and also watching their video put together in association with Boss and Fenwick. 

Click here to read the official Royal Ascot style guide 2017.


Don't forget I can help solve your headwear dilemas, just drop me a line or give me a ring!

If you are going, have a fabulous day (whatever you choose to wear), I hope the sun shines, your horse wins, and the bubbles flow!

Until next time,

Harriet x

ps Keep watching, I have more hat news to come in the not too distant future.  Why not subscribe to hear more.