Today heralds the start of June, the most exciting month on the royal hat calendar. While there will undoubtedly be some great hats at the Epsom Races and Trooping the Colour, the pinnacle of royal events this month is Royal Ascot. Reader Charles (known here as Chicago Chuck) has attended Ascot several times and shared his experience buying an antique silk top hat for the event. This year, he is headed back to the UK to take in the races and has generously invited Royal Hats readers along for inside view of the experience, sharing everything from the preparation and wardrobe planning to the Pimm’s on raceday.
Royal Ascot, one of the most exciting and interesting events on the annual calendar of what used to be termed the “London Season” is held each year during the third week of June. The Saturday previous to Royal Ascot is the annual Trooping the Color (Queen’s birthday parade) and the Monday of Ascot week is the annual Service of Thanksgiving for members of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Royal Ascot is held on the Tuesday through Saturday of the week of Garter Day. There are various areas (enclosures) within the Ascot racecourse facility with the most exclusive being the Royal Enclosure.
Just what is the Royal Enclosure? The Royal Enclosure can be most easily described as the VIP section of the Ascot Racecourse. But what a grand VIP section it is! It includes areas available only to those wearing the distinctive badges of a Royal Enclosure attendee. There are excellent areas to view the actual racing – with garden areas where one can almost reach out and touch the horses as they cross the finishing post. There are also Grandstand areas with seating, and beautiful garden areas for dining, drinking the all-important glass of champagne to celebrate a win or lament a loss, and to do one of the most enjoyable parts of Royal Ascot – people watch!
Because of the very strict dress guidelines and requirements the people watching is like no other. Women in formal day wear – dresses of modest length with no bare shoulders and a hat or headpiece with a base of at least four inches. Men in formal day wear – black or gray morning dress, including a waistcoat (vest) and tie, as well as a black or gray top hat.
There is no better or easier place to meet someone – every woman enjoys a friend or stranger to walk up and compliment her hat and outfit; likewise, any gentleman is pleased when another person compliments him on his dandy outfit and beautiful topper! After a great start to what might become a new friendship, a shared glass of bubbly is just the way to enjoy the Royal Enclosure.
Races are run beginning at 2:30 PM with additional races throughout the afternoon, approximately every 45 minutes.