It’s 9.30 am and you’ve been in hair, make-up and the hell of last-minute doubts for what seems aeons. Don’t feel bad.
Let’s be clear, unless you’re a Royal, Ascot Dressing is eternally tricky chiefly because it bears no resemblance to the kind of dressing we engage with the rest of the time. Paradoxically, that’s exactly why it’s such an intense course in style lessons for life.
It’s easy to forget just how anachronistic Ascot Dressing is in the safety of your home, when you and the mirror agree that you’re looking pretty spiffy in your Ascot togs.
“It’s not even like wedding-guest dressing,” says designer Suzannah Crabb for whom this is the busiest time of year. “You can be a bit more theatrical at Ascot and you don’t have to think about the people sitting behind you in church, so you can go for a bigger, taller hat.”
Many women don’t wear hats at all to weddings these days. They dress for the party rather than the Church photos. At Ascot it’s all about head-to-toe dressing – and the selfies. There are no tables to hide behind. This year the organisers have even installed a wall of flowers specifically for race goers to selfie themselves against.
There is plenty of space for other people to get a long shot of you, your hat and your shoes. This the closest the British have to La Passagiata (the Italian custom, generally on a Saturday night of strolling along main street in their finery with the chief object of being admired). Ascot is not about being falsely modest or retiring.
The penny starts to drop when you get on the Tube and head towards a mainline, Ascot-bound, station. Strap-hanging alongside the office commuters, the Dutch back-packers and the school outing, you suddenly feel like a complete tit, and surreptitiously remove your pillbox (or at least as surreptitiously as it’s possible to remove a comb attachment that took you ten minutes and half a can of Elnett to secure) and attempt to conceal the Royal Enclosure badge you spent ages pinning symmetrically.
No one, but no one, dresses like this in real life. You couldn't look more identifiably alien if you had a huge sticker on your forehead saying Toff.
Yet as you draw closer to your destination, you see signs that you are not alone after all. On the platforms at Waterloo, Paddington and Reading there are scores of similarly anachronistically dressed race goers, and they don’t look remotely fazed. Mind you, this could be because some of them have already started on the champagne.
By the time you’ve trudged the half to ¾ mile from Ascot station to the Royal Ascot entrance (you packed flats, right?) you’re surrounded by the plumed, the pastelled and the Morning Suited. Don’t try to fight it. This is not the moment to reconnect with your inner socialist revolutionary. Save that til you get home.
Umbrella surfing at Royal Ascot yesterday, I realised it’s not the rain that makes this such a challenging event to dress for, it’s all our other baggage. Women either focus so much energy on the event they blow their annual budget on one outfit they may never wear again, or they go to the other extreme, cobbling something together, then spend thy day feeling resentful and awkward.
Or they don’t read the instructions. One highly intelligent friend who had a last minute panic that the ten year old dress she’d planned to wear might be a bit dour for the Royal Enclosure was astonished to discover that she could wear a skirt. She thought the dress code meant just that: dresses.
With issues like that, it’s no wonder that rain is the least of any woman’s problems. In fact brollies aside, hardly any one made any concessions to the weather on the first day of this parade-fest. The women in their scoop backed fuchsia dresses and strappy sandals were wearing what they’d always planned on wearing – risks of trench foot and hypothermia cast to one side with the same disdain that the Leave campaign has been pouring on Remain’s downbeat forecasts for sterling and jobs.
It’s not so surprising perhaps. What are you meant to do when the outfit you've lovingly pieced together after months of Pinterest stalking suddenly seems about as appealing and comfortable as a soggy tissue in January? If you belong to the extremely niche society of women who have dozens of dresses and perfectly toning coats, in various weights and chromatically weather-appropriate shades, then perhaps you can afford to be spontaneous on the day. Everyone else is stuck with the optimistic projections they made all those months ago when they applied for tickets and June seemed like a safe sunny bet.Read more at:amazing formal dresses | cheap formal dresses