Stylist's anti-Ascot dress guide

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Anna Pollitt
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Royal Ascot is underway and once again event organisers have rolled out a strict dress code telling "ladies" exactly what they can and cannot wear.

Its fashion-unfriendly ruling bans female ticketholders from entering the race meet in outfits with thin straps, off-the-shoulder sleeves, cropped tops and high hemlines. 

"Ladies are kindly advised that formal daywear is a requirement," the code says, before listing its own exacting interpretation of what formal dressing should entail.

Prior experience of choosing outfits for work events, weddings and parties means nothing to the style judges at Ascot, where your halterneck is certainly not welcome.

As well as putting just about every SS16 trend on its kill list, Ascot permits trousers only if they are "full length" and worn as part of a matching suit.


  • Dresses and skirts should fall just above the knee or longer
  • Jackets and pashminas may be worn
  • Trousers suits are welcome but they should be full length and of matching material and colour
  • All straps should be one inch or greater. Strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck and spaghetti straps are not permitted
  • Hats or headpieces with a solid base of four inches or more should be worn

We're okay, thanks Ascot. 

Join us outside the royal enclosure with these 20 banned beauties, including cold shoulder silhouettes, '90s slip dresses, palazzo pants and stomach-baring cutaways...

  • Jolly Halter

    Halter straps and flash of midriff disqualify this box pleat dress - but it's one of our hot favourites.

    (£246.69, Alice & Olivia)


  • The Closer

    We'd break all the rules for this off-shoulder dress.

    (£335.80, Tory Burch)

  • On The Nose

    If anyone knows stylish dresses, it's Diane von Furstenberg.

    But this bold-print Seanna silk dress is still too short for the Ascot outfit judges.

    (£375, Net-a-Porter)

  • Pacesetting Pants

    Pair these box pleat, high-waist Atra trousers with a close-fitting crop top to stay gallops ahead of the rest.

    (£125, AQAQ



  • Jackpot Silks

    Demi-couture, organic silk, and superb as Parlor's flower dress is, it's too strapless and too short for the famous racing 'do.

    (£378, Wolf and Badger)

  • A Sure Thing

    PilyQ's Inca Michelle black embroidered dress is pure summertime magic.

    £175, Harvey Nichols

  • The Thoroughbread

    This Red Valentino flared dress is a good longterm bet, but its high-riding hemline could get you kicked out of the royal enclosure.

    £385.00 Far Fetch

  • Queen For The Day

    Slip on River Island's metallic floral hair crown and don't look back.

    (£14, Asos)

  • Short Price

    We're dressing up Mango's premium collection linen trousers with heels and a long jacket - but they're still not good enough for the Grandstand.

    (£59.99, Mango)

  • It's A Tie

    This silk cropped top is a winner with loose, high-waist trousers.

    (£49.99, Mango)


  • Trixie Straps

    Give your wardrobe a jolt with this orange dress from Kooples.

    Just don't expect to fit in on Ladies Day.

    (£110, Kooples)



  • Floral Forecast

    It's good enough for a wedding but this patterned jumpsuit will be considered indecent at Ascot.

    (£49.99, H&M)


  • Each Way

    Who could say no to this chic silk combo? 

    Berkshire's big event could - shorts are a big no-no at Ascot.

    (Top, £135, Shorts, £95, Topshop)

  • In The Red

    It looks demure enough but those delicate straps make this elegant lace dress an Ascot no-no.

    (£139, Warehouse)

  • Stretch Runner

    We're taking a punt on these double Georgette trousers with a high shoe and lace top.

    (£169, Pinko)


  • The Sleeper

    Made from lace, silk and Ascot's hated spaghetti straps, we're putting all our money on this killer lace cami.

    (£149, Zadig & Voltaire)


  • Hot To Trot

    This spot slip dress with deep lace trim won't do us any favours on race day, but it's fulfilling our '90s nostalgia trip.

    (£36, Topshop)

  • Photo Finish

    This Zara beauty meets Ascot's one-inch straps requirement but the above-knee side slits and exposed back lower the odds of it crossing the finish line.

    (£69.99, Zara)

  • Smart Money

    We're putting everything on this floral cross-back jumpsuit.

    (£24.99, New Look)


  • Head Of The Stretch

    Boho ruled the SS16 catwalks and this handmade T-bar headpiece is a delight to behold.

    But it's not a hat - so you can't wear it to Ascot.

    (£52, Rock N Rose)


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Anna Pollitt

Anna is a freelance writer and editor who’s been making her dime from online since 2007. She’s a regular at, ITV News and Emerald Street and moonlights as a copywriter and digital content consultant.