Life Lessons from Ascot
(from an article in the Telegraph)
Ascot dressing is eternally tricky, chiefly because it bears no resemblance to the kind of dressing we engage in the rest of the time (same applies to going on cruises). Paradoxically, that's why it's such an intense course in style lessons for life.
Royal Ascot is not the time for false modesty. It is, and always has been, about being photographed by random strangers. It's hat-to-toe dressing, with nowhere to hide.
Resist the temptation to blow your annual budget on one outfit you may never wear again - but don't go to the other extreme, then spending the day feeling awkward. Read the instructions. For the record, dress code doesn't necessarily mean dress.
Here are some other lessons to ensure that whatever the big occasion, your clothes look the part, and enhance the experience.
1 Don't try too hard. blame it on Cecil Beaton, but many Royal Ascot outfits stray far into My Fair Lady territory. Whether you're dressing for the Royal enclosure, your best friend's wedding or your first-born's bar mitzvah (or your cruise) aim for quietly stunning - or at least an upgraded version of what you most like wearing, rather than David Walliams in drag.
2 'The biggest mistake women tend to make at major events,' says designer Suzannah Crabb (who dresses many clients for Ascot), 'is that they come with a preconceived idea of how to make an impact. They want fuchsia and feathers, but in real life that an look garish.' Crabb suggests flattering simple, architectural silhouettes in soft colours - pinks, corals, blues - that stand the test of time and encourage clients to satisfy their colour craving with bright pops.
3 A coat and dress are more flattering than a jacket, unless it is part of a matching suit. Not any old random coat - spring or summer weight and in a complementary or toning shade and silhouette. Length: probably no more than an inch shorter than your dress.
4 Don't confuse Royal Ascot with cocktail dressing. Sequins and high shine next to reen turf are liable to induce a premature hangover.
5 Navy is perennially chic and demure, or tune it up with metallics, neon, coral or white (increasingly popular) accessories. Stop press: pink, especially the more bubblegum versions, has edged out boring beige shoes.
6 Open-toed sandals don't look right. Opt for a closed toe. It's more comfortable. Patent is good, and rainproof. Suede is obviously not.
7 Tempting as it is to keep calm and carry on in halterneck and sandals in the face of biblical torrents, that way hypothermia lies. So pack a pretty umbrella, some flats, a warm cover-up. Pashminas look dated. Opt for a white or cream boxy tweed jacket or blazer, or a pastel trench coat.
8 Many an outfit is wrecked by a battered work bag. Yours needn't cost a fortune. Keep it small, elegant and fun.
9 Hats: biggest pit of all. 'Smaller' women should avoid huge brims,' counsels Crabb. Bright hats look fabulous with a neutral or pale outfit, but grey or natural straw are more versatile. You can always add your own good quality flowers and feathers. Cheap flowers and ribbons will take you straight to am-dram My Fair Lady territory.
10 Go easy on the make-up. Panstick might work for photos but looks terrifying in natural light. Sometimes you have to forget Instagram and enjoy the moment in real time.