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Ahead of the field
7:00am Saturday 16th June 2012 in NewsXtra
Dress up in your finery for the racing season. Lisa Haynes reveals the rules to elegant race day style.
Heels that sink in the grass and hats that fly off in the wind. Never mind the challenge of juggling a champagne glass, clutch bag and betting slip.
Nobody said dressing for the races was easy, but now that Royal Ascot has tightened its dress code the options just got a little fewer.
In the Royal Enclosure, fascinators have been banned in favour of hats, and hemlines need to fall just above the knee or longer. In the less formal Grandstand, a hat, headpiece or fascinator is compulsory and strapless dresses are a no-no.
"It isn't a question of elitism and not being modern in a world where there is less and less requirement to dress smartly - far from it. We want to see modern and stylish dress within the parameters of formal wear," explains Charles Barnett, chief executive at Ascot.
With summer's iconic races fast approaching, it's time to ensure you're a fashion front-runner.
Study the form Aim for best-dressed racegoer with an outfit that's both on-trend and in keeping with the tone of the occasion.
You should feel "chic, neat and a little bit sexy", according to designer Amanda Wakeley, who is showcasing at the Royal Ascot Fashion Show.
"Less is more. For me, the women who always get it right focus on just one great element - the hat, a statement collar or silhouette of a dress."
Before you shop, do some research and ensure you're adhering to the etiquette of both the race meeting you're attending and the ticket tier. Some racecourses are more relaxed than others.
Stand out from the Ladies' Day crowds with something a little offbeat. Step out in a sharp trouser suit for an unexpected look - ideal if you're not keen on flashing your legs.
For a fail-safe look, you're sure to be first past the fashion post if you stick to bright colours, killer heels that won't fall victims to the mud and a flattering headpiece.
Don't despair if racehorses aren't on your agenda this summer. The principles of race day dressing often transfer to occasionwear. Similarly, trackside outfits can be recycled for weddings, christenings and garden party gatherings simply by switching your accessories.
Pick a winner With Royal Ascot's new guidelines highlighting headwear, oversized hats are taking centre stage this season.
Nothing says race day fashion like a millinery masterpiece to top off your look.
"For a strong look, opt for bold colours such as tangerine or fuchsia," advises Amanda Scott, head of buying at John Lewis.
"Look for extra detailing on headwear such as trims and riffs in directional styles to stand out from the fashion pack."
As hats are so hot this summer, let your headwear lead your look. First, find the show-stopping piece and then seek out an outfit that showcases your hat to the max.
Make sure your chosen hat flatters your face and silhouette. "Large, wide-brim hats suit heart-shaped faces and slim-line silhouettes, while on-trend smaller pillar box hats suit longer face shapes and more detailed outfits," Scott suggests.
"As a general rule, the brim of your hat should never be wider than the width of your shoulders."
Try on as many styles and colours as possible to find your perfect match.
Insider tips Free style consultations are available from McArthurGlen Designer Outlets (www.mcarthurglen.com/hottotrot), whose Shaeren McKenzie offers her tips for the perfect racing outfit: :: Pastels are huge this season and will work brilliantly for summer race meetings. Tribal and tropicana prints are also a key trend and will give your outfit a playful twist. Be careful not to go overboard - balance a printed dress with neutral accessories.
:: Coral is the colour of the season but can be quite intimidating. If you're feeling brave, opt for a colour block dress in full-on tangerine. Alternatively, give a nod to the trend by adding a shot of colour to a neutral outfit.
:: Avoid sinking into the grass by wearing chunky block heels or wedges, rather than spiked stilettos. Towering raffia weave wedges will look great in bright colours and will keep you perfectly upright and balanced the entire day.
:: The races are a great excuse to get really dressed up, so make the most of it. Mid-length midi skirts and dresses are in vogue and will also ensure you are well within the dress code guidelines.
:: Couples should complement one another, not match. Men can pick up on their partner's colour scheme with a hint of colour in their tie or cravat, or with a flash of a coloured sock.
:: If you choose a large or statement headpiece, make sure you let the hat take centre stage. A statement brim will look chic with a clean-cut, well-tailored shift in a plain block colour.
:: Bare shoulders are often not appropriate for the races. If you choose a strapless dress, cover up with a neat boucle jacket in a light sorbet shade. Embellishment is key this season, so a bejewelled collar or cuff will add instant glamour.
:: Your everyday tote bag isn't suitable for a day's racing. Instead, opt for this season's oversized clutch in a luxe leather or animal print. Glamorous oversized sunglasses are also a must to avoid squinting while trying to spot your runner.
Get the look Hats off to Pippa Middleton for her glam wedding look. Go on red alert for Jaeger's similar jersey wrap dress, £140 (www.jaeger.co.uk).
Buy it now Wedding season is upon us and if you've got a demanding hen or blushing bride to please, get the personalised touch with ClaireaBella's BrideaBella large jute. Make your bag bespoke with the bride-to-be's married name, hair and eye colour, £39.99 (www.toxicfox.co.uk).
Fashion flash :: Hemline high Seems no other fashion year was as swinging as 1965. The year Mary Quant's mini was launched into the mainstream was deemed the best high of the last 50 years, according to a recent survey by isme.com. The year of shoulder pads and shellsuits, 1986, stood out as the biggest wardrobe low. Isme invited 1,000 women who have lived through the past 50 years to give their opinion - with the benefit of hindsight - on the most classic and tragic wardrobe items.
:: Calendar boys June is the new January with White Stuff's latest offering. That's the start month of the new UHT (Udderly Hot Totty) calendar. There's a different hunk for every month as voted for by visitors to the White Stuff website. The charity calendar is available now, priced £3, with proceeds donated to the White Stuff Foundation (www.whitestuff.com).
:: For more information on how to get the best out of your race day fashion visit www.lovetheraces.com