The history of sport is inextricably tied to fashion, and there is perhaps no greater crucible of physical prowess and style than Royal Ascot. Taking place over five days at the Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire during June each year, Ascot brings together the crème de la crème of British high society, including the entirety of the royal family, and a generous smattering of supermodels, It-girls, and darlings of the silver screen. It was fitting, then, that Ghazal chose to celebrate the launch of our Spring 2022 collection with a private event hosted in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot.
Founder Houda Ghazal wore a white cream lace dress by Erdem and the classic ‘Jackie’ shoe by Ghazal for the occasion, which was attended by an intimate mix of influencers and VIPs. Among them were Lady Sophie Windsor, Kelly Prehn, Ikram Abdi, Kate Mason, and Lilah Parsons.
“Ascot is an amazing opportunity to celebrate fashion,” says Ghazal.
Indeed, over the years Ascot has seen its fair share of memorable fashion moments. In 1982, Jerry Hall attended Ascot in a fabulous monochrome look, complete with Dynasty-esque lapels, a string of pearls, and a decorative solid gold binocular set, with model pal Marie Helvin on her arm. Four years later, Princess Diana stole the show in a cream peplum skirt suit, cinched at the waist and paired with a wide-brim Philip Somerville hat. Most recently, turns from the Duchess of Cambridge, in powder blue Elie Saab in 2019, and My Fair Lady-esque white lace Alexander McQueen in 2017, as well as Lady Kitty Spencer in Dolce & Gabbana and Sophie, Countess of Wessex in Emilia Wickstead, both in 2019, proved enduring Ascot best-dressed moments.
The race dates back to the 1700s, but it was at the turn of the 19th century that a dress code emerged, when Beau Brummel (a friend of the Prince Regent and early style savant who reportedly polished his boots with champagne) began demanding that male attendees must wear black coats, white cravats, and pantaloons. In 1910, to show respect for the late King Edward VII, those in attendance dressed entirely in black, save for the strings of pearls worn by the more fashionable female aristocrats. Today, Ascot boasts one of the most stringent dress codes in the world—guests of the Royal Enclosure must adhere to a 36-page dossier that specificies, among other things, the width of the straps on women’s dresses (one-inch), and the base of hats (10 centimeters). Dresses are expected to fall below the knee and halter neck dresses, and off-the-shoulder silhouettes are banned, as are fascinators and headbands. That’s not to say that the rules of the Royal Enclosure are completely unbendable, in 1971 Ascot allowed women to wear suiting for the first time, and in 2017 they introduced a stipulation allowing for jumpsuits.
However, anyone who finds such a detailed rulebook intimidating is largely missing the point. Codes have always been part of the joy of dressing up, and Ascot is the embodiment of an increasingly rare phenomenon: sartorial events that are reverent to tradition. It’s a tradition that continues to attract an outstanding number of guests. As Britain’s most popular racing meet, Ascot welcomes 300,000 racegoers over its five-day period (who, charmingly, consume 120,000 buttermilk scones and 80,000 cups of tea during that time), and is watched by hundreds of thousands of viewers in more than 200 countries around the world. Many attend and tune in, in part, for the chance to catch a glimpse of the Queen, who considers Ascot one of her favourite annual events. Her Majesty has attended every day of the meet for the last 66 years, save for 2020 and 2021, when the event was temporarily paused, and in 1953 when it clashed with her coronation. Punters have even taken to placing bets on which colour Elizabeth II will wear for each outing—over the course of six decades those colours have ranged from pistachio to lavender, strawberry to apricot. Always, however, the Queen has worn a bright hue that imbues the event with a sense of pomp, circumstance and—above all—joy. This is, after all, the woman who famously quipped “If I wore beige, nobody would know who I am.”