Brush up on your racing dress-code etiquette — and find out how to choose the perfect hat

  • Horse & Hound is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy. Learn more
  • With the big Flat meetings fast approaching, H&H's Cathy Comerford quizzes the luxury hatter Lock & Co’s creative director Ruth Ravenscroft on how to find the perfect hat for summer racing

    Get the etiquette straight

    • Different meetings have different levels of formality, so make sure you do your research beforehand.
    • If men are wearing morning suits, a top hat is generally carried under the arm.
    • Traditionally ladies hats are worn down to the right and up to the left. This means that most small hats sit on the right hand side of the head.
    • In general it is more flattering to have your hair parting hidden beneath the hat.
    • If you are wearing a bold print or lace dress, avoid wearing a hat with an elaborate or fussy trim.
    • If you want to make a statement with your hat, pair it with a simple outfit.
    • Avoid matching your hat, bag and shoes as it will cut your silhouette in too many places.
    • Make sure your hat feels secure and comfortable so that you will not have to re-adjust it during the occasion.

    Royal Ascot

    • If you are attending the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, ladies and gentlemen should keep their hats on throughout the day.
    • Ladies may wear smaller headpieces as long as it has a solid base of at least 10cm in diameter.
    • Gentlemen may wear grey or black toppers,but black is most popular.
    • If you are attending a private box, hats may be removed once inside.

    How to choose the perfect hat for the races:

    Lock Co hats 06

    • The most important guideline is to choose something that works for your face shape and proportion.
    • If you have a wide face then narrow crowns can be unflattering unless they are balanced by a trim that gives it a little softness and width. If you have a very petite face, avoid being overpowered by a very large heavy looking crown.
    • Brim width is generally dictated by height, shoulder width and proportion. Generally the taller you are, the wider the brim you can carry off. There are subtle things that can also change proportions. For example if you have a larger frame, choosing a wide fabric edge on a brim can add the balance you need.
    • There are many ways of securing a hat but the most common is with a hat elastic and comb. Most milliners offer a selection of elastic colours to tone with your hair.
    • Place your hat in position and then put the elastic beneath your hair. If you have very short hair at the back let the elastic sit about an inch above the hairline to ensure that your hair still lies smoothly on your neck. Wiggle the elastic right down to your scalp and then use your hair brush to smooth your hair over it.
    • When positioning the comb lift the hat gently and move it back slightly so that the teeth of the comb will grip in the right place as you move the hat forwards into position.
    • The most important tip is to make choosing a hat a pleasure. These are guidelines, not rules, and the most important thing is to feel somewhere between confident and comfortable, as well as absolutely fabulous as suits your personality.

    Mayfair’s Dukes Hotel has announced a partnership with Lock & Co. to offer guests complimentary hat services

    You may like...