Royal Ascot 2012! One of the best days of my life!

Wow. Just wow. Yesterday, Saturday the 23rd of June was an absolute whirlwind of events and it hasn’t ended yet! I just have to get it out there first and foremost…my outfit was featured on the BBC during yesterday’s live broadcast!!!! I am ecstatic! I only saw it this morning as I recorded the broadcast yesterday on the DVR and I just about lost control. The announcers even commented that my outfit was very classic! Here are shots from the broadcast:

Here’s my full outfit from my own camera:

Nigel Rayment hat, Prada sunglasses, Bebe blazer, Black Halo dress, Topshop belt, Christian Louboutin shoes.

To complete my outfit, I paired it with red lipstick by L’Oreal in British Red (very fitting, if you ask me), and red nail polish by Essie in Fifth Avenue. Try not too look at the rush job I did on my nails.

My hat was by Nigel Rayment, who is a very prominent and top-class milliner to the stars here in the UK. I rented it from this lovely little hat rental shop called Hectic Hat Hire on the amazingly named Munster Road in the Fulham area of London. It was absolutely manic when I went in on Tuesday to rent my hat for Saturday, with the shop open from 8 am – 11 pm for the entire first four days of Royal Ascot.

The ladies of the shop were incredibly helpful and knowledgeable when finding me a hat. After about a 15 minute wait outside the door for enough space to open up inside to get in, all I did was describe my outfit to them (as I didn’t bring it with me, which was requested, but I already knew pretty much exactly what I was looking for) and the first hat that was given to me off the rack was the one I ended up choosing. I was also very impressed with the quality and quantity of the hats in the shop, considering they must rent hundreds every day during Royal Ascot and yet there were still hundreds to choose from in every shape, size, and color imaginable. I paid the one-day rental fee and came back on Friday evening to pick up my hat, which was easy and effortless. Now all I have to do is bring it back on Monday in one piece 🙂

On Saturday morning, we got ready and headed out in a taxi for the 50-minute ride to Ascot Racecourse in the Surrey countryside. Last year we took the train and that was the WORST idea anyone has ever had…imagine getting packed into a sardine can wearing a huge hat, standing 2 millimeters from the nearest man’s armpit and every person around you using you and everyone else as walls because there are too many people and not enough space to find a railing. It was the worst transportation experience I’ve ever had. So needless to say, we took a taxi this year and it was much more relaxing, even though we sat in wall-to-wall traffic for most of the way. After getting dropped off right out front in the taxi rank, we pinned on our badges and marched right in to the fanciest area…the Royal Enclosure.

Yes, someone along the line spelled my last name wrong, It’s I before E. But oh well, minor detail, really. To get a Royal Enclosure badge, you must be sponsored by someone who has been in attendance in the Royal Enclosure for at least four years, not necessarily consecutively. Then you must pass a background check to make sure you aren’t a criminal, and pay the entry fee. Then you must comply with the Royal Enclosure dress code upon arrival, which this year has changed and is more strict than in previous years. The other enclosures (Grandstand and Silver) have different, less strict rules. This is taken from the website:

Ladies are kindly reminded that formal day wear is a requirement in the Royal Enclosure, defined as follows:

  • Dresses and skirts should be of modest length defined as falling just above the knee or longer
  • Dresses and tops should have straps of one inch or greater
  •  Jackets and pashminas may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Royal Enclosure dress code
  • Trouser suits are welcome. They should be of full length and of matching material and colour
  • Hats should be worn; a headpiece which has a base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat.

Ladies are kindly asked to note the following:

  • Strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck, spaghetti straps and dresses with a strap of less than one inch (2.5cm) are not permitted
  • Midriffs must be covered
  •  Fascinators are no longer permitted in the Royal Enclosure; neither are headpieces which do not have a base covering a sufficient area of the head (4 inches / 10cm).

Gentlemen are kindly reminded that it is a requirement to wear either black or grey morning dress which must include:

  • A waistcoat and tie (no cravats)
  • A black or grey top hat
  •  Black shoes.

A gentleman may remove his top hat within a restaurant, a private box, a private club or that facility’s terrace, balcony or garden.  Hats may also be removed within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Garden.

The customisation of top hats (with, for example, coloured ribbons or bands) is not permitted in the Royal Enclosure.

Children (admitted on Friday and Saturday only)
Girls (aged 10-16) should be dressed for a formal occasion.  Smart summer dresses are suggested.  Hats, headpieces or a fascinator may be worn but are not compulsory.

Boys (aged 10-16) should either dress in accordance with the gentlemen’s dress code (as set out above); or alternatively may wear a dark-coloured lounge suit with a shirt and tie (whereupon no hat is required).

Overseas Visitors
Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the formal National Dress of their country or Service Dress.

Serving Military Personnel
Serving military personnel are welcome to wear Service Dress or equivalent.

After walking though the posh Royal Enclosure entry gates, I was asked to pose for a shot for the BBC, and of course I said yes! Another man asked to take my photo and then the journalist with him asked me who my hat was by. Good thing I made sure to know that before I got there. After we got past all of the press and photographers and guests swarming at the entrance, we were free to look and wander around. There were so many bars and restaurants to check out, I don’t know how it would be possible to do all in one day. I suppose you’d have to attend for several days in order to get a good feel of the entire, enormous grounds and to see everything.

Last year we got to Ascot around 1 pm, which I do not recommend. That was wayyyy too late to hardly do anything. We got there around 11:30 am and still could have come even earlier. And because we got there so late last time, almost all of the food at the restaurants was gone and the only thing to eat were chips. It was…horrible. So. This year I made sure we got there nice and early and made a beeline to the Royal Enclosure Seafood Restaurant, which was excellent. It was buffet-style so it wasn’t outrageously expensive, but we each had 1/2 a lobster including a green salad, apple salad, bread, potatoes, and a bottle of Veuve champagne. Oh the glamour!

Anyone know who this crazy old lady is on the top of the twisty champagne thingy from the Veuve Clicquot bottle?

Next, we meandered leisurely down to the Parade Ring, where the Queen, Prince Philip and all the other very important people that arrive in carriages come through to walk for the excruciating distance of about 50 yards to the Royal Box overlooking the racecourse. It was my chance to get closer to the Queen than most people ever do, and maybe even get a little cheeky wave in, which I did 🙂 And let me just tell you, Prince Philip looks AMAZING for age 91. And the Queen color-blocked her outfit! Blue and green, super fashionable.

We also saw Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, in the pink and silver, who had to walk. I thought that was pretty funny…

One thing I think gets overlooked or not even mentioned is the fact that the Queen’s horses are HUGE! Literally! They are the biggest horses I’ve ever seen outside of a draft horse. I have two Quarter Horses at home in the States and the Queen’s horses make them look like tiny ponies. I was in actual awe of the class and presence that these horses have when they move. They are so elegant and immaculately turned-out. I was more in awe of them than I was with any of the race horses, and being a horsey girl as it is, that is saying something. I wish we had horses like these in the States. And I wish you could have been there to experience what I’m talking about as I think you really have to see them in person to appreciate it.

Windsor Greys

Cleveland Bays

After seeing the Queen and raving on and on about how on-trend and great she is, we went to the Paddock to watch the horses get ready for the second race (we had missed the first in all of my ranting and frantic attempts to run inside during a freak downpour of torrential rain). The stables and tacking area are absolutely gorgeous. I have have been to several of the nicest racecourses in the States, including behind the scenes at Churchill Downs, and nothing, I mean NOTHING, compares to the facilities at Ascot. I guess that’s what royalty gets you.

Next, it was time to head inside to get warmed up out of the cold and wind with a cocktail. It was 18°C (about 64°F) most of the day, but quite breezy and overcast, which meant I was cold as I’m a warm weather person. Give me 85° and I’m happy. Anyway, we went inside to the absolutely gigantic concourse and up to the fourth floor, where we watched the third race with Black Caviar running. If you don’t know anything about this mare, please look her up. And while you’re doing that, look up Frankel as well (the top rated horse in the world right now). Before I got here, I knew nothing, but this horse is beyond incredible. Her record makes the horses that run in the Triple Crown races in the States look pretty pathetic.

After she narrowly won her race because her jockey essentially fell asleep a furlong from the end of the race, we wandered down to have Afternoon Tea at the Norfolk Restaurant at 3:45. Nice warm tea and finger sandwiches and scones was the perfect way to soak up the last two races.

This rounded one of the best days I’ve ever had at one of England’s top social events of the year. Now if only the English “summer” weather would be a bit warmer and sunnier, it would have been absolute perfection.

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