Ladies Day’ is the biggest and busiest day during the annual five-day Royal Ascot horse races. This is the day when the country’s top racing fans gather in their most dashing finery. On this fine day at the world’s finest racetrack, avant-garde fashion is the norm, camp takes a front seat, and designers are expected to go over-the-top. But when did it all begin? In order to understand how Ladies’ Day started, we must first dive into the history of the Ascot Racecourse.
Located in Berkshire, the founding of the world-famous Ascot Racecourse can be traced all the way back to 1711. Pursuing her love of horse racing, it was Queen Anne who first organised the meet, which eventually evolved into a long-standing royal tradition complete with horse carriages and the most extravagant outfits of the time. Thus began the 300-year tradition of thoroughbred horse racing at the Ascot Racecourse, culminating yearly in the five-day races known as the Royal Ascot.
As for Ladies’ Day itself, the earliest mention of the term dates back to a poem about the event written in 1823. Although the poem’s author remains unknown, their words continue to be an accurate depiction of the event to this day. “Ladies’ Day… when the women, like angels, look sweetly divine.” Furthermore, Ladies’ Day is always on the third day of the five-day Royal Ascot event, which traditionally was also when women were either given free or discounted tickets to the event. And although the gendered discount no longer exists, the tradition of sweetly divine fashion lives on.
Interestingly, the organisers of the Royal Ascot and the Ascot Racecourse itself do not officially recognise the term “Ladies’ Day.” Race organisersexplain that doing so could pull the focus from the order of the day: horse racing. And although the term is unofficially recognised, the Royal Ascot has made it clear that it has no problems with the public using the colloquial term to refer to the tradition, and even describes on their website how “fashion and glamour reach their zenith and designer creations and millinery masterpieces take centre stage” on Day Three. And this interest in fashion is compounded by the famous figures who watch the races, with Gala Bingo noting that the Royal Ascot is renowned for A-listers and members of the British Royal attending the event. Every year their fashion choices make national headlines and set the trends of the summer. So if you’re planning a summer outing, consider coming to Berkshire this June to dress up and mingle with fellow racing fans, celebrities, and members of the Royal Family as you watch the worlds best jockeys compete.
Not surprisingly, it’s not that easy to get into Royal Ascot events, especially during Ladies’ Day. But there are alternatives. If you’re looking for other events to attend during the summer, there are plenty more happening across the country. For example, if you can’t make the races, the Chelmsford Festival is scheduled to happen throughout June in the city of Chelmsford. This includes live music performances at Central Park, Essex Pride which celebrates the local lgbtq+ community, and the centennial celebration of the invention of radio, happening this year at the Marconi Gala. Although not as prestigious as Ladies’ Day at the Ascot, the Chelmsford Festival is also a great event to spot outrageous fashion during a celebration of local culture and heritage.