There Are Very Specific Rules When It Comes to Dressing For the Royal Calendar

It's Royal Ascot week, and various members of the royal family will turn out in their finest and fanciest attire, but what are the clothing dos and don'ts when it comes to the highlight of the social calendar? And how about the rest of the jam-packed royal year — Polo: hat or no hat? A diplomatic reception: white tie or black tie? And since when were fascinators a no-no? From sporting events to church services and celebrations to commemorations, dressing for the royal year could be a potential minefield. Here's a breakdown of suitable attire for each event.

Royal Ascot — June
Getty | Chris Jackson

Royal Ascot — June

There is a VERY extensive list of rules, but basically it's:

  • Women: Formal daywear, which means dresses and skirts of "modest length" (just above the knee or longer), and straps on dresses should be at least an inch wide. Fascinators are no longer allowed as headpieces need to have a base of four inches or more. No off-the-shoulder or halter tops, and ladies are advised to wear wedges over stilettos so they do not sink heel-first into the ground.
  • Men: Black or gray morning dress, which means a tailcoat and waistcoat with matching trousers, along with a dress shirt and tie. No cravats. Black or gray top hat and black shoes.
Garter Day — June
Getty | WPA Pool

Garter Day — June

  • The Queen/Knights and Ladies of the Garter: Dark blue velvet cloaks pinned with the Garter Star and velvet hats decorated with ostrich and heron feathers.
  • Women: Daytime formal plus hat.
  • Men: Morning dress — tails and waistcoat — but no top hat.
Polo (Royal Box) — Summer
Getty | John Shearer

Polo (Royal Box) — Summer

  • Women: Dresses, skirts, or tailored trousers. No flip-flops.
  • Men: Collared shirts, trousers, and jackets. No shorts no matter how hot it is.
Polo (Behind the Scenes) — Summer
Getty | Max Mumby/Indigo

Polo (Behind the Scenes) — Summer

  • Women: Just because there are horses involved, there's no posh dress code behind the scenes. It's your basic "running errands" attire — jeans, tees, and flats.
  • Men: Although Prince Charles maintains an element of formality, the younger men stick with jeans or shorts with a t-shirt or polo shirt. As long as nothing is torn or stained, the more casual the better.
Weddings — Mainly Summer
Getty | WPA Pool

Weddings — Mainly Summer

  • Women: The rules are slightly more relaxed on the "daytime formal" dress code. Fascinators are OK, as are shorter hemlines.
  • Men: It's still very formal for the fellas, though, with a morning suit dress code.
Wimbledon — July
Getty | Karwai Tang

Wimbledon — July

  • Women: There's no formal dress code for general ticket-holders, but a smart-casual dress is usually the way to go. The general rules are "not too short and not too tight." Lots of ladies favor white or cream.
  • Men: No formal dress code for general ticket-holders, but torn jeans, running vests, dirty trainers, and sports shorts are not allowed. In the members area, the dress code is more defined, with men required to wear a lounge suit or tailored jacket, shirt, tie, trousers, and dress shoes.
Braemar Gathering — September
Getty | Chris Jackson

Braemar Gathering — September

  • Women: Smart warm coats and hats. Often with an abundance of tartan.
  • Men: Full highland dress, which means kilts, sporrans, and woolen dress socks.
The Royal Variety Performance — November
Getty | Danny Martindale

The Royal Variety Performance — November

  • Women: The black-tie dress code calls for a floor-length gown.
  • Men: Black tie means bow tie, dress shirt, and tuxedo.
Remembrance Concert — November
Getty | Chris Jackson

Remembrance Concert — November

  • Women: A smart dress with a poppy pin.
  • Men: Suit and tie with a poppy pin.
Remembrance Service — November
Getty | Chris Jackson

Remembrance Service — November

  • Women: All in black. Smart coat and hat. Always pinned with a poppy.
  • Men: Military uniforms pinned with a poppy. William wears his RAF flight lieutenant's uniform and Harry his captain's uniform of the Blues and Royals.
Buckingham Palace Christmas Diplomatic Reception — December
Getty | DOMINIC LIPINSKI

Buckingham Palace Christmas Diplomatic Reception — December

  • Women: The "white tie" dress code is the fanciest one can get. For women, it means a floor-length gown and tiara. If they have any honors, they will wear them.
  • Men: White tie, dress shirt, and tailcoat. Particular to the Knights of the Garter — including Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Prince William — is the additional regalia that goes with it: the Garter Riband, Garter Star, and Garter itself.
Royal Family Christmas Lunch — December
Getty | Max Mumby/Indigo

Royal Family Christmas Lunch — December

  • Women: A smart dress. One year Princess Eugenie rocked a reindeer manicure.
  • Men: Suit and tie.
Christmas Day Church Service #1 — December
Getty | Chris Jackson

Christmas Day Church Service #1 — December

  • Women: It's not like they're throwing a coat over their PJs like they're popping out for a pint of milk, but the first church service of the day — when the queen takes communion — is as low-key as it gets. Unadorned heads, a smart dress, and a warm coat.
  • Men: Smart, warm coats and a suit.
Christmas Day Church Service #2 — December
Getty | Chris Jackson

Christmas Day Church Service #2 — December

  • Women: For the public service later in the morning, the finery comes out, which means colorful coats and smart hats.
  • Men: Same as earlier in the day — smart coats with a suit and tie.
Commonwealth Day Service — March
Getty | Samir Hussein

Commonwealth Day Service — March

  • Women: It's daytime formal with a hat for the ladies. Cold weather usually means a coat.
  • Men: Suit and tie.
Cheltenham Festival — March
Getty | Danny E. Martindale

Cheltenham Festival — March

  • Women: There is no designated dress code, but women tend to go for daytime formal with a hat.
  • Men: Suit and tie.
St. Patrick's Day — March
Getty | Karwai Tang

St. Patrick's Day — March

  • Kate: Daytime formal with a hat. In a nod to the occasion, Kate usually wears green, but she did once wear brown.
  • William: His colonel of the Irish Guards uniform.
Easter Sunday Church Service — March/April
Getty | Max Mumby/Indigo

Easter Sunday Church Service — March/April

  • Women: Similar to the Commonwealth Service attire — daytime formal with a hat. Although the Spring celebration often calls for a splash of color.
  • Men: Suit and tie.
Buckingham Palace Garden Parties — Spring
Getty | WPA Pool

Buckingham Palace Garden Parties — Spring

  • Women: Daytime formal with a hat.
  • Men: Morning suits with a top hat.
State Opening of Parliament — May/June
Getty | WPA Pool

State Opening of Parliament — May/June

  • The Queen: The Imperial State Crown. A floor-length gown worn with her Garter Collar.
  • Prince Philip: His naval uniform.
Epsom Derby — June
Getty | Max Mumby/Indigo

Epsom Derby — June

  • Women: Formal daywear with a hat. Fascinators are OK, but they have to be "substantial."
  • Men: Morning suit with top hat.
Trooping the Colour — June
Getty | Chris Jackson

Trooping the Colour — June

  • Women: Formal daywear with a hat.
  • Men: Military attire. For the first time this year, Prince Philip wore a suit due to his age and the heat. (Military uniforms are notoriously heavy and hot.)