No midriffs or minis for Ascot fashion parade

ASCOT, England (Reuters) - The “fashion police” were on alert on Thursday for Royal Ascot’s Ladies Day to ensure no mini-skirts or bare midriffs marred the hallowed turf of the exclusive Royal Enclosure.

For officials at one of the world’s most elegant race meetings are cracking the sartorial whip after veteran racegoers complained that standards were slipping.

So the Duke of Devonshire, chairman of the course where Queen Elizabeth plays host for the five-day meeting, has issued firm fashion instructions to stamp out errant dressers.

Once the Royal Enclosure was so select that divorcees were banned and all ladies had to wear gloves.

Today all you need to gain admittance is to be recommended by someone who has attended four times before.

All this year’s badgeholders were given their fashion marching orders and warned: “Those not complying with the directions will be asked to leave the Royal Enclosure.”

Thursday is Ladies Day at Ascot so the competition to put on the finest fashion display is intense.

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But one should not be tempted to go over the top -- even with hordes of paparazzi prowling the course in search of a sensation-seeking outfit.

In the crisply worded 2008 dress code ladies were told “only formal day dress with a hat or substantial fascinator will be acceptable”.

For those ignorant in the ways of fashion, a fascinator is a cross between a hat and a feather -- and trying to hold onto them in the swirling Ascot winds is a major challenge.

Midriffs must be covered, mini-skirts are unsuitable, and halter necks and spaghetti straps are definitely out.

To ensure that the Royal Enclosure still looks like a fashionable backdrop for a remake of “My Fair Lady”, gentlemen must wear black or grey morning coats.

Top hats are compulsory and are always politely doffed when Queen Elizabeth parades down the course in an open-top landau every day before the first race.

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But, just in case the instructions sounded a bit like dire military commands to recalcitrant fashion troops, the Ascot authority also issued a light-hearted list of do’s and don’t for the fashion stakes.

“Knickers are a definite yes but not on show please ladies,” decreed its tongue-in-cheek guide given out to the media.

Ascot felt “every girl’s worst nightmare is streaky tan lines -- a total fashion faux pas and there is no excuse”.

And gentlemen racegoers did not escape a gentle reminder over their zips.

“Gentlemen should ensure these are always done up. A simple schoolboy error can spoil even the most distinguished of outfits.”

Editing by Giles Elgood