Royal Ascot is a week for the human stayers. It’s not for the sprinters, or the middle-distance hopefuls – it’s for the Makybe Divas and the Yeatses among us. Never mind the two- or three-day back up of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, there are no days of rest in this five-day feast of top-shelf racing and fashion, so you need to be prepared. You need to have studied the form guide well. And you need to be looking your absolute best.

As superficial as it sounds, it’s one of my goals to complete the Royal Ascot challenge – if Her Majesty the Queen can do it, then so can I, albeit without royal hospitality but with age firmly on my side. This year my boyfriend and I attended three days (one up from last year) – opening day Tuesday, Friday, and the closer, Saturday – and planning for these was stressful enough. But the way I see it, it’s necessary training for next year when (hopefully) I’ll complete the five-day festival of equine elegance with ease.

Ascot in all its Royal splendour truly is a magnificent sight. The majestic grandstand, looming above the sunken parade ring where the sounds of the brass band fill the air; the greenery of the Royal Enclosure garden, punctuated by bursts of colour from attendees in eye-catching ensembles and exotic hats; and the long, lush straight, flanked by hordes of keen racegoers eager to glimpse a champion or two, or the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II in her traditional horse-and-carriage.

The Parade Ring

The Parade Ring

The Queen arrives down the Royal Ascot straight

The Queen arrives down the Royal Ascot straight

Royal Ascot, for the most part, is as much about fashion as it is horses. Although, unlike most major racing carnivals in the UK and Australia, they do not have a Fashions on the Field or Best Dressed competition (apparently it is viewed as an unnecessary event and would do nothing to enhance Royal Ascot’s reputation). Nevertheless, ladies plan meticulously for many months to perfect their Royal Ascot wardrobes and I think it makes a refreshing change to see so many women put so much effort into their outfits when there is no lure of prizes on offer.

While I am usually one who has dreams (nightmares?) about my Royal Ascot outfits several months before the big day, I somehow found myself making a mad dash into Harrods the Friday before, frantically looking for a dress/skirt/any item of clothing that would match a different hat I hadn’t planned on wearing, because my chosen sample had been unexpectedly requested for a shoot the day before (and press always trumps personal use). Which is how I found myself wearing the following outfit:

Shelley and Lisa, Tuesday, 2013

Shelley and Lisa, Tuesday, 2013

That’s a Milly colour-burst silk dress, Alexander McQueen peeptoe pumps, and “Edie” from my SS13 collection. Shelley also had to rejig her hat decision, and settled on “Mary” from SS13, with a tailored LBD from Australian store Cue and Dior heels.

While the Royal Ascot dress code has been a hot topic of conversation in the media (and our apartment) in recent weeks, it did nothing to dull the enthusiasm of the mega-hat wearers who frequent the racecourse every year in the most attention-seeking headwear. Of the images shown below, only the gentleman with the floral headdress was ejected from the Royal Enclosure (I assume he merely removed the flowers and replaced the top hat to be allowed entry), while mad hatter Tracy Rose (centre, right) was apparently refused entry for having too short a skirt.

A selection of crazy millinery sported on Tuesday. Photos taken from Daily Mail, Metro and getreading.co.uk.

A selection of crazy millinery sported on Tuesday. Photos taken from Daily Mail, Metro and getreading.co.uk.

Shorts skirts were something I was particularly worried about, given my Friday outfit was definitely above-the-knee. However, the Royal Ascot Royal Enclosure dress code states skirts should be “of modest length, defined as falling just above the knee or longer” and given I saw my dress double on Tuesday (phew!) wandering around the Royal Enclosure, plus several other women with hemlines reaching to mid-thigh (yes, really), I breathed a sigh of relief and wore the outfit as planned.

Friday's outfit, Royal Ascot.

Friday’s outfit, Royal Ascot.

I must say, I don’t go out of my way to purposely challenge dress codes, but this photo was taken from below so I’m fairly certain my hem isn’t *that* short. The outfit consists of a cropped tuxedo jacket from Paule Ka, Chanel tweed dress and t-bar sandals, chunky pearl necklace from Oasis, and the “Penelope” hat from my SS13 collection. And for the record, I was never questioned about my skirt length.

Boyfriend’s sis, Kate, was also in attendance with us, and had been planning her outfit for months. Taking cues from her Peter Pilotto blouse, she decided to mix in another pattern and wore the “Marilyn” hat from SS13. Her ensemble is finished with a peplum skirt from New Look and classic court shoes by Chanel.

Kate at Royal Ascot, Friday.

Kate at Royal Ascot, Friday.

Saturday at Royal Ascot is always the most fun day, and the most relaxed day – but that doesn’t mean we lapse in the fashion stakes! Traditionally the busiest day of the carnival, Saturday sees an interesting mix of racegoers with some opting for finery, others opting for fun, and a few opting for comfort (ahem, Kate in her flat shoes).

Clockwise from top left: a lady in sparkly shower cap-like millinery; crinoline overload; they start them early!; hat swap at the end of the day.

Clockwise from top left: a lady in sparkly shower cap-like millinery; crinoline overload; they start them early!; hat swap at the end of the day.

Saving perhaps the best for last, Kate and I donned our final ensembles and prayed the forecast of all-day rain wouldn’t eventuate. As it turned out, the wind was more of a concern but it was a happy coincidence we chose the most wind-resistant hats to wear – Kate’s was even tied to her head.

Kate and I on Saturday.

Kate and I on Saturday.

Wearing a dress she purchased in Las Vegas in December (that’s how far ahead she plans) and one of my one-off millinery creations which she chose to wear in November (“Do not let anyone else wear this, it’s mine!”), Kate looked a picture of 50s-inspired elegance while I channelled the Great Gatsby years of the 1920s.

Boyfriend Drew and I on Saturday.

Boyfriend Drew and I on Saturday.

Saturday’s outfit comprised a Balenciaga dress I had bought a couple of years back for a wedding , teamed with a sparkly tweed, chain-trimmed jacket from the unlikeliest of places – boohoo.com. I strapped on the same Chanel t-bar pumps as Friday (which continue to prove my theory that Chanel heels are the most comfortable in the land), pulled on a cloche hat, “Amelie”, from my SS12 collection, and piled on a couple of black beaded necklaces.

It would be rude not to acknowledge the effort of the men of Royal Ascot. I know, all they have to do is wear the same suit, and the same hat – hell, the same waistcoat even! – and change their shirt and tie. But that’s the lazy man’s approach, and (luckily for me), boyfriend Drew takes pride in his raceday appearance like many other male attendees. Here’s a compilation of his raceday ensembles:

Drew's Royal Ascot outfits, clockwise from top left: Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and a close-up of his custom waistcoat.

Drew’s Royal Ascot outfits, clockwise from top left: Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and a close-up of his custom waistcoat.

Drew celebrated the first day of Royal Ascot in a rather daring fashion, wearing an all-black Marc Wallace morning suit, shirt, bespoke waistcoat and top hat, styled with a turquoise tie (I can only assume to complement my outfit, awww…) and the unlikeliest of accessories: Lucius Malfoy’s wand enclosed in a cane. Yes, it’s slightly geeky, but no one knew until he whipped it out and tried to conjure up a winner in the fourth.

Friday’s outfit was more traditional, comprising a grey Favourbrook morning suit, bespoke aqua waistcoat, aqua tie and pocket square, and grey top hat. The cane was left at home for fear he would lose it, plus using spells to find winners proved a fruitless exercise.

Saturday’s outfit featured a very special garment, which I had sewn up speedily on Thursday: the horse print silk waistcoat. The silk is actually used in my SS13 collection (as seen on Kate’s Friday hat, “Marilyn”) and somehow I had enough leftovers to make a giant waistcoat (all of his waistcoats are bespoke because he is so ridiculously tall – 6’6″). He paired it with the grey morning suit, another black shirt, black patterned tie and grey top hat for a very classic, but chic final day outfit.

The bets had been placed, the horses had raced and the brass horns were blazing in the bandstand, signalling the end to another Royal Ascot carnival. Tired and hungry, we retreated to our nearby B&B for some much needed R&R and next year’s five-day challenge was the last thing on our minds. Until the following morning, when our B&B hosts asked if they could attend one of the days with us next year. And so the planning begins…

By Lisa Tan