Do you want to dress up for Royal Ascot? Buy second-hand clothes!

The “new normal” for the most classic and stylish race of the season comes with an unexpected twist: the official dress code for Royal Ascot 2021 encourages guests to show up in second-hand clothes! Some things will never change in Royal Ascot. The passion of punters for this summer festival is one, and they can rely on to be sure they will not miss one single race. While the fashion side of Royal Ascot is (nearly) as important as the races, but it seems to be open to innovations. Two examples of recent years are women’s jumpsuits that were first allowed in 2017, and men’s socks that became mandatory in 2018.

But used clothes? This is really a daring leap forward. The Royal Ascot has a tradition of more than three centuries which means it is an authentic British institution. Those five days are an opportunity for all participants to make a statement through their choice of attire. The wealthy society members have access to the more exclusive enclosures, where royalty from all over Europe mixes with the VIPs. But there is space for the common mortals too – provided they respect the dress code!

The rules have always been strict, yet they let creativity take center stage, at least among the ladies. Now, the breakthrough official position of the organizers for 2021 is: “We are keen to demonstrate to racing followers around the world that the Royal Meeting is about looking your best – and that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy something brand new.” Sustainability is the surprising new banner of the most elitist horserace event of the season, and probably of the whole world: “Garments sourced from charity shops, nearly new boutiques, vintage emporiums and resale websites can be found throughout the Style Guide alongside British and sustainable fashion labels.”

While carefully planning the aesthetic coordination of their face masks (they will be mandatory!) with their outfits, will the socialites really respond to this unexpected challenge? Royal Ascot will still be taking place in a somewhat limited format because attendance is to be limited to 10.000 visitors per day. After last year’s suspension due to the pandemic, going back to normal will probably require some psychological adaptation. The appeal to a more sustainable approach to fashion seems to be in tune with a more somber and responsible mood altogether.

The race’s official site has made a 48-page booklet available online to help participants find outfit inspiration and check out the rules. The glossy photo gallery includes a mix of new and “pre-loved” (* the new fancy term for “second-hand”) items. The choice of testimonial is in tune with the innovation. The personality chosen by Royal ascot is Bay Garnett, the “Queen of Thrift,” a well-known stylist, editor, author, and contributing editor to British Vogue. Garnett cooperated in organizing the photoshoot for the dressing code guide and declared she “loves the idea of second-hand clothes moving into spaces that are usually or mostly associated with new stuff.”

The Queen of Thrift explains that buying pre-loved items is not only socially responsible but also very entertaining: “Getting dressed up is about having FUN and Royal Ascot is the perfect event for that. Doing it in second-hand fashion makes it even more playful.”