Fashion alert: Royal Ascot requires hats for women

Fashion warning for anyone planning an appearance at Royal Ascot's Royal Enclosure this summer in Britain: New rules require women to wear hats, not fascinators.

Fascinators, for the fashion-challenged, are a cross between a hair accessory and mini-hat, and can tend toward the outrageous.

Strapless or spaghetti-strap tops and dresses are also banned this year and men must wear a suit and tie, the BBC reports.

And no, repeat no, short dresses.

The week-long, super-elite horse racing event was made famous to American moviegoers in My Fair Lady when a very proper, elegantly dressed Eliza Doolittle/Audrey Hepburn reverted to her lower-class demeanor as the horse crossed the finish line.

The race, which draws some 300,00 visitors every June, is a highlight of the British social calendar and organizers have been fighting to control the proliferation of provocative dresses, outrageous accessories and revealing tops, the Associated Press reports.

The Royal Enclosure is the inner-circle of the inner-circle and offers the best views in the grandstand.

Organizers posted the revised dress code for 2012 today in a move to restore formality, the BBC says.

"It is probably fair to say the dress code hasn't necessarily been enforced quite as rigorously as we might have liked," says Ascot spokesman Nick Smith, the BBC reports. "There is no doubt our customers would like to get back to a situation where it is universally acknowledged this is a formal occasion and not an occasion where you might dress as you would at a nightclub."

Here's an excerpt from the new dress code, in the original English:

Ladies are kindly reminded that formal day wear is a requirement in the Royal Enclosure, defined as follows:

* Dresses and skirts should be of modest length defined as falling just above the knee or longer;
* Dresses and tops should have straps of one inch or greater;
* Jackets and pashminas may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Royal Enclosure dress code;
* Trouser suits are welcome. They should be of full length and of matching material and colour;
* Hats should be worn; a headpiece which has a base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat.
* Ladies are kindly asked to note the following:
* Strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck, spaghetti straps and dresses with a strap of less than one inch (2.5cm) are not permitted;
* Midriffs must be covered;
* Fascinators are no longer permitted in the Royal Enclosure; neither are headpieces which do not have a base covering a sufficient area of the head (4 inches / 10cm).

Gentlemen are kindly reminded that it is a requirement to wear either black or gray morning dress which must include:

* A waistcoat and tie (no cravats); and
* A black or grey top hat; and
* Black shoes.
* A gentleman may remove his top hat within a restaurant, a private box, a private club or that facility's terrace, balcony or garden. Hats may also be removed within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Garden.
* The customisation of top hats (with, for example, coloured ribbons or bands) is not permitted in the Royal Enclosure.

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