The annual five-day Royal Ascot races bring out the high fashion, high-stakes horses and, of course, the royals.

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IN ENGLAND, extravagant hats blossom each June at the Royal Ascot horse races.

The Ascot racecourse has been a fixture on the British sporting and social scene for 300 years. But it’s the annual five-day Royal Ascot races that bring out the high fashion, high-stakes horses and, of course, the royals.

Queen Anne founded the racecourse in 1711, and it’s conveniently located near Windsor Castle, a vast royal residence. Her present-day successor, Queen Elizabeth II, enters her own horses, bestows trophies and, with other royals, opens each day of Royal Ascot with a horse-drawn carriage parade around the track.

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Yet fashionable attire sometimes steals the spotlight, especially on Royal Ascot’s traditional Ladies Day when Britain’s upper crust, sporting the latest designs and millinery masterpieces, mingles in the invitation-only grandstand and garden of the racetrack’s Royal Enclosure.

The Royal Enclosure dress code, tightened this year to stanch a slide in sartorial standards, requires men to wear top hats and morning coats; women must don modest formal day wear and hats. And “fascinators” — the whimsical, sometimes outlandish, headgear like that infamously worn by Princess Beatrice at last year’s royal wedding of William and Kate — now are forbidden in the Royal Enclosure.

You could take your fascinator and wear it in the more plebeian viewing areas, however. Just don’t bet on a royal nod.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times’ NWTraveler editor. Contact her at

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