Archive for May, 2009

Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot, held annually in mid-June (this year: 16th-20th), is the epitome of the British Season. As well as being a major social occasion, it is firstly a world-class sporting event, dating back to the late eighteenth century.

Tickets for the Royal Enclosure need to be applied for well in advance and letters should be sent to Her Majesty’s Representative at Ascot (currently the Duke of Devonshire).

There are four days in Royal Ascot. The first, Tuesday, is the busiest; Wednesday is popular with betting-types; Thursday is Ladies’ Day, and Friday is quieter but popular with the young.

There is so much to say about Royal Ascot (it can only be termed ‘Royal Ascot’ during the four days in mid-June) however; I shall concentrate this entry on the dress codes for the event.

ascot-raceThe dress code is still strictly enforced and it has been known for race-goers to be turned away for all sorts of reasons: men without hats, ladies in inappropriate dresses. Last year Royal Ascot was in the news as ladies were turning with too much fake-tan applied and in some extreme cases, they deemed it appropriate to go without knickers. This is never acceptable. Anywhere.

For women, it is advisable that cocktail dresses are avoided. Having too much flesh open to the elements at a predominantly outdoor event will only cause goose pimples.  Dress colours that work well are pastels, bright colours, neutrals such as cream and fawn, although fashion changes and each year will see a different colour or shade in vogue. As for materials, linen creases easily and for an event where you may be sitting to picnic (smart race-goers do this in Number One car park), this is not a good idea. Lightweight wool and silk are preferable. Dresses and jackets that can be removed easily if you get too hot are canny choices. Skirts that ride up when you sit down are not, however.

The Queen often wears one main colour all the way up (including the hat) which accentuates height and can make shorter people look taller.

Umbrellas may be a nuisance but are worth it if it begins to rain. They can be left in the cloakroom if needs be: parasols are naff.

Hats should be on straight and should be sensible: too much veiling and you won’t be able to drink or eat. If the brim is too low then you may not be able to see, so it is important to make sure you are wearing a sensible and comfortable hat, which should on no costs be removed, as your hair will look messy. When purchasing or choosing your outfit, do remember that you could be in it for up to seven hours. Shoes (if new) should be worn-in before the event as to avoid blisters.

For men, morning dress is required in the Royal Enclosure and on Ladies’ Day, this should be light grey. Top hats should be worn at a jaunty angle – never should they be worn totally straight and looking like chimney pots.

Morning dress consists of a tailcoat of sorts (although not be to confused with the pointed tailcoat worn in White Tie): this tailcoat is rounded; a buff waistcoat, which can be single or double-breasted; a pair of formal striped trousers worn with braces; a stiff white detachable collar (although a soft turned-down sewn on collar is acceptable now); a double-cuffed shirt; a necktie (please not a cravat), and finally a pair of black Oxford shoes. A top-pocket handkerchief is optional.

If you are still in any doubt as to the event’s protocol or what to wear, please do feel free to reply to this blog with any questions you may have. Alternatively, please visit our main website for more information: www.theenglishmanner.com

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Travel Tips

The summer is nearly upon us, and for many of us this is reason for a holiday; whether you are traveling to distant lands or welcoming international visitors at home, make the most of the opportunity to improve your country’s profile and reputation. While no-one sets out to insult or offend their hosts or guests, unknowledgeable and naïve travellers may leave a trail of ill-will and hard feelings.

Before you go, obtain at least enough local currency to get you through the arrival process, tips for the airport porter, your driver and hotel bellman. Your home currency will be of considerably less value to them if they need to convert it at a bank and it suggests an arrogance to flaunt your home currency as though it were an international standard. Don’t over-tip, some cultures find it insulting. While recognising exceptional service is appreciated world-wide, standard services such as handling your baggage or driving from airport to hotel require only a modest tip, if any.

superstock_1598r-82430Prepare yourself with a few key phrases in the language of your host country. The first and most important phrase to learn is “Thank you.” Along with good morning/afternoon, and goodbye, these phrases, delivered with a smile even in your questionable accent, will ease your arrival and minor transactions during your stay.

Familiarise yourself with the culture you are visiting.  While hotel destinations in the Middle East are accustomed to Western dress, once off the hotel property or when traveling through the airport, women especially need to be aware that even simple items like sleeveless dresses or anything revealing the shoulders are considered immodest and may cause offence.  While alcohol is available at resort properties, when leaving the compound to experience the very culture you came to visit, don’t mention it or try to order it.

Even on the most casual of vacations, have at least one decent set of clothes to wear when the occasion presents itself. While formal dress codes are rare, a sense of moderation is encouraged or requested in many dining situations. For men, this means a collared shirt and long trousers (not jeans).  Ladies, no halter tops or shorts in the dining room.  And everywhere at all times, gentlemen (unless they have a medical or religious reason to keep it on) remove their hats indoors and this includes the ubiquitous baseball cap.

If you see an international visitor about to commit some glaring offence, a considerate prompt might be appropriate.  Remember, no-one sets out to offend or antagonise their hosts. A polite suggestion that saves a visitor later embarrassment or discomfort will be much appreciated.

Remember that when travelling, you are an ambassador for your country and the impression you leave behind reflects on your country and affects the way your fellow citizens will be welcomed in future. Arrive as a stranger, leave as a friend.

John Robertson
Tutor, The English Manner

Royal Epsom Derby

Aerial view of Epsom

Aerial view of Epsom

First run in 1780, the Epsom Derby (pronounced dɑː’ bi / dar-be) is a contest for three-year-old colts and fillies run over a mile and a half. Traditionally, the contest started on a Wednesday, but during the 1990s it was moved to Saturday, as it was thought that more people could attend as the days when Parliament was adjourned and the stock market closed in order for people to attend are no more.

This year, the event takes place on the 5th and 6th of June.

The Queen and other members of the Royal Family still attend and watch the racing from the Royal Box. For those who have admission to the Queen’s Stand, morning dress for the men and smart day dress with hats for women is required. For everyone else, jackets, ties/skirts and dresses are the protocol.

Part of Epsom’s Derby’s charm is the alternative style of dress of the gypsies and pearly kings and queens over on the downs (think of that scene in Mary Poppins). There is also still a funfair and many people arrive in open-topped buses.

Membership and entry requirements need to be checked early with Epsom racecourse and early booking is, like with many events, strongly advised.

NB: Although some call this type of event ‘horse-racing’, those in the know refer to it as ‘racing’.

If you are still in any doubt as to the event’s protocol or what to wear, please do feel free to reply to this blog with any questions you may have. Alternatively, please visit our main website for more information: http://www.theenglishmanner.com

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner



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