Henley is one of the most highly anticipated crew events for rowing enthusiasts each summer. And, while this is a sporting event after all, navigating Henley Royal Regatta dress code actually takes all of the finesse and precision of a military general heading into battle. For those attending the see-and-be-seen event on Temple Island and in the Stewards’ Enclosure, dress must adhere to very strict standards and long-established tradition.
Although gentlemen are simply required to wear suits, jackets or blazers with flannels, and a tie (or cravat), the dress code for women is much more stringent.
Ladies are required to wear dresses or skirts with a hemline below the knee and will not be admitted wearing divided skirts, culottes or trousers of any kind. In addition, no one will be admitted to the Stewards’ Enclosure wearing shorts or jeans. And, while it is not a requirement per se, it is customary for ladies to wear spring hats and fascinators.
All of this, combined with the chancy English weather, can make selecting the perfect ensemble a challenge. There are a few simple rules, however, that will help immeasurably:
The dress. A simple, solid color always looks sophisticated and elegant. Pay attention to the hemline and think “church” wear, not “club” wear regarding fit. Remember, short skirts are simply not permitted!
The jacket, shawl, coat or duster. This is England after all… Leaving your hotel at 8:00 am in the sunshine does not guarantee that frigid winds and icy rain will not arrive by 1:00 pm.
The chapeau. I prefer a fascinator over a broad-brimmed hat for two reasons. First, the chance of losing it to wild wind gusts is vastly diminished. And second, it is so much more considerate to any spectators behind you!
The bag. Always go for a handbag that is small and lightweight like a diminutive clutch. Or, choose one with a long, comfortable strap. Simply toss it over your shoulder and forget it.
The shoes. Pumps only. Low heeled to make the inevitable walking and standing more tolerable. (And, don’t forget the Dream Walk insoles.)
The shades. Assuming there is sunshine (a big assumption in Britain) I love these updated cat eye sunglasses, for a chic look.
The jewels. Although the Brits are known the world over for their famed Crown Jewels, this is not the place for oversized statement necklaces, armloads of bangles, or anything similarly “showy.” Think small and exquisite, Grace Kelly-inspired, or borrowed-from-Mom.
Founded in 1839, Henley is undoubtedly the best known regatta in the world and it holds a unique place in the respect and affection of all oarsmen. To learn more about this amazing event, visit Henley Royal Regatta.
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