‘The Season’ has come a long way since its peak in the 19th century, when it marked the time when the aristocracy would emerge from wintery hibernation in the country to descend on London for a summer of politics and parties.
The Queen Charlotte’s Ball - the debutante’s launching pad - was considered the highlight; an event so exclusive, it was only open to the privileged few.
Today, The Season, is not about exclusion - it’s about inclusion. A title isn’t the ticket, a ticket is the ticket, and as long as you have one (and you dress appropriately) a summer of socialising awaits.
Racing kicks off the sporting season with the Gold Cup at Cheltenham on 16th March, followed by the Grand National at Aintree on 12th April. Unlike Royal Ascot (19th-23rd June) and The Derby at Epsom (2nd June) - where black or grey morning dress, plus top hat, is a prerequisite for race-goers expecting to quaff Bollinger’s finest from the Royal Enclosure or Queen’s Stand respectively - neither Cheltenham nor Aintree have dress codes; collared shirts and blazers are order of the day. Add a tie to that ensemble for racing at Glorious Goodwood (12th - 15th July), though if further inspiration is required Edward VII once described it as ‘a garden party with racing attached’.
Edward VII once described Glorious Goodwood as ‘a garden party with racing attached’.
When it comes to automobiles, we wave goodbye to dress codes. F1 runs from 25th March to late November, and only what’s comfortable is worthy of those open-air stands. The most glamorous race, of course, is the Monaco Grand Prix on 27th May and Turnbull & Asser's new pattern squares in colourful hues would suit.
Back in the UK, think casual and comfort for The Goodwood Festival of Speed (12th-15th July). An outdoor event, with many miles to cover, there’s plenty of walking involved.
From land to sea - or rather, rivers - undergraduates from Oxford and Cambridge have their sights set on 24th March this year for the Boat Race. If you plan to watch the action live, forget about your wardrobe entirely - your sole focus should be finding a free table in any of the riverside pubs lining the route.
Credit: c/o Henley Royal Regatta
Aficionados of The Henley Royal Regatta (4th-8th July) must take an altogether different approach. While ties or cravats with a collared shirt and jacket are not exactly compulsory, no one wants to look like they didn’t get the memo.
Those heading to the Isle of Wight for Cowes Week (4th-11th August) should be mindful that different events have different dress codes. Pack accordingly.
Wimbledon. Credit: AELTC / Roger Allen
It’s an age-old question: what to wear to Wimbledon (2nd-15th July)? While spectators sitting on Murray Mound can take a more relaxed approach to their attire, if you’ve managed to secure entry to the Royal Box make sure you wear a jacket and tie, unlike Lewis Hamilton who omitted these vital items only to be turned away. For all other seats, it’s cotton trousers and collared shirts - in colours that hide the inevitable strawberry stains.
Is there anything more quintessentially British than attending an event that requires you to don formal eveningwear for a picnic? Glyndebourne Opera Season runs from 19th May until 26th August, those visiting should pack their black bow ties - and an umbrella - while ensuring to bring a posher picnic than your neighbour.
Is there anything more quintessentially British than attending an event that requires you to don formal eveningwear for a picnic?
The BBC Proms in London run from 13th July until 8th September has no dress code - or provisions for picnicking - but underdressing for the splendour of the Royal Albert Hall would feel wrong to a gentleman. Turnbull & Asser collars, at the very least.
There is only one flower show and that’s Chelsea - ask any respectable horticulturalist. Running from 22rd to 26th May, the weather is anyone’s guess and you may find yourself shivering in a mac on Tuesday, but perspiring in a shirt by Wednesday. Whatever happens, don’t forget your shades as 'the streaming eyes of the hay fever sufferer' is not a good look, rain or shine. LARKE Optics’ are made in London and will add an element of cool to your botanical browsing.
Chelsea Flower Show. Credit: RHS/Sarah Cuttle
Anything goes at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (12th June-19th August), now in its 250th year. Steer clear of wearing anything outlandish if you do not wish to be mistaken for a conceptual work of art. The same doesn’t apply to the Venice Biennale (from 26th May); one could argue that’s very much open to interpretation.
Top image: Goodwood Racing. Copyright Steve Stringer.