Grace Dent: It's class war at Ascot – so give me Aintree's finest fillies and their £38 fascinators any day

Any men reading this column who don't know what a fascinator is, this is one time I am envious of your sex


Royal Ascot is here. It's a vital time on the British social circuit for those of us who love a fancy pony and those, mainly ladies, who love parading about like one. Nothing wrong with the latter. I love a nice frock and a face full of warpaint. My staunch feminism has tottered along nicely for years on four-inch heels with a three-tone, smoky-blended eye kohl.

God speed you glorious British womenfolk who've been planning that Ascot outfit since last February, peeing with the loo door ajar in fear of missing a Yodel delivery and traipsing the length of the high street looking for a duck-egg coloured, strapless plunge bra in 34DD.

This year, however, Ascot bigwigs are attempting to rein in 2012's Ascot beauty parade with a whole new set of guidelines for female attire. Glamour is permitted, nay encouraged, but it's the right type of glamour they want now. The rules request less flesh, no bare shoulders, no barely concealed knockers. Skirts must be of "a suitable length".

Blimey, I've not heard that "suitable length" expression since comprehensive school when Year 10's girls were forced each morning to shuffle past the Head of Year – a frightening woman clad in a man's Umbro tracksuit smoking a Capstan untipped. There she'd lie in wait, brandishing a tape measure at a legion of Eighties schoolgirls with Clairol demi-waves, Hubba Bubba gobs and C&A Clockhouse grey school skirts curled at the waist five times so our lower bum cheeks were on display. These skirts were NOT of suitable length. In some cases, if you played the "unsuitable length" game properly, you could be back home with a one-day suspension by 10am. Supposedly, this was a punishment but it was actually bloody brilliant as you got to sit about eating crumpets watching Kilroy and The Sullivans.

Yesterday's pictures from Ascot showing the "dress code assistants" – judgemental-looking women clad in sexless purple suits – hinted that a run-in with these women would be marginally less fun than this. Let's face it, tickets for Royal Ascot are pricey. Nobody wants to be sent home for "issues surrounding sluttiness". Of course, Ascot's new ruling, in my opinion, is a class-related thing.

It's perfectly their call how they want women dressed, but let's not be bashful about their aims. It's almost as if if well-heeled Ascot has seen the glorious sights of Aintree Ladies' Day – where Liverpool's finest fillies do "day-time formal" with a Scouse twist – and shoved these guidelines in place before standards can slip any lower.

Personally, I love Aintree Ladies' Day, the tit-tape, the spray tans, the hair extensions, the peplums, the acres of flesh and the inevitable shot of a woman in a River Island maxi dress lying with her ankles in the air behind the bottle banks at 6pm while a flurry of Wirral women try and give her a leg-and-an-arm back to the minibus.

Oh, and the "fascinators" – banned now from Ascot's royal enclosure, too. Any men reading this column who don't know what a fascinator is, this is one time I am envious of your sex.

Not quite a hat, more a headband with delusions of grandeur, a fascinator is a head splodge with various feathers, beads and miscellaneous bric-a-brac attached. In wedding guest season, it's customary for working-class women to spend entire Saturdays staring sadly at themselves in department store mirrors trying on fascinators before blowing £38 on something that makes their hair resemble a disgruntled peacock. The only good thing about a £38 fascinator is that it's cheaper than a £500 hat. Now fascinators are banned from Ascot's Royal Enclosure, too, lest the Queen spots something from BhS accessories department and has to pull her "flotilla" face again.

Grayson Perry, in his recent documentary on class, was excellent on the subject of the working classes "going out" and their determination to become "fantasy creatures". There's nothing more fantastic than the fleshy, leggy sights of Aintree Ladies' Day. Meanwhile, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge – who'd give Ascot fashion police no trouble – is excessively beautiful but dresses like a sedate 58-year-old mother of the bride on all occasions. That's how the establishment love her. Ascot may be staying upmarket, but I can't help thinking that Aintree is a safer bet for a free-thinking woman who likes to let her hair down.


Forget the egg-white omelette, Kim

As Kanye West reportedly tweeted, then deleted, a partially nude picture of girlfriend Kim Kardashian this week, I was left boggling at her stupendous cartoonesque proportions. A waist as big as a sparrow's knee, a soft bottom, womanly hips and dainty waifish shoulders. Kardashian is a dreamlike being, a living doll. I had to know her "secret", and thankfully a "Day in the Life" column this week explained all.

"My food is delivered every day in little freezer packs," she said. "Breakfast will be in one of the freezer packs, so all I have to do is heat it up. It changes every day, but I love plain, simple food... like an egg-white omelette."

Kim, I love you, but I need to live in a world where breakfast isn't the worst bit of an egg chucked over the fence by a bike courier. Buy a box of Dorset Cereals Chocolate & Macadamia granola and some Spanx. Knock yourself out.


A boring title is the key to 'Fifty Shades'


One of the most aggravating by-products of Fifty Shades of Grey outselling Harry Potter – aside from the 10 minutes I've just wasted re-typing risible "wand" jokes – is the brand new, fresh news once again that women like smut. "Women can let themselves be turned on by written erotica in a way they often can't with visual porn!" blethered yet another sex therapist on Radio 5 Live this week, spitting out the same tedious image of women as dainty sexual ingenues I've been reading in Cosmo since I was 12, before crowding round VHS copies of Emmannuelle with other girls, our gleeful eyes spinning like Catherine Wheels.

The reason Fifty Shades Of Grey has sold is that it's smut (albeit weak smut) that doesn't look like smut – its cover looks like a Farrow & Ball directory – with a title so boring that no one on the train would know until recently that a woman was slavering over full-whack BDSM.

Women like smut. They just don't like to look like they like smut. The quicker sets up an identical women's site called "A long look at oxbow lakes" and Anne Summers rebrands its vibrator catalogue as "Inconsequential Facts We Learned in Bridlington", the better for their business.

Twitter: @gracedent

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing - Pensions

£65000 - £75000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

IT Infrastructure Project Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A large and well established business is look...

Client Services Executive / Account Executive - SW London

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Executive / Client Services ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

August catch-up: dress to impress, words to use more often, and the end of the internet

John Rentoul
A group of primary school children learn about where babies come from  

Of course seven-year-olds should be taught ‘age appropriate’ sex education

Chloe Hamilton
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis