The annual rowing event, which has been held in the Oxfordshire town since 1839, stated in its new dress code for the Steward’s Enclosure that women can wear “jackets or blazers with trousers, or trouser suits”, in addition to dresses or skirts “with a hemline below the knee”.
The website also states that jumpsuits and culottes are allowed as long as the hemline is below the knee.
The Stewards Enclosure is open only to stewards, members and their guests, and offers the best views of the rowing competition. A separate area for the general public has no formal dress code.
The change comes after Georgina Grant, an Oxford student and member of the University Women’s Boat Club, launched a petition last year calling for women to be able to wear trousers alongside men.
The petition garnered more than 1,680 signatures. In the description, Grant wrote that the old dress code was “oppressive and serves no purpose”, adding: “A smart and formal atmosphere can be maintained without the shackles of lengthy hemlines. Bring HRR into the 21st century and review this dress code!”
The 23-year-old told PA it felt amazing” after discovering the change had been made.
She said: “It’s quite a small change, but I think for them to sort of concede on it and change something which has existed for years, that’s a huge step and it made me feel quite excited about attending the event.”
Grant added that after launching her petition, she was contacted by an attendee who was transgender and another who was disabled and both shared their struggles of dealing with the dress code.
“I think that that would probably be the next step, which is if they wanted to keep the dress code, could they potentially just de-gender it?” Grant said.
“They could say ‘you either wear this, or you wear this’. It doesn’t necessarily have to be men wear this, woman wear this. In doing that, it includes everyone. You can keep it formal but give people options.”
She added she will be attending the regatta this weekend and is planning to wear trousers to celebrate the change.
The regatta did not introduce a formal dress code until the late 1970s, according to Sir Steve Redgrave, chairman of the event.
Speaking to The Telegraph, he said it was an “evolution not revolution” which he was “very much in favour of”.
“We have been asked for a number of years if we could look at the ladies’ dress code because times have changed,” he said.
“Even though we see ourselves very much as a traditional event with a traditional way of dressing, with the introduction of more women’s events in recent years and a growing number of women stewards, we felt that it was the right time to make the change.”
Additional reporting by PA
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