Summer Dressing with Telegraph Editor Kate Finnigan

Make sure you know what to wear to the races this year with the help of The Telegraph's Fashion Features Director, Kate Finnigan's style rules for Royal Ascot 2017. Follow these top tips using the latest fashion and accessories from Fenwick, and ensure an elegant look for all your summer occasions.

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Vilshenko Cream & Floral Patchwork Maxi Dress, £1145; Vivien Sherrif Oyster Shimmer Swirl Hat, £585; Gina Nude Garland Courts, £415; Marni Wood & Gold Drop Earrings, £200; Available at Fenwick of Bond Street
Coach Gold Metallic Bag, £250; Available at Fenwick Newcastle.

When you’re heading to Royal Ascot you need to think like a Girl Guide and “be prepared”. This goes for any summer event with a dress code, but get the outfit slightly wrong at a wedding and the most you’ll risk is a raised eyebrow. At Ascot, you’ll be chucked out. Tres embarrassing.

In short: you can’t just wing it. But don’t worry - this does not mean you have to forego fashion in favour of dress code.

The good news is that when it comes to the pretty sort of elegance that summer racing demands, fashion is really onside this season. Florals, embroidery and lace are in abundance and the current dress and skirt length loved by designers is mid-length. Sleeves, full or just past the elbow, are also de rigueur.

This suits me fine. I’m a dress woman and I love soft silhouettes in silk chiffon and liquid velvet. This cream embroidered dress by Vilshenko is a beauty that will work for a wedding as well as a garden party (and will even transition into next autumn if you add knee-length boots). It’s such a statement piece.

Marni Red Mini Bag, £1060; Gina Tan Suede Kitten Heel, £450; Philip Treacy Black Headpiece, £685; Available at Fenwick of Bond Street.

Footwear is also onside – towering stilettos have been dumped in favour of the mid-heel. Trendy kitten heels work for most events, but designers have also kindly provided myriad mid-heel courts and sandals with interesting block heels. 

For sheer practicality, I want a small bag that won’t weigh me down if I’m out all day. It will have a shoulder strap because I find you need two hands free for quaffing champagne. A leather is doubtless more comfortable but a gilt or silver chain strap adds a glint of luxury which is important if you’re wearing a relatively simple outfit.

When it comes to the headgear, I prefer something that skims wide and low. Far better (and more flattering) than the sort of thing that looks like you’ve moulded a small cupcake onto the top of your head. In my view, there are too few occasions in life when you can swan around in a huge hat. One has to make the most of these style opportunities.

Find your perfect summer occasion outfit for less at our Summer Garden Party shopping events in association with The Telegraph, on 18th May. Find out more about your local Fenwick stores' event here, and don't forget to sign up to secure your ticket!

By Kate Finnigan