For anyone who loves rowing or follows the sport, Henley Regatta is the main event of the year. This year it starts on Wednesday June 29th and ends on Sunday July 3rd when the final races take place.
At Henley, unlike some other regattas, the boats race side by side - two at a time – from single scull or eights.
On a fine day it’s lovely to sit in one of the enclosures in a deck chair and watch the boats go by but you should know that if you’re in the Steward’s Enclosure there’s a strict dress code. Having been with friends of friends who weren’t aware of this, with a girl trying to lower her skirt inch by inch to below her knee and failing to get through the various entrance guards (and I mean guards) until she gave up it’s well worth knowing what the rules are before you start…..
On the Henley Royal Regatta website the dress code for the Stewards Enclosure is stated like this : ‘Ladies should dress in a manner as befits a formal occasion. Dresses and skirts should be of modest length defined as falling just above the knee or longer. Trousers must be full length. Whilst not a requirement, ladies are encouraged to wear hats’ Personally I never wear a hat, and I’ve never seen anyone allowed in with a dress that isn’t actually just below the knee.
’Gentlemen are required to wear lounge suits, or jackets or blazers with flannels, and a collared shirt. A tie or cravat is preferable but not compulsory.’ If it’s very hot you may be allowed to take your jacket off, but there is always a proper announcement.
This may sound quite stuffy, but as with most member’s ‘clubs’ the rules are adhered to or you’re not allowed in. My advice is as follows:
Go for a midi or maxi dress unless you have a below the knee length shift, in which case make absolutely sure it is below the knee and don’t think you’ll be able to fudge it. You won’t. And don’t have your dress so long if you change into flats your hem is going to be dragging on the ground…. or in the mud.
Take a hat if it’s very sunny and you like to wear hats. And a wrap in case it gets breezy which it frequently can by the river.
Wear sun screen, you don’t want to go red in the face or burn in your deck chair and it’s all too easy.
Wear wedges or block heels and know that if you’re parked in one of the main car parks and have a picnic your heels will sink into the mud. I have ruined several pairs of shoes at Henley. And don’t wear your favourite high heels. Because you won’t be able to walk in them for very long.
You can go as minimalist as you want, but for Henley floral prints work very well by the riverside. Don’t wear anything too tight unless it has a lot of stretch, you’ll be walking around, lounging in a deck chair and possibly picnicking on the ground, so make sure your dress will suit for pretty much anything.