Royal Ascot: can you find a pre-loved outfit from a charity shop?

Posted by Victoria Lochhead on


Last week I was contacted by the local radio station to discuss the latest Royal Ascot Lookbook which has recently launched.  As they have been championing sustainability in their fashion recommendations over recent years, it was great to see that within their fashion themes for 2023 is not only a vintage edit, but a pre-loved and rental edit:

So, loving a challenge as I do, I decided to go on a hunt to see if it was possible to buy an Ascot worthy outfit from a charity shop.  I was in Maidenhead with less than an hour to spare, and hit the charity shops.  A couple of caveats to mention - I didn't worry about sizes as I was looking to see what was available rather than shop for someone specific, and my challenge was to try to find a complete outfit in each shop, but as you'll see from my finds, many things could be mixed and matched if shopping for one outfit across all the shops.  

If you're going to Royal Ascot, the dress code is different depending on which enclosure - the Royal Enclosure will not permit fascinators so as there was a shortage of hats in my search, I've followed the rules for the Queen Anne, Village and Windsor Enclosures (you can find the full Royal Ascot dress code here:

Here's what I found:

1.  Oxfam, Maidenhead

Oxfam is well laid out and has a good selection of colours, but there wasn't a huge array of options for a day at the races.  I did however find a really great maxi skirt, which I teamed up with an 80's style blazer.  There were no handbags or hats, so I added a pashmina.  There's so many colours in the skirt, a hat would work in the dark green, a bright coral, cream or even the yellow colour.  I didn't find a suitable top to go under the jacket, but again any of the above colours would work.

An outfit found in Oxfam
This outfit consists of Autograph shoes (£9.99), Zara new blazer (£29.99), Renna Gill skirt (£7.99) and a pashmina (£3.99).  Total spend:  £51.96 without a hat or bag.
2.  Cancer Research, Maidenhead
This shop had a lot of stock and rails and seemed to be having a clearance sale.  It took a bit of rummaging to come up with an outfit from here, but I went for pastels and found the following trouser suit:
A trouser suit from Cancer Research
This outfit consists of:  Together blue trousers and jacket (£3), Next lilac heels (£5), New Look blouse (£3) and bag unpriced but I'm guessing no more than £3.  No hats, but again there are a lot of colours that would work with this palette.  Total price for the outfit £14.  It is an absolute bargain, but it took some rummaging, there was no visible changing space, and the suit was a bit creased, but where else can you find an almost complete outfit for £14?
3.  Thames Hospice, Maidenhead
This shop was beautifully laid out and I was a bit spoiled for choice - there were lots of Ascot worthy options to choose from here.  I decided to go more traditional and found this lovely 2 piece dress and jacket:
A dress from Thames Hospice charity shop
Ideal for someone with soft summer colouring, this charcoal grey dress and jacket worked beautifully with soft dusky pink accessories.  So, the bill for this complete outfit was:  Jacques Vert dress & jacket (£15), handbag (£4), new pink fascinator (£12), Debenhams shoes (£7).  Total:  £38.
4.  British Heart Foundation, Maidenhead
This was the last shop I tried before my time was up, and was probably the one with the most choice of occasion pieces and accessories.  There was a display of new hats and fascinators in great colours, so a good option if you find an outfit elsewhere and want to add a colourful or neutral headpiece.  This is also probably the brightest of the outfits I found:
Jumpsuit outfit from British Heart Foundation
I loved the colours of the jumpsuit, a shocking pink mixed with cream and blue, and found shoes and a jacket and hat but no bag.  Here we have:  Mango shoes (£7.99), Prague jumpsuit (£9), Zara cropped blazer (£11), new fascinator (£15).  Total cost:  £42.99.
So, is it possible to find Ascot worthy outfits from a charity shop?  Absolutely!  I found four in under an hour!  If I was buying for myself, I'd go with the Oxfam outfit and probably the green bag from Cancer research teamed with the great cream fascinator from British Heart foundation.
If you decide to buy a Royal Ascot outfit, or indeed any outfit for a special occasion from a charity shop, please do let us know in the comments below and share a photo along with the price tags.  We'd love to see what you find and show how it's possible to dress in a fantastic outfit that doesn't cost the earth (both environmentally and financially!).

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