News Current Events Royal Ascot Encourages Guests to Wear Secondhand Outfits "Looking your best doesn't have to mean buying something new," the style guide says. By Katherine Martinko Katherine Martinko Twitter Senior Editor University of Toronto Katherine Martinko is an expert in sustainable living. She holds a degree in English Literature and History from the University of Toronto. Learn about our editorial process Updated May 4, 2021 12:58PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Women pose for a selfie at Royal Ascot, 2019. Getty Images / Max Mumby / Indigo Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive For over 300 years, the Royal Ascot has been a major social event in the United Kingdom. It is the country's biggest horse race, but also a significant fashion event. For five days in June, wealthy society members mingle with the royal family to admire and bet on the equestrian excellence, while showing off outfits that dazzle and delight. There are strict rules for what one can wear and not wear. Each year an official style guide reiterates these rules with occasional tweaks, such as women's jumpsuits being allowed for the first time in 2017 and men's socks made mandatory in 2018. This year face coverings will be required, but these are meant to coordinate with outfits and be selected with the same care that you would a tie or hat. The style guide for 2021, however, stands out for an interesting and unusual reason. It has made sustainability a main theme, and not just in a token sense. The guide actually encourages guests to wear secondhand clothes. It states in the introduction, "We are keen to demonstrate to racing followers around the world that the Royal Meeting is about looking your best – and that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy something brand new. Garments sourced from charity shops, nearly new boutiques, vintage emporiums and resale websites can be found throughout the Style Guide alongside British and sustainable fashion labels." In the 48-page booklet that follows, photos offering outfit inspiration and illustrating the various rules use a mix of new and preloved items. Royal Ascot partnered with Bay Garnett, known as the Queen of Thrift, for her expert advice on how to build a thrifted high-fashion outfit worthy of the fanciest enclosures at the race. Garnett was involved in styling the Royal Ascot photoshoot, writing on Instagram that she "loves the idea of secondhand clothes moving into spaces that are usually or mostly associated with new stuff." Garnett views secondhand as a fashion statement, too: "Getting dressed up is about having FUN and Royal Ascot is the perfect event for that. Doing it in secondhand fashion makes it even more playful." While it's surprising (and gratifying!) to see secondhand take front-and-center stage at Royal Ascot, it reflects a broader trend. Secondhand clothing has exploded in popularity over the past year. The 2020 Resale Report by online thrift store thredUP reports that the secondhand market is expected to be twice the size of fast fashion by 2029. There are numerous reasons for this, but two seem particularly relevant to this story. It could be that secondhand is the next frontier of sorts. Combing through a vintage store poses a level of challenge that one does not get from buying new, where all the styles and sizes are laid out. There's the thrill of the chase and the ultimate find and the pride one can take in saying the item was thrifted—in other words, worked for. Another reason could be environmental awareness, since wearing secondhand does have a quantifiable benefit. thredUP reported that, if everyone wore a thrifted outfit to one wedding, it would save 1.65 pounds of carbon dioxide per person, which is roughly equivalent to taking 56 million cars off the road for a day. Reselling a dress instead of tossing it shrinks its CO2 impact by 79%, and committing to secondhand clothing will reduce one's own carbon footprint by 527 pounds per year. If you feel inspired to create your own thrifted Ascot outfit (and post about it on social media, as people were urged to do last year), Garnett offers some shopping advice. These useful tips for any secondhand shopping trip: "Look around the shop or the market two or even three times—it's amazing what you can miss the first time round," and "Always try it on. If something catches your eye, but you think it might not be 'YOU', try it! So often it can be a revelation and a surprise as to how great it looks and how much you love it."