This article is part of FT Globetrotter’s new series on the joy of tennis, and also part of our guide to London
There are few occasions now where you can don a suit and tie and not appear overdressed, but Wimbledon is one of them. There is a real joy in dressing up for this quintessentially English event, where observing the other guests can, for some, be as compelling a sport as what happens on centre court. Of course, what you wear depends on where you’re seated and how many days you’re going for; a box calls for more sartorial effort than a general grounds pass.
“It would look really weird to look too casual,” says designer Alexa Chung,
a regular on Wimbledon best-dressed lists. “Because it’s a sporting event, you want to differentiate the crowd from the players. It’s quite important not to rock up in a trackie.”
There is no official dress code, except for the Royal Box, where guests are asked to dress “smart”. “Lounge suits/jacket and tie” is the directive for men, while women are asked not to wear hats so as not to “obscure the vision of those seated behind them” — useful guidelines for those in other, less exalted seats too (although a small-brimmed hat is fine). Everywhere else, how formally to dress is a matter of debate, so at Wimbledon you’re likely to spy the full gamut, from the odd pair of bougie sweats and trainers to cocktail dresses with heels and matching hats (neither a look I’d recommend).
A good rule of thumb is to choose what you would wear to a summer wedding, meaning nothing that will distract from the main event. Avoid loud prints, bright colours and fluorescents. Think in terms of layers that will shield you from sun, rain and evening chill. A cardigan or blazer, sun cream, sunglasses and a straw hat with a modest brim will all serve you well. Something from Chanel-owned hatmaker Maison Michel is ideal (from £450, matchesfashion.com), or try Gucci (£375, matchesfashion.com), Eric Javits or Harvey Nichols.
For men, a pale suit in a lighter fabric such as linen or summer-weight wool looks smartest, as photos of courtside regulars Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch can attest. HTSI contributing editor and resident dandy Nicholas Foulkes recommends Anderson & Sheppard, Drake’s, Lock & Co, Hackett and Ralph Lauren. For shoes, head to Gaziano & Girling, Corthay and Edward Green.
Day dresses are the de facto uniform for women at Wimbledon. London designer Emilia Wickstead is a good bet. In cool, casual fabrics such as cotton, her structured dresses and matching separates are elegant but not overly formal. Last year I wore her short-sleeved, belted Jody dress in a sturdy navy denim with loafers, an outfit I’ve worn again for weddings and the odd speaking engagement. This year, her Monique in pale blue cotton would be my pick (£1,060, emiliawickstead.co.uk), perhaps with a cream linen Blazé Milano blazer over the shoulders (£1,261, mytheresa.com).
A structured day dress is not for everyone, however, and London-based stylist Elizabeth Saltzman, whose celebrity-dressing roster includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Saoirse Ronan, Poppy Delevingne and Uma Thurman, suggests mixing casual and tailored pieces. She is a fan of Outerknown’s cashmere Eliott Tee (£275, outerknown.com), which can be worn on its own or under a blazer, MaxMara and Frame for trousers and Tamara Mellon’s Absolute Sandal, whose padded soles will keep you in comfort all day ($595, tamaramellon.com). “For me, it’s really about a mix,” she says. “If you’re going for more than one day, think about your seven pieces you can mix and match.”
Chung recommends soft tailoring, à la Julia Roberts in the second half of Pretty Woman, for those who want to look smart but not staid. Try pleated Bermuda shorts (MaxMara is your best bet), worn as a suit or with
a crisp cotton shirt and cashmere jumper draped over the shoulders. Or take a page from Lady Helen Taylor’s 2021 playbook and pair a cotton blazer with wide-leg utilitarian trousers (I like Reformation’s, £180, thereformation.com).
A sleek jumpsuit, like those worn by Sienna Miller in 2015 and 2018, can be unexpected in a good way. Heels are popular, but to me look slightly odd at an event where you are on your feet much of the day. Plimsolls, loafers or ballet flats would be more comfortable and counterbalance the dressiness of the garments you might be wearing.
For men who don’t want to wear a suit, mix tailored separates. Tammy Abraham cut a dash last year in a Ralph Lauren chambray blazer, pale chinos and suede trainers, a lavender jumper knotted around his shoulders.
Of course, there’s something to be said for subverting the norms. Chung looked terrific last year in a sleeveless sequin top: “I just thought it was quite a weird thing to wear — there are a lot of dresses,” she told me. Woody Harrelson rocked up to Wimbledon in 2018 wearing a blue short-sleeved shirt, Birkenstocks and a lanyard that read “VIP”, making every besuited Englishman look like an overdressed schoolboy. It’s all about context.
Lauren Indvik is the FT’s fashion editor
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