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A group of young women at the Henley Regatta

Guy Corbishley / Alamy Stock Photo

Love it or loathe it, times are a-changing at the Henley Royal Regatta. For the first time in the event’s 182-year history, women are allowed to wear trousers and calf-skimming dresses to the glamorous high society event (where blazers are still mandatory). Photographs taken of the first day yesterday, when the sun thankfully shone on the riverbanks of the Oxfordshire town, illustrated that the change was being fully embraced.

Previously, women were required to wear a dress or skirt with a hemline below the knee. Men must wear a lounge suit, or trousers with a jacket or blazer.

Sir Steve Redgrave, the regatta chairman, announced the historic update saying ‘times have changed’ and it is the ‘right time’ to shake up the rules’.

What to wear to Henley Royal Regatta 2021

He said: ‘We have been asked for a number of years if we could look at the ladies’ dress code because times have changed. Even though we see ourselves very much as a traditional event with a traditional way of dressing, with the introduction of more women’s events in recent years, we felt that it was the right time to make the change. It is not a major change by any stretch of the imagination but we still see the regatta as an excuse to dress up like you would for any other celebration. If you see the regatta as a social occasion, as I do, people like to dress up and that is what Henley is all about – colour and celebration.’

Leander Club debuts its remarkable makeover at day one of Henley Royal Regatta


Maureen McLean / Alamy Stock Photo

The Henley Royal Regatta, into its second day, attracts thousands of visitors over the course of the five-day event. Teams compete in over 300 races of an international standard on the Thames. It was first staged in 1839 and has been held annually every year since, except during the two World Wars and 2020 due to the pandemic.

As far as the dress code goes, whatever next, will the Savoy start permitting trainers and the Garrick female members? We’ll have to wait and see – the Henley Royal Regatta has waded firmly into the 21st century.

Henley Royal Regatta 2021: The insider’s guide

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