This article is part of FT Globetrotter’s new series on the pleasure 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 look overdressed, but Wimbledon is one of them. There’s a real joy in dressing up for this quintessentially English event, where watching other guests can, for some, be as captivating a sport as what’s happening on center court. Of course, what you wear depends on where you sit and how many days you go; a box requires more sartorial effort than a general pass.
“It would look really weird to look too casual,” says designer Alexa Chung,
a regular on Wimbledon’s best-dressed lists. “Because it’s a sporting event, you want to differentiate the crowd from the players. It’s very important not to fall into a tracksuit.
There is no official dress code, except for the Royal Box, where guests are asked to dress “smartly”. “Lounge suits / jacket and tie” is the guideline 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 who occupy other less exalted seats as well (although a small-brimmed hat is fine). Elsewhere, the formal way to dress is a matter of debate, so at Wimbledon you’re likely to spy the gamut, from the odd pair of candle sweats and trainers to cocktail dresses with heels and straps. matching hats (not a look I’d like to recommend).
A good rule of thumb is to choose what you would wear to a summer wedding, that is, nothing that will distract from the main event. Avoid noisy prints, bright colors and fluorescents. Think in terms of layers that will protect you from the sun, rain and evening chill. A cardigan or blazer, sunscreen, sunglasses and a modest brim straw hat will come in very handy. Something from Chanel, hatter 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 like linen or summer wool looks most elegant, as evidenced by photos of field regulars Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch. HTSI 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, relaxed fabrics like cotton, her structured dresses and matching pieces are elegant but not too formal. Last year, I wore her short-sleeved, belted Jody dress in rugged navy denim with loafers, an outfit I’ve worn again for weddings and engagements. This year, her pale blue cotton Monique would be my go-to (£1,060, emiliawickstead.co.uk), perhaps with a cream Blazé Milano linen blazer over the shoulders (£1,261, mytheresa.com).
A structured day dress isn’t for everyone, however, and London designer Elizabeth Saltzman, whose celebrity list 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 alone or under a blazer, MaxMara and Frame for the trousers and Tamara Mellon’s Absolute Sandal, whose cushioned soles will keep you comfortable. day ($595, tamaramellon.com). “For me, it’s really a mix,” she says. “If you’re going away for more than one day, consider your seven pieces that you can mix and match.”
Chung recommends gentle tailoring, à la Julia Roberts in the second half of A pretty woman, for those who want to look smart but not stuffy. Try pleated Bermuda shorts (MaxMara is your best bet), worn as a suit or with
a crisp cotton shirt and a cashmere sweater draped over the shoulders. Or take a page from Lady Helen Taylor’s 2021 playbook and pair a cotton blazer with wide leg utility trousers (I like Reformation’s, £180, thereformation.com).
A sleek jumpsuit, like the ones worn by Sienna Miller in 2015 and 2018, can be unexpected in a good way. Heels are popular, but to me it seems a bit odd at an event where you’re on your feet for most of the day. Sneakers, moccasins or ballet flats would be more comfortable and would balance out the elegance of the clothes you might be wearing.
For men who don’t want to wear a suit, mix and match tailored pieces. Tammy Abraham stepped out last year in a Ralph Lauren chambray blazer, pale chinos and suede trainers, a lavender sweater tied around her shoulders.
Of course, there is something to be said for subverting the norms. Chung looked stunning last year in a sequined sleeveless top: “I just thought it was a pretty weird thing to wear – there are a lot of dresses,” she told me. Woody Harrelson walked to Wimbledon in 2018 wearing a short-sleeved blue shirt, Birkenstocks and a lanyard that read ‘VIP’, making every Englishman in a suit look like an overdressed schoolboy. It’s all about context.
Lauren Indvik is the FT’s fashion editor
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