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Duchess Sophie's waist-cinching snake print dress was one of her wildest fashion moments

The Duchess of Edinburgh brought animal print to Royal Ascot in 1995 - and her look will make you double take

woman wearing black hat at ascot
Georgia Brown
Senior Lifestyle & Fashion Writer
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The Duchess of Edinburgh has one of the most impressive style files in the royal family. 

From her timeless and tailored London girl era to her marvellous millinery moments and feminine, floral fits, the wife of Prince Edward's unmistakable elegance often sets her apart from the royal style set. 

Where Duchess Sophie, 59, truly excels in the fashion department, is at Royal Ascot - the annual summer season at Ascot Racecourse where horse racing meets sartorial splendour. 

Royal Ascot is an opportunity for racegoers to don their finest attire and magnificent hats, with the Royal Enclosure boasting an extremely specific dress code. 

Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh attends day two of Royal Ascot 2023 at Ascot Racecourse on June 21, 2023 in Ascot, England. © Samir Hussein
Royal Ascot is all about the headwear

Guests must wear skirts below the knee, have shoulder straps of one inch or wider, and everyone has to wear hats. 

Strapless or one-shoulder dresses are strictly prohibited, as are halter necks, visible mid-riffs and customised top hats adorned with embellishments like ribbons or feathers.

The Duchess of Edinburgh with dad© Getty
The Duchess of Edinburgh wore a floral print dress on day three of Royal Ascot in 2022

Luckily, the Duchess of Edinburgh has over two decades of experience in dressing for Royal Ascot - and even her outfits worn in the 1990s are a vision of regal race day elegance. 

Rewind to 1995, four years before she married Prince Edward, former PR business owner Sophie Rhys-Jones joined her then-boyfriend in the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot. 

The Duchess of Edinburgh (née Sophie Rhys-Jones) at Royal Ascot races in 1995© Tim Graham
The Duchess of Edinburgh (née Sophie Rhys-Jones) at Royal Ascot races in 1995

Sophie, who would have been 30 at the time, looked exquisite in a white, halter-neck dress cinched in at the waist by a snake-print corset. 

The royal wore a waist-cinching snake-print collar© Tim Graham
The royal wore a waist-cinching snake-print collar

Pushing the boundaries with a halter neckline (which is forbidden in the Royal Enclosure) Sophie layered with a chic, white bolero jacket that added drama to her feminine silhouette. 

The Duchess no doubt caught her boyfriend Prince Edward's eye as she beguiled with a dewy beauty glow, including a soft blush, rosy lips and a light flutter of mascara. 


Princess Kate wearing black and white polka dots and a hat

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One of the most important elements of Royal Ascot's dress code is the hat - an essential for all guests in the Royal Enclosure - and Sophie's was a bow-adorned, wide-brimmed masterpiece that perfectly accompanied her figure-flattering look. 

The royal's bow-adorned hat looked so chic© Tim Graham
The royal's bow-adorned hat looked so chic

The royal's penchant for bow-themed garments has remained almost 30 years later. At Royal Ascot in 2023, the Duchess wore a heavenly white dress featuring striking bow detailing that protruded from the rounded neckline of the garment.

Continuing her bow theme, on Christmas Day in 2023, the royal mother-of-two wore a green coat, complete with statement bow detailing on the shoulder.

More Royal Style

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