Henley Regatta lets women wear trousers for first time in 182-year history

People arrive on the opening day of the 2021 Henley Royal Regatta alongside the river Thames. (Andrew Matthews/PA)
People arrive on the opening day of the 2021 Henley Royal Regatta alongside the river Thames. (Andrew Matthews/PA)
PA Wire

Women are now allowed to wear trousers at the Henley Royal Regatta – a first in its 182-year history.

The rowing event, which has been held annually in the Oxfordshire town since 1839, has updated its dress code for the Stewards’ Enclosure to state that women can wear “jackets or blazers with trousers, or trouser suits” in addition to dresses or skirts “with a hemline below the knee”.

A further Q&A on the website states jumpsuits and culottes are also allowed but must also have a hemline below the knee.

While the regatta has been going for 182 years, a formal dress code did not come into force until the late 1970s, according to Sir Steve Redgrave chairman of the regatta.

The change comes after a petition was launched by Oxford student and member of the University Women’s Boat Club, Georgina Grant, last year, which called for women to be able to wear trousers alongside men.

People sit on the banks of the river on the opening day of the 2021 Henley Royal Regatta alongside the river Thames (Andrew Matthews/PA)

It gained more than 1,680 signatures.

Speaking to the PA news agency, the 23-year-old said it felt “amazing” after discovering the change had been made.

“It’s quite a small change, but I think for them to sort of concede on it and change something which has existed for years, that’s a huge step and it made me feel quite excited about attending the event,” Ms Grant said.

She added that after launching her petition, she was contacted by an attendee who was transgender and another who was disabled and both shared their struggles of dealing with the dress code.

“I think that that would probably be the next step, which is if they wanted to keep the dress code, could they potentially just de-gender it?” Ms Grant said.

“They could say ‘you either wear this, or you wear this’. It doesn’t necessarily have to be men wear this, woman wear this. In doing that, it includes everyone. You can keep it formal but give people options.”

She added she will be attending the regatta this weekend and is planning to wear trousers to celebrate the change.

The Stewards’ Enclosure has the best views of the rowing competition and is open only to stewards, members and their guests.

A rowing crew make their way up towards the start of the race. (Andrew Matthews/PA)

A separate area for the general public, which this year has been moved and renamed the Supporters Lawn, has no formal dress code.

Sir Steve said it was an “evolution not revolution” which he was “very much in favour of”.

He told the Telegraph: “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 and a growing number of women stewards, we felt that it was the right time to make the change.”

The Henley Royal Regatta has been contacted for comment.

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