Henley Royal Regatta: Women allowed to wear trousers at rowing event for the first time

Women are now allowed to wear trousers at the Henley Royal Regatta for the first time 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 allow women to wear trousers with a blazer or jacket to the rowing event - for the first time since 1839.

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

Previously, women were required to wear a dress or skirt with a hemline below the knee to gain access to the Steward's Enclosure at the annual event in Oxfordshire.

The Steward's Enclosure has arguably the best view of the finish line and is only open to stewards who organise the regatta, members - who can reportedly wait years to be given membership.

The latest dress code comes just a year after a petition by a University of Oxford rower who called the dress code "draconian".

Oxford student and member of the University Women’s Boat Club, Georgina Grant called for women to be able to wear trousers alongside men last year.

She described the dress code as “oppressive and serves no purpose” to the gathering.

In her petition page, she wrote: “Henley Royal Regatta is a prestigious annual event that is central to the rowing community. This event still upholds sexist and antiquated rules, imposing a draconian dress code in the Stewards’ Enclosure.

“This is not just about women, this is about everyone. Trans, non-binary and people with disabilities are excluded by the HRR dress code. This needs to change.

“On the water, men and women dress the same. Why are things any different off the water? To promote equality for competitors at this event, an equal dress code for spectators is the first place to start.”

Her petition gained more than 1,680 signatures.

A rowing crew make their way up towards the start of the race Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

Men are required to wear lounge suits, or jackets, or blazers with trousers, together with a tie or a cravat.

Before the latest dress code change women could only wear trousers in the Regatta enclosure, which did not have a formal dress code.

A trouser ban remains for women at some private member clubs along the river where spectators watch the regatta from.

Sir Steve Redgrave, chairman of the regatta, 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 approached for comment.