Royal Ascot once again combined international racing with a swathe of stylish fashion. As the gates opened at 10.30 on Tuesday morning the waiting crowd eagerly entered the racecourse. A few trendsetters were teased out by the waiting photographers and TV crews, maybe to be interviewed on the big screen later that morning. So many terrific ensembles all accessorised with hats were shown. The Royal Family, attending en masse, on this the opening day set the bar for elegance and exceptional style, making headlines with international media coverage. After 18 years as a press/photographer, it is still a great thrill at 2.10pm to watch the Royal carriages arrive. It always amazes everyone, as the cheers go up, how close the Queen and her family are to their audience. Following the Queen’s arrival the day is ‘all about racing’, maybe dining and drinking champagne, and later unwinding to the mass singsong.
There is a strict dress code for those with Royal Enclosure badges. This includes the length of hems, over shoulder straps, base hat size, waistcoats, ties, top hats etc. For those within the Queen Anne Enclosure the code is not as strict. However the vast majority of ladies are extremely fashionable and thrilled to be able to ‘dress up’ for this very special day.
Fashion Directions for 2018
There were more dresses than suits, covering a vast array of styles. Most ladies looked very comfortable in their outfits, be it tightly fitted, a full shirt, or something quite extrovert. Hemlines were set on or below the knee with many uneven or angular hems. Mid-calf and ankle length dresses gave a reworked 30s 40s or 50s look. Most popular was the close fitting dress, some were wrap dresses, others had pleated surfaces or textures. Full skirts were young whilst duchess satin dresses were elegant. Surface design came in large florals, jungle themes or digital prints. A good figure was a must for trouser suits and ‘all-in-ones’, which were more ‘on trend’ this year, either in classic shades, printed or in vibrant tones. Trousers were either wide or slim cut and worn with a jacket.
Millinery Directions for 2018
At the end of April the premium fashion store Fenwick announced it was to be this year’s Royal Ascot Official Millinery Sponsor. For the third season running Fenwick and Royal Ascot would collaborate by inviting eight of the UK’s most exciting milliners, both established and emerging, to produce one exclusive design for 2018 under the title The Royal Ascot Millinery Collective. This year’s selection included milliners Awon Golding, Alexandra Harper, Jess Collett, Stephen Jones, Philip Treacy, Rachel Trevor-Morgan, Monique Lee and Cara Meehan.
The eight pieces are available to view at https://www.fenwick.co.uk/daily-muse/article/?cid=8a922487-42fe-44c5-bfa1-cd4efb77ab5a
For 2018 hat wearing was ‘de rigour’ with over 95% of the 150,000+ ladies wearing hats or headpieces. Most were positioned on the head using a base, a small beret shape, pillbox, or tiara, which was then trimmed or decorated. Setting the hat on a headband, either visible or invisible, gave a security to the wearer in all weathers, eliminated difficulties with head size, whilst positioning the piece exactly at the correct angle. Trims were high and tossed above the head, some free form some tailored, but whatever your style feathers were a ‘must’, either scattered or finished with mathematical precision. Crin also made a big return following the styles of Philip Treacy, as he edged free-flow forms with wide crin borders (see pic 226) . There were hats that combined a range of different material to produce a style of contrasting textures. This was a clever use of valuable straws, although some required skilled millinery techniques.
By contrast, simple unadorned shapes were ‘waved’ and circular. The boater crept into Royal Ascot as a far more fashionable style, as was the wider brimmed hat, most with shallow crowns. There were a few turbans and toques but not as many as I’d expected. The best one I spotted was multi-coloured in net, (see pic 238), with a high tie at the front.
Colour was everywhere, clashing, combining, used as a theme, overlaid or by contrast sedate, feminine and restful. The most notable bold colours were red, royal, yellow and fuchsia. Softer more feminine tones came in pale blue, pink, lavender, turquoise and lemon. Green was worn with a lot of leaf and jungle prints. And finally the classics were made up of nude, black & white, navy, silver and gold.
Although there are no competitions for fashion or millinery at Royal Ascot, the British, Australian and Irish milliners always push the boundaries, introducing new trends and techniques. It was also good to see many of these designers themselves here at Royal Ascot, relaxing and enjoying the day after a great season for millinery.
Royal Ascot – Our Coverage
From the 2,000+ photos taken this year at Royal Ascot we have selected 250 across headwear, outfits and the unique ambiance of the event. The names of the milliners included (where possible) were the names/labels given to us by the wearer. We are always eager to update our selection with missing millinery names, so please let us know if one of these hats was yours.