Royal Ascot welcomed overjoyed visitors to this unique and very special occasion, combining elegance, style and tradition with a phenomenal week of racing. After the cancellation for visitors last year many commented that ‘it was great to be back’, and that ‘they were thrilled to be one of only 12,000 visitors allowed each day this year.
The challenges for Royal Ascot presented by the pandemic had been unprecedented as daily government bulletins on the new Covid variant were released. From the initial 4,000 allowed, the number jumped to 10,000 and then to 12,000
But there were rules, visitors, press and staff entering the racecourse had to test for the virus and show negative results on their phones, whilst masks were to be worn in enclosed spaces, or in crowded conditions.
Masks were either ‘custom made’ finished with crystals and sequins (centre), carried a message (right) or HNS basic masks. The ladies were colourful, whilst the men were most comfortable in black.
My normally crammed press office for those working with Fashion, Royal Visitors and VIPs had been relocated to a large marquee and limited to just twenty. Each one of us was overjoyed to be here. And it wasn’t long before this special opening day of Royal Ascot 2021 took on the atmosphere of past years, with television cameras, fashion photographers, on-screen interviews and live music stops, set to a backdrop of an excited audience and spectacular blue skies.
The Tootsie Rollers, who support one milliner each day, stop randomly throughout the racecourse with their 40’s inspired harmonic singing, so wonderful to see them here just as the gates opened. Wearing beautiful organdie headpieces by Bee Smith in colours inspired by the ‘NHS Rainbow’ used for the Covid pandemic.
From Day 1 fashion showed a very feminine side, with oodles of lace, frills, ruffles, flowers and pretty dresses. The fit was slender, with sleeves puffed or voluminous at the shoulder. The length was longer, below the knee, mid-calf or even floor length. Trousers and trouser suits were once again welcomed if keeping within the strict rules Royal Ascot publish each year.
Colour was key, and contrasts were many. White was fantastic for stylish wear, especially for those sporting an even tan. Soft neutrals looked elegant from head to toe; blocks of clashing colours or new mixes; contemporary large-scale prints, or small floral designs; red was a positive and lively tone, as was bright pink and royal blue.
No-one was expecting the Royal carriages to arrive this year, however word quickly spread that a Royal Limousine had taken its place, arriving at approx. One o’ clock. Therefore on Wednesday I was ready and well positioned to see HRH Prince Charles arrive accompanied by The Duchess of Cornwall. Other members of the Royal Family were seen walking out of Car Park 1 and across the main road (accompanied by security men) with other eager racegoers. Not their normal entrance, but I’m sure one that they quite enjoyed.
The Queen took pride of place on Saturday as she arrived in the Parade Ring, stepping out of her car to a stupendous cheer from the crowd.
On a less happy note, this was the first time I’d encountered whispers of ‘possible refusal to the racecourse’ for a number of people due to unsuitable clothing. This took the form of short skirts- or tight trousers. Such a shame as everyone knows the rules, and once they are infringed it encourages others.
The hats and headpieces were fantastic, if my photos ‘tell a story’ then the opening day belonged to Edwina Ibbotson and Bee Smith, Wednesday to Victoria Grant, Ladies Day to Awon Golding and Ian Bennett, and Friday to Vivien Sheriff. Hats this year were statement pieces, There were hats from so many talented milliners, which I have the pleasure to present below. A few are un-named images therefore if the hat was yours please let me know.
My Selection From Tuesday
My Selection from Wednesday
Wednesday is normally a quieter day, with slightly more classic wardrobe maybe, and certainly more relaxed…but not this year! There were no ‘special days’ this year, as every day racegoers were overjoyed just to have a ticket!
My Selection for Thursday
Thursday is Ladies Day at Royal Ascot, and even this year with only 12,000 visitors compared with a normal 72,000 there was a very special feel to the day.
Racegoers and milliners wearing their most spectacular headwear didn’t disappoint, even though rain was forecast from the start of the day. Headwear could be described as fairly wild this year, fun, unexpected and certainly show-stopping.Trims were ruffled, twisted, with movement, giving hats and headpieces an individual style of their own. Therefore huge congratulations to every Royal Ascot milliner/hat maker, your work was sensational in this very special year.
This fab group shot taken for Ladies Day 2021
(backrow L-R) Camilla Ridley Day, Kara Goodley, Victoria Grant, Awon Golding, Nicole Smallwood, Arabella Boyce, Maya Williams
(frontrow L-R) Emma Weymouth, Gayle Rinkoff, Janette Manrara and Nazer Bullen.
(Photo by Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images for Royal Ascot)
My only image for Friday
No-matter that the weather was bad, the rain came, and fell most of the day. However, racegoers are a determined breed, and managed to have fun and enjoy the day.
Vivien Sheriff sent me this photo of a good customer of hers wearing a top of the range model hat and dodging the rain. It was good that she bought her boots…. and someone to help her off with them.
For those celebrating with friends at home Royal Ascot had prepared an exciting week using its digital programme. Their digital Racecard (appearing on screen as a ‘magazine’) was a great success. It was the first year it had been launched, and achieved a take up of over 16,000, including many international readers. It is therefore something Royal Ascot want to build on for 2022. I was invited to write a piece on millinery for the Ladies Day edition, and was extremely proud to find that my article, complete with images and credits, covered 10 pages.
If you would like a copy of this digital race card pleas e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Royal Ascot 2021 will certainly be remembered as a very special meeting, one that would certainly not have taken place without the work and determination of the racecourse team, the fashion press, the television companies and racegoers, all of whom felt extremely fortunate to attend this year. Congratulations to them all.
And don’t forget…. if you book tickets before November there is a considerable discount!
Perfect for a birthday/Christmas present.
So hopefully we shall see you in 2022!