Horsing around with modern millinery

editorial image

In case you were thinking of buying a last minute ticket to one of the most famous social occasions in the racing calendar, Royal Ascot week is totally sold out.

I’ve checked. Only out of sheer nosiness, not because I’m interested in going to it because quite frankly I can’t bear watching horse racing.

Flamboyant hats at Ascot

Flamboyant hats at Ascot

Oh I don’t mind having a twice yearly flutter (a very small flutter) on the gee-gees and in fact, I did quite well in a joint syndicate effort a couple of weeks ago with some friends on a day out for lunch up on the north coast when by sheer coincidence it happened to be Derby Day.

My general tactic is to pick the horse with the most relevant name. On that day I was out with the Craft Club, a small group of former colleagues who meet monthly to catch up and share a meal and a glass of wine, and about which I’ve told you before in this column.

We are essentially a dining club, so we thought it appropriate to put a pound each on a horse called Epicuris, because it sounded like ‘epicure’ which means someone who delights in fine food and drink. You see what we did there?

It came in fifth, but luckily we had hedged our bets, also putting a couple of pounds on Golden Horn to win, only because Frankie Dettori was the jockey and we recognised his name. A wise move, as Golden Horn netted us a nice little earner when he crossed the finish line first. Well, enough for a modest round of drinks anyway.

But back to Royal Ascot, when women try to outdo each other in the fashion stakes, notably on ‘ladies day’ which was yesterday, although I’ve been keeping an eye on the style all week, especially the hats. Looking at some of them I wondered how they keep their balance and not topple over, they looked so top heavy. 

There were some that resembled a massive bowl of lilies that could have been snatched straight from a church communion table; as always, there were creations with feathers that begged to be admired; others had tribal themes and were sprouting spear-like fronds that could probably have threatened to put your eye out if you leaned in for an air kiss.

Then there were the wildly over the top fruity offerings that made Carmen Miranda’s famous headpiece look slightly understated – it was all there.

Pity the poor men who aren’t even allowed to wear coloured socks under their morning suit. (I wonder does someone check these things on the way in?)

There are still churches where ladies are expected to wear a hat though I suspect if one of us turned up with something that resembled a giant Christmas ribbon on our bonces, we might draw more attention to ourselves than desired. Even at weddings, where hats have made something of a comeback, you wouldn’t want to go too over the top lest you be accused of outdoing the mother of the bride, or taking the focus away from the bride herself. (Remember Princess Beatrice’s odd

looking loo seat hat at William and Catherine’s wedding?)

It seems that at Ascot, in the Royal enclosure at least, as long as your hem is no higher than just above the knee, your midriff isn’t showing and your shoulders are covered, your hat can be as outrageous as you like, because as one commentator says, ‘it’s the star of the ensemble’. Hats off to that!