Keep your hat on! Britain’s Royal Ascot may have kicked off with a rainy start, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm for horse racing fans. This is Queen Elizabeth’s most favorite event. Here, royals mingle with the commoners to congregate at this historic five-day horse race and show off their over-the-top hats and head gear.
The Royal Ascot was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne in the town of Ascot. Royal Ascot is the height of the social season, sandwiched between the Queen’s birthday and Wimbledon. Historically, this brings everyone out to Ascot in their best finery, keeping in mind that there is a strictly-enforced dress code. No flimsy or strapless dresses and certainly no bare heads.
The Royal Ascot enforces the rule that everyone must wear a hat. And if you must wear a hat, then the crazier, bigger, and more extreme, the better. One of the big trends now are “hatinators,” part hat and part fascinator. The racegoers seem to enjoy making a glamorous or whimsical fashion statement with elaborate hats and sensational dresses in creams and whites or sherbet colors and bold prints. Some garments were made of lace, while one woman wore a dress made of pink and white marshmallows.
The royals make a grand arrival in a dramatic procession, each elegantly waving from their open air vehicles. While we have seen a lot of the royal family of late because of the pomp and circumstance around the Queen’s 90th birthday, there are no complaints of royal overexposure. This is when we get to check out what frocks the royals are wearing.
This year is the first year William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended as a couple. The former Kate Middleton recycled a white lace Dolce & Gabbana midi dress and a cream-colored rose, with matching feathers gracefully secured on top of her woven gold Jane Taylor hat. She accessorized her dress with a name tag that said: “HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.” People were not sure if this name tag was formal protocol, or if this was in case anyone was unsure it was really her. Kate and William presented the winning horse trophy to jockey Mickael Barzalona, who rode Usherette.
Even Fergie, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, the ex-wife of Prince Andrew, made an appearance. This was her public renewal within the royal court. Accompanying her ex-husband, as well as her daughter, Princess Beatrice, the Duchess was buttoned up and dressed properly for this most public function. This was Fergie’s second year in a row attending Ascot, after she was banned from such royal activities for nearly two decades when she divorced Andrew in 1996. Her curtsy to the queen, alongside daughter Beatrice, was deep and respectful, showing her earnestness in remaining within the royal fold. It is understood that the Queen is quite fond of her former daughter-in-law.
Wagering is not limited to horses. Bets can even be placed on what color hat the queen or Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, will wear. For example, bookmakers had two-to-one odds that Kate would wear a cream or beige hat. The queen disappointed fans that bet that she would wear a blue hat. She went with brighter colors such as pink, yellow, and orange.
There was one sad note on Thursday when the Queen’s horse, Guy Fawkes, broke his foot in the King George V Stakes and sadly, they had to put the horse down.
Each race day, there is over $1.5 million awarded. Racegoers go through over 51,000 bottles of champagne, 3,000 lobsters and over 45,000 afternoon teas. About 300,000 people are expected to attend the five-day spectacular event from the U.K. and beyond.
Who do you think wore the best hat? How do you think this compares to the Kentucky Derby?
[Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse]