Royal Ascot is an annual day of horses and hats. Think the Kentucky Derby over five days, but more, well, British, without the Mint Juleps and the humidity. Ascot is a town southeast of Oxford where once a year, an average of 300k people gather for the biggest horse race of the year in England.
CNN says that Royal Ascot, which started in 1711, has a tradition of big, bold, and colorful hats worn by many including the royal family. From petite fascinators to hats overflowing with whimsy, some simply come for the event to hat watch.
Stephen Bayley, a social commentator, said that the Royal Ascot, and what you wear, is the epitome of a class study.
“Snobbery is the science of analyzing visual and aural data to determine class. And the British have raised this mere science to a high art form. Take hats, especially the fantastical display headwear at Royal Ascot or a royal wedding. Every nuance of style, shape, color betrays the ambitions and status of its wearer. It may be a pretty scene, but it’s also cruelly revealing.”
This year is also the first Royal Ascot for the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, and she didn’t disappoint in a Philip Treacy hat and a Givenchy dress.
Others came with horse- and garden-themed hats with a variety of bird feathers, Queen Elizabeth attended dressed in lemon yellow with a matching yellow hat adorned with a blue hydrangea. Fashion writers have suggested that in terms of wild hats, “more is more” at Royal Ascot, and this includes the use of peacock feathers and brightly colored butterflies.
There were hats covered with flowers and others that featured one giant flower. Men wear hats too, but they tend to be Panama hats or top hats, sometimes with a flair of color, but not even close to the boldness of the women’s hats.
One woman even decorated her hijab with a fascinator in a navy blue bejeweled hat.
Page Six shared a photo of Jackie St. Clair in a hat that was a birdcage balanced atop her head, decorated with birds and purple flowers to match her lilac dress. Another hat seemed to be reenacting the Washington, D.C., Cherry Blossom Festival, while another stood two feet above a woman’s head, covered in gold leaf.
Town & Country explained that missing from this year’s Royal Ascot was Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, but for a very good reason. Kate was given Royal Ascot 2018 off for maternity leave, as Prince Louis was born this spring.