That Royal Ascot is one of the most anticipated meetings in the racing calendar is without doubt; the jewel in the crown of a series of flat-racing summer festivals held around the UK.
But the Royal meeting is so much more than that: it is also one of the highlights of the summer social season, a place where fashion and glamour meet at their pinnacle. The atmosphere and sheer joy of Royal Ascot is utterly addictive and that is without taking into account the world-class racing that attracts runners from around the globe. It is an occasion where for many, outfits are planned in advance, some many months in advance. Many milliners will have been working round the clock to fulfil client orders for the week.
So when the famous inclement English weather decides to rain and rain in its most torrential form for the first two days of Royal Ascot, it is hard not to feel deflated not only for the racing as a spectacle, the racecourse officials who ensure the course is presented to perfection (Ascot should really win its own Best Turned Out Award every year) and pull out all the stops to provide the consummate experience for the racing public, but also for all those racegoers who have planned their day and their outfits so carefully, only for the rain to put a dampener on the day.
Consequently, it was with great relief that for the Thursday, the famous Ladies Day, the weather decided to play ball and take a turn for the better.
Maybe it was the weather-imposed restrictions of the first two days that prompted such a turn-out of outfits on Thursday but for Ladies Day, the hats and outfits were more flamboyant and larger than ever. Hats were noticeably bigger. One of the early spots was Tracey Rose, who stopped for a chat with her husband Russell.
Tracey who is one of the much loved stalwarts of Ascot, was wearing one of her own bespoke outfits centred around her hat of an upside down bouquet of flowers.
We bumped into a number of Milliners, all enjoying the break in the weather. Anna Gilder (Instagram @annagilder), had picked the right day to showcase her impressive hat, accompanied by Venera Tabakin (@venera_tabakin), who had chosen an original, hand painted Uzbekistan silk to craft her turban.
Maria Zherebtsova, aka Hats by Maria (@hats_bymaria) told us how she had created her hat to match her Christopher Kane skirt complete with iridescent film. Maria was with her ultra-stylish mother, Natalia, who was wearing a beautiful emerald green hat that Maria had customised to match her mother’s Peek-A-Boo dress.
We saw Eclipse favourite Isabella Josie enjoying the day in a beautiful pink and turquoise hat to match her Mint Velvet dress. Isabella was out with Kelly Hazeel wearing one of Isabella’s own hats and Milliner Michelle Clarke who was in one of her own hats paired with a Carla Ruiz dress.
A milliner we met at Epsom, Yuan Li (@yuanlilondon), was responsible for a very fun pink pom-pom hat modelled by Heather Morris. Yuan Li was herself sporting an extravagant ombre feather saucer hat. The colour pop of these two ladies’ outfits looked amazing against the famous Ascot flower wall.
Colours for Ladies Day were varied but we did see a strong preference for coral, no doubt influenced by the Pantone colour of the year Living Coral (Pantone 16-1546); and a lot of Red. Dresses and dress suits were definitely more prevalent than jumpsuits although the jumpsuits we spotted were in beautiful jewel colours.
A couple of very interesting ladies we stopped were the Reverend Michelle Porter-Babbarge and Chaplain Sarah Mortimer. Michelle and Sarah were at Ascot as part of the racing element of charity Sports Chaplaincy UK (www.sportschaplaincy.org.uk). There are over 220 sports chaplains in the UK & Ireland, providing spiritual and pastoral care to professional and amateur sportsmen and women. On hand and available to talk, Michelle and Sarah are one of many who work behind the scenes tirelessly to provide support to those who seek it.
We saw many well known faces making their way into the course but newlyweds Lady Gabriella Windsor and Tom Kingston caused a flash-bulb bomb to go off from the press attention.
The delightful Mrs Jonjo O’Neil stopped Jonjo in his tracks so we could take a photo of them together:
As beautiful as ever and always happy to divulge her outfit secrets, we loved the Oscar de la Renta dress and hat by Rachel Hawkins from the Cotswold Hat Club. This is a company that crops up time and time again when we visit the racecourses. A great idea for those who like to explore the variety of hats out there for the racegoer, Rachel provides the opportunity to subscribe to a hat hiring service, all of which are carefully chosen by Rachel herself. Please check out Rachel’s hat club if you get the chance www.thecotswoldhatclub.co.uk.
Before attention switched to the arrival of the Queen, we grabbed a quick word with the beautiful Franscesca Cumani on her way in.
We are huge fans of Francesca’s style and her stylist Sarah-Kate Byrne ( check out her site – Maison de Saison on Facebook). Sarah-Kate had dressed Francesca in a tropical vintage dress and hat by Vivien Sheriff.
Immediately prior to racing, the famous royal procession made its way down the course. As if by magic, the rather dull day turned into sunshine before the arrival of Her Majesty.
Thursday’s colours were the topic of some debate, was Her Majesty wearing grey or blue? We think it was Lilac with accents of beautiful lemon yellow. The Queen complemented her outfit with a pleated hat with spike flowers and a striking floral brooch fitted with stunning yellow diamonds, which were gifted to the regent by the Sultan of Oman.
Others out and about on Ladies Day who stopped to be photographed by Rachel Groom for Eclipse Magazine included:
Former professional footballer Glen Johnson.
Heather Morris, wearing a hat by Yuan Li.
Lt Colonel Michael Skaggs with his wife Mrs Robin Skaggs and their daughter Miss Reagan Skaggs – who had enjoyed a wonderful trip to the Kentucky Derby this year.
Lyazzat Sauvanbavry who wears Burberry Silk dress and hat by Vivien Sheriff (Harrods).
Former professional footballer and racehorse owner Michael Owen.
Natalie Dormer who played Margaery Tyrell in the Game of Thrones series.
Nell Hudson, actress who played the title role in Victoria.
Sarah Jane Hannon whose partner is jockey Gary Halpin who was riding in the 3.40. Sarah Jane wears dress from Boohoo, hat by Pamela Curain Millinery and shoes from New Look.
From left to right: Shannelle Riley; Ranique Roosevelt; Elizabeth Ellis Carr; Nastacia Roosevelt. These fabulous ladies had also attended the Kentucky Derby.
Sylvia Sanders (dress: Monsoon; hat: Nigel Raymond; shoes: Mulberry) and Carol Gaunt (dress Cos; hat Nigel Raymond).