It may have been the last day of Royal Ascot but sartorial standards certainly hadn’t slipped anywhere in the Royal Enclosure. After watching catwalk shows featuring creations from Giles Deacon, Vivienne Westwood and the hat master Grand Pooh-bah, Stephen Jones, we sat down for a chat with the new guard of milliners who are changing the way the game is played – Piers Atkinson, Noel Stewart, Charlie Le Mindu and Justin Smith (J. Smith Esquire).
“Hat millinery is the one true luxury left,” Atkinson – the man behind Anna Dello Russo’s giant cherry headpiece - told us. “It’s on par with couture. You know, you go in to a milliner’s studio and you work with us on creating something that is unique to you; that matches your dress and makes exactly the right statement that you want it to make.
“Girls come into my pop-up shop [at the St Martin’s Lane Hotel now], and they put on a hat thinking that they’re going to look silly, then they look in the mirror and change their minds. Hats change everything - the way the stand, they way the hold themselves. They feel like a million pounds and that’s not something they’ll feel when they buy a hat at a department store.”
“When a girl wears a hat,” said Stewart, “they immediately look like they’re having a great time.”
“Hats bring attention, and they protect,” added Smith.
We all agreed that - thanks to the Royal Jubilee, Kate Middleton, the Royal Wedding and a week at Ascot that has seen the likes of Lara Stone, Caroline Sieber, Pixie Lott and Florence Brudenell-Bruce make be-hatted appearances - hats are having a real moment. And, actually, Grazia Daily is thrilled about this.
Being in the mood for a flutter, we started betting early with a wager that the Queen would wear buttercup yellow on her last day at the races. We were wrong, she wore a green coat with a blue floral dress, and thus began an impressive losing streak that was broken only by a 50p win on Black Caviar, the real star of the day.
We saw actual tears of joy in the eyes of the race-goers as the magnificent black mare sprinted to the finishing line, and a couple of fashion editors lose their cool at how close the result actually was.
Then it was back to the real business of the day – playing ‘spot the designer frock’. We spied dresses by Roland Mouret, Roksanda Ilincic, Peter Pilotto, Giles Deacon, Erdem, Richard Nicoll, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, and hats by Stephen Jones, Atkinson, Philip Treacy and Noel Stewart.
As for us, we topped off a white vintage wrap dress with a lilac Jane Taylor headpiece. And we learnt that winning in the fashion stakes does not always translate to success with the bookies. Hey, you win some, you lose some.
by Julia Neel, @julianeel