Everybody knows that scene in My Fair Lady where Eliza Doolittle, played by Audrey Hepburn, loses her newly-acquired polish and scandalizes high society in the excitement of watching a horse race.
The event was The Royal Meeting at Ascot, a highly prestigious occasion on the British social calendar held in June every year. Being situated less than 10 kilometres from Windsor Castle, Ascot enjoys close association with the royal family; the racecourse was in fact founded by Queen Anne in 1711.
Queen Elizabeth II and other royals attend Royal Ascot for all five days of its duration, arriving each day in a horse-drawn carriage. Annually, more than 300,000 people visit Berkshire during Royal Ascot week, making this Europe’s best-attended race meeting.
It is also a major fashion event, with the Thursday being designated as “Ladies’ Day”. There is a strictly enforced dress code. Men are required to wear black or grey morning dress with a top hat. For women, only a day dress with a hat is acceptable, with rules applying to the length and style of the dress. No bare midriffs or shoulders must be shown.
As for hats though, everything seems to go, the more outlandish, the better. Here are some examples of creations that were on view, from elegant through innovative to the downright weird.