Ascot Adventure With Milliner Katie Vale

For the first Royal Ascot covered here in June 2013, I shyly invited British milliner Katie Vale to join as a guest commenter. To my great surprise, she accepted (and returned for Ascot 2014!) and the addition of her millinery expertise, knowledge, candor and humor so elevated our conversations. After nearly a decade of cheering each other’s triumphs from afar, we were brought back together early this year to, with others, develop and launch The British Millinery Association. After spending many hours on zoom chats and email, I’m pleased to now count her as a dear friend. Last month, Katie attended Royal Ascot for the first time and generously shares that experience with us today. Welcome, Katie!

Back in 2019, my friend and fellow milliner, Jane Fryers, invited me to join her at Royal Ascot as her guest in the Royal Enclosure. Obviously, I jumped at the chance and we booked our tickets for June 2020.  Then COVID hit. Royal Ascot was cancelled and we accepted Ascot Racecourse’s offer to roll our tickets over to 2021. Things were still uncertain as to whether we would be able to attend until just three weeks prior to the event when we finally heard it was a go. Having had nearly two years to think about it, I suddenly had three weeks to put together my outfit!

This year’s Ascot style theme was sustainability so I decided to wear a dress that I have had for some time. I have worn the mustard Grable dress from House of Foxy to all sorts of occasions and was confident it would work really well, not only because it adheres to the strict dress rules for the Royal Enclosure, but because it’s comfortable!

I teamed the dress with Astrid shoes and matching clutch bag from Rainbow Club.  I had these dyed hot pink a few years ago and thought they would look great with this dress.

Pandemic guidelines at the time required facemasks when indoors. I purchased this fabulous sequined mask from Millhouse Millinery.


I continued the mustard and hot pink colour scheme with my hat which I made using freeform sinamay techniques I learned on a course with British milliner Tracy Chaplin. I finished the hat with golden floating curled quills in a technique I learned from Australian milliner Rebecca Share from Hatatelier.

 It’s fair to say this is quite a bold colour combinations and I appreciate this palette isn’t for everyone. But for me, I am more confident in strong, bright colours (I actually feel strangely uncomfortable in neutral colours!) and don’t notice how bold my clothes are until I get comments about it! I think it’s best that we all wear whatever makes us most comfortable!

When you first arrive at the racecourse you are faced with a big grassy car park where lots of people are enjoying picnics prior to entering. This year of course was very different; as an NHS test event, we had to provide evidence of various negative COVID tests. Once through security we were greeted with a lovely view. The sun was shining, Pimms was flowing, photographers were taking pictures and I couldn’t get over the vast array of hats on display! We bumped into Elly Stemerdenk from The Hat Magazine then headed to the infamous flower wall- you can’t go to Royal Ascot and not take photos at the flower wall!

Once we had found a spot to sit were decided to take a look at the program. I picked out one horse per race to put a small bet on. I’m not into betting nor do I know anything at all about horse racing so I was pretty flummoxed when I had a big win early in the day!

In between each race, you can view the horses preparing for the next race or you can stay put and enjoy your Pimms! I went outside in the beautiful sunshine to watch some of the races, but I am actually frightened of horses!  Yep, there I have said it. These incredibly beautiful animals run at very high speeds, in excess of 40 mph. The thunder of them as they charge past, whilst exhilarating for some, added to my fear. So I chose to watch a little further back, rather than right at the front barrier.

The day went by in no time and I could have stayed for several more hours. One thing that is worth noting to any one who is new to Ascot, is that there is lots of walking. Luckily, the shoes I wore are incredibly comfortable, even though high. Do make sure you consider this when working out what you will wear.

Something that I found so delightful was everyone complimenting each other. Women were happily approaching each other just to say “You look fabulous!”, “Your hat is wonderful!” There was no end of compliments passed between strangers or nods and smiles of approval. It was incredibly refreshing to see. And whilst the horse racing is of course the essence of Royal Ascot….it simply is “like nowhere else” and the fashion makes the event.

What a day, Katie! I was so pleased (and a little jealous!) to hear what a wonderful time you had. And your hat- what a beauty. I absolutely ADORE the scale, shape, quills and unexpected but beautifully vibrant mustard and fuchsia colour scheme. It’s such a head turner! Thanks, Katie, for sharing this Ascot adventure with us. May it be the first of many! 

You can check out Katie’s lovely work at Katie Vale Designs and follow her on Instagram here. Jane Fryers is known for her fish leather hats (including the one she’s wearing above) which are showcased on her website and Instagram

Images by Katie Vale and Jane Fryers. None may not be replicated without written permission. 

Duchess of York’s New Portraits

This month’s issue of Town and Country Magazine includes an article on the Duchess of York, “Inside the Reinvention of Sarah Ferguson, the Ultimate Royal Rebel” accompanied by a beautiful photo spread styled by Hannah Teare and photographed by Misan Harriman. We don’t often see royals styled in this way and the hats were just too good not to share:

Veiled black felt top hat with large silk bow at the back (the “Marlene Top Hat” design) by Emily London

Eggplant velour felt “Luis” matador hat with wide, flat brim and crystal chain by Emily London


Top hat in wrapped black crin with a curved Visca brim and white silk organza camellias by Lock and Co. It is the “Marlene Top Hat” design.


Black boater hat with bow and veil by Emily London (possibly the “Alcina” or  “Rochester” design)

What do you think of this quartet of hats on Sarah?
Images from social media as indicated  

Ethiopian Royal Hats Part III

Longtime reader and friend of Royal Hats, Jake Short, returns today with the third post in a 5-part series on the history and hats of the Ethiopian Imperial Family (see Part 2 here). Welcome back, Jake!

Return to Ethiopia

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After the Italians were pushed out of Ethiopia in 1941 after a five-year occupation, Haile Selassie and his family returned to the country.

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Unfortunately, the triumphant return was tempered by the death of Princess Tsehai during childbirth in 1942 (she is seen below in an undated photo wearing a beautiful brimmed straw hat at a jaunty angle).

After decades of different emperors unsuccessfully trying to get rid of the slave trade that existed in Ethiopia (which was regulated under The Fetha Nagast from the 13th Century), Haile Selassie reinforced the abolition enacted by Italy during the occupation and imposed severe punishments for those who continued the practice. Ethiopia was also a charter member of the United Nations and in the 1960s served as the first chair of what would become today’s African Union, which is still headquartered in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

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Despite his international outlook, Haile Selassie’s rule was still seen as quite autocratic, which saw the restriction of civil liberties and the oppression of minorities. Multiple famines across Ethiopia also led to periods of instability. Nevertheless, Haile Selassie continued the modernization of the nation and improved relations with the UK and Italy while strengthening ones with others. In the gallery below he is shown meeting King Baudoiin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Canadian Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent and Marshal Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, and Lord Mountbatten.

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As the longest-ruling head of state in power during the 1960s and 1970s, he was well respected abroad, evidenced by being the person awarded with the most decorations ever; the Emperor was also the only African to be inducted into the Most Noble Order of the Garter and can be seen here wearing the full regalia as a Knight of the Garter, including the ostrich-plumed Tudor-style hat.

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The post-WWII period also saw the most photographs of the Ethiopian Imperial Family. Additional hats during random occasions include:

Empress Menen Asfaw wearing a toque hat with long veiling during a private visit to Israel in 1959. She also wore a white veiled bandeau/half hat, seen in an undated photo below.

The Emperor and Empress’ granddaughters Princess Maryam Senna and Princess Sehin Azebe (daughters of Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen), were seen in brimmed fedoras while in school in the UK. Other granddaughters, Princess Sophia Desta and Princess Mamite, are shown below. Pricess Mamite wore a large domed calot with some veiling, traveling home from the UK for summer holidays in 1958.

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The Empress often wore head wraps; 

and transparent turbans.

Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen and then-Ambassador Ato-Abebe Retta wearing homburg hats in London in 1951.

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Finally, this gallery shows the the Ethiopian royal tiaras. It’s an impressive collection!

Another informative post, Jake- thank you! The Empress’ transparent turbans are unique and the Ethiopian royal tiara collection is far greater than I imagined! I look forward to next week’s post. 

Images from Getty and social media as indicated

Hats From the Past

Royal Hats to this day in 1981 when Zara Tindall was christened at Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth matched her purple and blue printed silk dress with wore an oversize rounded pillbox hat. Pleated fabric covered the hat and it was trimmed on top with similar ruffles to those on the neckline of her dress. Zara’s pateral grandmother, Anne Phillips, wore a pale green dupioni silk turban trimmed with bias stripes of the grey floral on her dress. The Queen Mother wore one of her signature veiled capulet hats covered in the same spring green floral as her caped frock and trimmed with a matching ostrich plume around the back.

True to form, Princess Anne’s finely woven yellow straw hat with curved brim, simply trimmed with a rolled silk hatband tied in a side bow (likely made by John Boyd), is still worn from time to time.

Princess Anne on July 27, 1981 and on a visit to Cumbria on July 17, 2013

Images from social media as indicated; Lord Litchfield; REX/Shutterstock

Inventory: Crown Princess Victoria’s Purple Hats

Crown Princess Victoria celebrated her birthday on July 14, an occasion we belatedly celebrate with another inventory of her headpieces and hats. Today, we’re looking at all of the purple designs in her wardrobe, shown below in order of introduction:

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Designer: Elie Saab; Philip Treacy
Introduced: Jun 18, 2010; Oct 11, 2015

3.  4.
Designer: Parant Parant (Örjan Jackobsson); Philip Treacy
Introduced: Aug 31, 2019Oct 21, 2019

I’m struck first by the breadth of colour, from barest hint of mauve to deeply saturated royal purple. We see Crown Princess Victoria in a lot of headpieces so it’s not surprising to see two of the four here, although it’s worth acknowledging the exceptional detail in both. What do you notice about this quartet of purple hats?

Images from Getty as indicated; Dominique Charriau and Chris Jackson/Pool via Getty