Gearing Up for Ascot

A Royal Ascot

As many of you know, Royal Ascot officially kicked off today. That means it is the merriest of millinery weeks here at Royal Hats! I am beyond thrilled that two very talented milliners are joining my hat commentary this week. British hat designer Katie Vale, who shared her millinery insight and wonderful sense of humour  last year, has graciously agreed to return. Talented American hat designer Jill Courtemanche will be joining us as well (you might remember Jill from this wonderful guest post).

Because we will be working together across multiple time zones (sometimes, with limited internet access), our commentary will be coming to you later than usual- likely the morning after the event. I thank you for your patience and hope you will enjoy our conversation. Please do weigh in with your own thoughts about the marvelous hats we will see.

Katie Vale design

Hat by Katie Vale design


So it all started in 2004, when the fashion was to have sleek, straight, neat, long hair. The exact opposite to what I have! On a daily basis I was getting fed up with the mass of uncontrollable curls before me and so I began making “things” to pretty my hair. I say “things”, because in the start I was just experimenting with anything and everything around me. Having realised that I was not only loving making these items, but also I was starting to get stopped to be asked where I had got them from; and I decided to go back to school……well evening school! Something I didn’t think I would ever end up doing again.

I have carried out over 2 years worth of courses in wire work and have spent several years training with Rose Corey, Milliner by Royal Appointment to the late Queen Mother. Through this training I have learnt the traditional art of millinery.

I pride myself on all items being designed and hand made fully by myself. Not only do I believe that this ensures the consistent quality of the items, but also because I love doing it. Now on a daily basis if I’ve not got pliers in my hand, it’s because I’m sat at my sewing machine. What started out as a retaliation against high street fashion has turned into my daily passion.


Milliner Jill Courtemanche lives and works in sunny San Diego, California. She graduated from New York City’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in the mid-90’s and after a decade of working alongside master artisans in New York and Europe, she opened her namesake atelier in 2006.

Jill brings a young, feminine and contemporary approach to her hats while incorporating traditional techniques and craftsmanship. All of her pieces are created using vintage materials, trims and embellishments combined with modern fabrics, and many styles are produced in limited, exclusive quantities. From fascinators to fedoras, Jill’s hats have topped Yoko OnoDonatella VersacePrincess Mary of Denmark, and football legend Jose Foure.

Jill also teaches popular hat-making courses, for both beginner and more advanced students, which are attended by millinery enthusiasts from around the world. Jill Courtemanche Millinery accommodates a variety of client needs, from hats for social events, horse races, religious services and nights on the town, to custom bridal pieces and a modern men’s collection. 

‘L’Evier de Cuisine’ by Jill Courtemanche

One thought on “Gearing Up for Ascot

  1. Can’t wait to hear more of the commentary from these two – Katie Vale’s story really resonated with me. I too have a mass of curls and love to put “pretties” in my hair to create a focal point. Are there any hat-wearing royals with curly hair? Would love to see pics of them.

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