Ascot Hats From the Past

Royal Hats almost thirty-three years to June 17, 1986. Sarah Ferguson was a month away from becoming the Duchess of York and appeared at Ascot, with Prince Andrew, in a wonderfully graphic white, navy and green linen dress topped with a classic navy pillbox hat anchored on one of her dramatic 1980s updos.

Embed from Getty Images

Sarah was photographed that day speaking with the Queen Mother, whose bright pink capulet hat with silk hatband tied at the side and veil captures the quintessential millinery style she adopted for the final two decades of her life.

Embed from Getty Images

Please share and discuss any royal hats worn today in the comments below.

Photos from Getty as indicated

16 thoughts on “Ascot Hats From the Past

  1. This is the first time I’ve seen this!!!!The Southern Girl in me can only explaim “My goodness, what a dress!” The hat is fine and is the Queen Mother’s.

  2. Wow. In theory, a pillbox style shouldn’t be too hard for anyone to wear — but that geometric, patrician hairstyle is the complete opposite of what works for Sarah’s relaxed, natural, girl-next-door face and body type — and the effect, plus the geometric pillbox, is unnecessarily severe and unflattering on her. Similar symmetrical and straight lines when expressed in Sarah’s hats and clothes – lines which looked so sophisticated on Diana – are completely wrong for Sarah. The hats from that era which I feel suited Sarah (and, sadly, there are only a handful) – are asymmetrical and contain virtually no straight lines, only curving lines.
    For me the one positive feature of the dress is the green colour; this particular green looks better on redheads than on people with any other hair colour. I’d love to see Sarah (and redhead daughter Beatrice) wearing this colour green more often.

  3. I found the Queen Mother’s ensemble far more interesting today than Fergie’s. There are several charming photos of her taken a year later in an East London pub, wearing the same wonderful pink hat/dress. She reminds me so much of my Polish grandmother, who was approximately the same age as the QM. A true bon vivant! The obituary is fascinating reading, also.

    July 16, 1987, sampling a Young’s Beer.
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/mar/30/queenmother.monarchy12

    • Very moving obituary, Jimbo, and now you are making me think of my own Polish grandmother. QEQM had such an upbeat public persona that we forget how much she had to endure, including losing her husband at such a young age.

  4. I love the hat and I think her hair is great with it. The dress is a bit 80s to me but all in all a very successful look IMO!

  5. I have such a soft spot for Sarah. She marched to her own beat and was branded “refreshing” until fickle minds changed. I agree with some comments that she should have had an adviser to help navigate her clothing and hat choices. Some were great, some questionable, but all delivered with her terrific smile.

    I wonder if Beatrice took the dress for a spin with a modern hat how it would look?

    • Oh Shanon, Beatrice in this dress is a great idea. I’d love to see the same pillbox as well. Remember when Sarah wore the dress and I thought Uh-oh! but I kinda loved it then and kinda love it now!

  6. I have always loved this hat and hated the dress. The weird white bands on the bodice are the main problem. Without them, the dress would have been ok, not great but ok.

  7. I never understood Sarah Ferguson’s style. In many ways she is still in the 80s (the hat at princess Eugenie’s wedding). But in the 80s she often took it to the next level.
    Unfortunately she never learned when to tone it down. This dress in an example of such fashion choices.
    I am not sure the hat works with the outfit. Pillbox hats are tricky on younger wearer, unless it was in the 60s. They need something extra to make it young. Plus in my view they are better matched with a more structured, streamlined outfit. This dress has too much going on.

  8. The hair is a bit Edwardian, at least from the front, and the dress is the worst of the worst of the 80’s. Having said that, the hat isn’t bad, and probably the best she could do with the rest of the look. I remember weddings of this era. Ruffles on top of ruffles was the way to go.

  9. Oh I remember this. Leaping into the public eye must be a challenge for anyone unused to such scrutiny, and Fergie needed some advice. The navy pillbox doesn’t seem right here, but I don’t know what would have worked.

  10. I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist this classic! This is one of the royal outfits I very first remember, even at age 11 I can recall going ‘whoooooaaaaa’ on seeing this.

    It’s a lot of look for sure. Alas not in a good way. Fergie was widely mocked for this at the time, I even remember the designer saying to the papers ‘go easy on me’!! The stripes do nowt for her curves, the colour scheme is bizarre and the hairdo has her hair rather tamed into that pillbox. She went there again the following day in a bizarre milkmaid inspired ensemble.

    But hey – she made the 80s fun all the same didn’t she!!

    • Poor Fergie! People were always so mean to her. I mean I also think this is an ugly outfit but no worse than most of what anyone wore during the 80s from the pictures I’ve seen.

      I always wish she had an advisor at the time who would have told her to eschew 80s fashion and gone for more retro silouhettes. If she had gone for vintage, cleaner looks more flattering to her figure and with all that gorgeous red hair she could have been a knockout.

    • JamesB, I adore that you know me so well. You are are the same vintage and I also recall a “whooooooaaaaa” when I saw this as a tween. I couldn’t do a two-week run of Ascot hats from the past without including this!

      • Haha!! It’s too easy… I think to anyone who witnessed this rigour at the time, it’s been seared on the retinas. Part of me wonders if it could just work today though, I think fashion may have just caught up!

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