Multiples: Countess of Wessex

The Countess of Wessex wore repeated hats to Ascot this year, a “Greatest Hits” tour that paired familiar designs with new ensembles. She began with this gorgeous beigey pink straw waved disk with quills and silk flower by Jane Taylor, a hat she has now paired with three different ensembles:

Look #1: With a beigey-pink shirred silk jacket and dress with fluted silk skirt in the same hue by Bruce Oldfied for Zara and Mike Tindall’s wedding on July 30, 2011

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Look #2: With a patterned white and rusty brown structured jacket and pleated skirt worn to a June 4, 2014 garden party at Buckingham Palace

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Look #3: With a beigey-blush belted dress by ARoss Girl x Soler worn June 15, 2021 to Royal Ascot

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Seeing these three pairings now side-by-side, which ensemble do you prefer most with this hat?

Images from Getty as indicated 

38 thoughts on “Multiples: Countess of Wessex

  1. This conversation has gone in many directions before I hopped in, meriting a reply that I hope isn’t too long!

    Regarding Sophie’s pairings with this particular hat, I remember looking at the previous ensembles when we were commenting on the hat in the Ascot post. I do not like the Ascot dress at all. Whether it pairs well with the hat or not seems immaterial, as the dress looks like a nightgown to me. Of the other two, I much prefer the Tindall wedding dress (#1) as the collar on that dress perfectly suits the size of the hat, and secondly #2, the garden party dress, which is similar in style.

    On the subject of wearing hats (as well as garments) multiple times, I absolutely hate the use of the word “recycled” when applied to wearing something that has already been seen in public — I see that word particularly applied to the Duchess of Cambridge, and it always makes me think she stopped by the rummage sale at the local church to find something for tonight’s engagement. The previous generation of royals were often criticized for their extravagance if they wore new things all the time, but with the current generation, it seems to be expected. Like others here, I enjoy seeing the different combinations that can be put together of clothing and hats the person already owned, and also, the modifications that can be made to make an old piece seem new again. (Jimbo, the photos you posted of HM’s remodeled hat are a perfect example!)

    And finally, thank you, Wies, for the comments on the concept of millinery becoming a lost art (so sad!) as well as the difficulties when stylists borrow a hat and return it in a condition whereby it cannot be sold to another customer. Wealthy people and those on a professional budget ought to be able to pay to purchase the item rather than expect to get it for free. I may have mentioned it before, but I know several local jewelry designers who participate in a professional group where they submit samples of their designs which are then shown to costume directors of movie and television productions. They PAY for the privilege of submitting these samples (very high administrative fees), and if their pieces are selected and used, the ONLY compensation the designer gets is the permission to feature in their social media and advertising a photograph of the actress wearing the piece, labeled with the phrase “As worn by Susie Smith in Movie X”, and then they can hopefully make and sell more copies of that piece to customers who like that sort of celebrity cache. No payment or monetary compensation of any kind.

  2. I agree – I often wish we would see more creative recycling, Sophie showed how it can be done so well at Ascot. Máxima is an absolute master at it.

    Only thing I had assumed when we see royals dressed by stylists and never see the outfit again, is that perhaps the hats and hired/loaned, and go on to be worn by others. I very much doubt they just get binned. Which could be the ultimate in sustainability.

    • Many milliners/ hat shops have a hiring section. Stylist however do not hire, they “offer you the opportunity of a collaboration”. And couture hats are often too precious for hiring, or perhaps only in second hand shops. Hats, you see, can’t be washed and ironed, or dry cleaned. Make-up stains (foundation, powder, fake tan) are very hard or impossible to remove and so are greasy fingerprints on silk brim bindings. So yes, the hats can be sold to and worn by others if you are lucky and the celebrity & stylist you have been “collaborating” with have been respectful of your work. But who will be your clients if the people who can afford to buy from you think they are entitled to get the stuff for free?

      • Thanks for the information. I agree it does seem somewhat unfair to expect the milliner to bear the brunt of the cost in that case then. I guess they get the publicity, but hard to quantify if that generates an uptick in sales. Hmm, it’s a tricky one I agree…

  3. Wow, a lot of interesting comments today, and I’m so late to the party. I’m going with #1 then #2 then #3.
    #1 is very well coordinated and lovely, and Sophie looks great. Hemline is perfect.
    #2 is bold with the splash of color, even brown! Hemline is ok.
    #3 I can’t look past the maxi dress. Hemline is entirely too long.

    “Nude” is among my list of terms bantered about here at Royal Hats (and other blogs) that I cringe at when I see it being used. Other terms I feel are overused or incorrect are “chic,” “recycled wearings,” and to a lesser degree, “over the moon.”

    Wies, Beth, and Mittenmary have a wonderful sideline conversation going on and I’d like to join in. Be warned: I will be speaking out of both sides of my mouth, maybe to the point of rambling, starting now. Last week’s Royal Ascot emphasized “sustainability” for this year’s attendees, which I applaud. With the exception of the senior top shelf Royals who have literally hundreds of engagements every year, what is the rationale for buying so many one-and-done hats? Other than Christmas, Easter, garden parties, Trooping, all the racing events, Remembrance, weddings, funerals, christenings, and Braemar among a few others for sure, (actually, that’s a rather long list!) the minor Royals don’t have many hatted events on their calendars. In June of 2020, I gladly purchased a beautiful hat/gown/shoes ensemble for Mrs. Jimbo for a huge family event, knowing full and well that it may never see the light of day again (well, maybe the shoes.) and looking back, I’m glad I did what I did. I’ll finish this thought by adding this note: last Sunday she wore an at least 30 year old baby blue straw hat to church, and still got compliments!

    As far as Sophie at 56, I think she is one of the most beautiful members of the family, and yes, terrible tricks do get played on our bodies as we age, even Royals! I still have my 37 year old wedding suit in hopes of wearing it again. IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN, I know! It’s just wishful thinking on my part.

    As for sustainability and reworking old hats, I immediately went to HM’s grey hat closet, remembering the following hat. I would be so thrilled seeing more of this being done than seeing ANOTHER new pink hat (Biden at Windsor two weeks ago.)

    October 12, 2002
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    January 19, 2020
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    • Bravo for buying Mrs. Jimbo a complete new outfit including a hat! It is a good thing to make special efforts for important occasions and honours those who invited you!

  4. Just a reminder that “nude” is not a good name for beigy-pink shades. We are not all pale pink in our birthday suits!

      • I remember that when I was about five years old, we made drawings in kindergarten using coloured pencils. There was a colour called “skin colour” which was a rather ugly orangey-beigey-pink you were supposed to use to draw people with. I found this puzzling and slightly upsetting, as it didn’t look at all like my proper skin, which is very pale.
        Later, when I went to museums and was old enough to realise what I was looking at, I discovered that painters use all kinds of colours to paint skin. The impressionists used reds and greens and blues. And then I remember reading a book or a play in which a lady of Mediterranean origin was described as having an olive green skin. Later I had a colleague, whose family came from the south of France, with a lovely matte skin, and I was intrigued to see that indeed, under a certain light her skin looked olive green. What I mean to say is that there is no such thing as “skin colour” or “nude”. Or rather, those worded can’t describe one particular colour. So can’t one say “nude pink”? Why not? As long as one can also say “nude brown” or “nude gold”. When someone is dressed in “nude” it only says that the colour of their clothes closely resembles the colour of their skin. Obviously that would be a different colour for the Duchess of Wessex than for the Duchess of Sussex for instance.

        • Respectfully, I disagree. Why? Because the term “nude” (in terms of colour) is nearly exclusively used with pink, which refers only to Caucasian skin. If the terms “nude brown” or “nude gold” were as widely used, this might work. But they are not.

          The Viking Diva gently reminded that widely-used terms meant to describe all people but in reality, refer only to a specific group of people, aren’t good ones to use. It’s a good reminder for all of us.

          • Understood, I will be careful not to use the word “nude” anymore on this blog to indicate a colour.
            I googled “nude brown” to see if the term was used: I found advertisements for make-up and tights. And, straying from hats a little, an article named: A Different Take on Nude. It talks about an online media campaign called “What’s Your Nude?” launched in 2012 by a (then) 31-year old African American psychologist from Los Angeles to raise awareness about the lack of diversity in bra manufacturing.
            Perhaps if we used the words “nude” or “skin tone” in combination with other colours than beige or pink more often the term would become mainstream?

          • Mark’s & Spencer (British women buy most of their underwear from M&S) have just this week released a range of underwear tailored for every skin colour. Fantastic colours and very positive reviews from the press for something that should be so easy and has never been done to this extent before.

  5. My preferences: #1, #3, and #2. The hat is lovely with the polished suit, even if the jacket looks a little bulky. (I suspect it’s one of those things that doesn’t photograph well.) The concept of #3 isn’t bad, but the fit lets it down. Good try on #3, but the ethereal hat shape doesn’t jibe with the jazzy print.

    • Forgot to say: kudos to Sophie for shopping her hat wardrobe and providing HQ with the source for a fun This or That post.

  6. I like outfit 1 best. I don’t like the 2nd outfit, maybe if the skirt was longer as someone else said. As for outfit 3 I dislike the rather droopy very bland maxi dress! Just lately Sophie seems to have lost her sense of style. Rewind a few years when she had a stylist and things were much better.

    • Ten years ago the Countess of Wessex was 46. She now is 56. We all age, and so do our waistlines! With age, priorities may change. Some of us wear high heels and tight belts untill they can walk (or breeze!) no more. Others may arrive a little earlier at the point where they no longer accept to sacrifice comfort for the sake of elegance.
      “Rewind a few years”? Wouldn’t we all?

      • I don’t think she looks any different from 46 to 56 but the third outfit does nothing for her – everything looks droopy – neckline, sleeves, belt.

  7. My ordering is #2 #1 and #3. I’m not fond on an overall one colour look especially when nude is the chosen colour. Sophie’s wedding look is much better than the recent Ascot attire because the different fabrics and textures added interest, even if it did make her look like she had no neck. She probably looked much better in person than in photos at Ascot.
    My winner, look 2, isn’t perfect. The boxy jacket isn’t super flattering, but I love the colour combination. For me that outfit showcased this very lovely hat the best.

    I agree with all Wies said. There was a discussion over on another blog about two Italian princesses modelling jewellery that wasn’t theirs, in a similar vein. Obviously the companies who dress Zara think it’s worthwhile, but I would rather see a hat repeated and restyled, or retrimmed like Beatrice and even HM has done very successfully.

  8. It’s a beautiful hat and hope we see it again it deserves repeat wearings.

    I like Outfits 1 and 2 – but if there were an extra inch or so in both hemlines the outfits would be better balanced and it’s a shame they were worn with the wretched Sledge shoes. There is something a little off in the fit of Jacket 1 – surprising as it’s Bruce Oldfield. The colours suit her especially the burnt toffee shade of the second outfit.

    Outfit 3 – I’m sorry but I hope this outfit never sees the light of day in public again. Everything seems to be drooping, the fabric, the neckline, the bustline, the hemline, the sleeves. The modern necklace isn’t a great accessory with this outfit either. This shade of colour doesn’t seem to suit her as well as Outfit 1.

  9. I think the third pairing is just wonderful.
    I really liked the second combination, but would lengthen the hemline.
    While the first one is just lovely, of course, I just cannot unsee the fit on the jacket and wonder what is under the jacket.

    It’s a great hat!

  10. I agree with JamesB that the first outfit was the best, even though I’m not a fan of the all over “nude” pink look. But that hat is fantastic and suits Sophie so well! She looks utterly beautiful in it.

    Moreover, I’d like to say that it lifts my heart to see pieces being repeated. A good hat can last for years and it is logical to make the most of it. Also, it means the wearer actually BOUGHT the hat! Only yesterday I saw an Instagram post of a well known stylist explaining in detail how a certain member of the British Royal Family (and one of our favourite hat wearers here at Royal Hats) had been dressed for Royal Ascot in borrowed outfits from different designers. Dresses, hats, earrings, handbags and shoes, nothing she wore was her own except for, I suppose, her underwear. I can understand TV reporters working with a stylist. But for someone who has the means to buy her own clothes, does it make sense to end up as a walking advertising column for fashion brands? Isn’t it kinder and more sustainable to repeat favourite items, re-style them and combine them in different ways, rather than to pretend to have something new every day?
    And, on a more personal note, I’d like to add that couture milliners usually have very small profit margins. Of course, when someone who is in the public eye wears one of your hats, it is free advertising. But when it is general knowledge that this person didn’t think it worthwhile to purchase your creation, why then should anybody else feel inclined to pay for it?

    • Thanks for this post, Wies.

      Yes, we should be living in in “ a kinder and more sustainable” world, as you so aptly put it, not just as respects millinery and fashion, but in many areas of life.

      I enjoy seeing new hats when I read this blog, of course, but I enjoy seeing hats and outfits that have been repeated even more. Seeing repeat wearings makes me appreciate the inspiration and artistry of the milliner.
      I might not always love AK’s designs on HM, for example, but it is better than seeing someone wear a hat for a single wearing without actually purchasing it. The former is class, the latter is not.

      Thank you.

      • Agreeing with Beth as well as Wies on this issue! These are very wealthy people, who could be supporting milliners by actually making purchases instead of providing a billboard.

        And I love to see hats re-worn, and styled with different ensembles!

    • Wies, if it’s Zara (and she’s the only one I can think of) she’s also similarly kitted out for Melbourne Races. Everything is borrowed or at least paid to be worn.

    • I appreciate you bringing this up. I received a private message yesterday asking if I document repeated hats to pressure royals to buy more new designs or if I’m actually interested in the repeats- I am truly interested in the repeats, especially when they are paired with different ensembles! This post shows how colour contrast, silhouette and neckline can really change the look of the hat.

      As for Zara- I was initially going to say that the matter is complicated by the reality that she is a professional sportswoman, not a working member of the royal family, and endorsement is a common practice for many professional athletes. Using a stylist might also be a convenient (and affordable) way to manage a wardrobe for public appearances. As Wies points out, however, the practice of giving celebrities a handmade, couture piece of fashion to wear for free devalues that creation.

      Millinery has just been named an endangered craft in the UK and as such, needs to be protected. An obvious first step to do this would be to end the expectations of milliners to provide their work for free, especially to people with means.

      • It is good as well as sad to hear that millinery has been named an endangered craft in the UK. I wish we could do something like that in the Netherlands.
        I hope this may help to find solutions for disappearing millinery materials too. A short while ago I learned that Paris net (a foundation material very commonly used in couture millinery) isn’t being made anymore. Sometimes I feel quite helpless and devastated.

        • Wies- I so appreciate the candid discussion you have led. I hear your frustration and helplessness. It must be so disheartening to see the materials you need to create your amazing hats, disappear.

          My question is- what practical things can we hat lovers do to offer support? Order a hat from a milliner?!

          • The slogan of London Hat Week is :”Wear more Hats!”
            They don’t always have to be new hats, it would be nice to see more of them around and more often.
            The millinery industry is too small and unimportant nowadays (compared to other branches) to make it worthwhile for investors to put money in.
            Small businesses don’t seem to fit in our global economy anymore, labour has to be cheap. I’m sure it touches a lot of other artisans.
            In France they tell you to pray to Saint Rita when someone wants to vouch the opinion you’re fighting for lost causes…

          • That might be a good place to start. How can we all wear more hats?

            I have several that I’d love to wear to weddings but I don’t, simply because I’m guaranteed to be the only one and I don’t want to stand out in a crowd or take attention away from the couple. So instead, my dress hats sit in boxes, taken out only on Easter Sunday (when there’s not a pandemic!). I live in a place where average dress is very, very casual- there’s no races or high teas to wear a hat to. So besides wearing a sun hat for a summer walk or to work in the garden, how can I comfortably wear more hats?!

          • Wow, what a lot of interesting conversation topics we get out of one “This or that”! If ever we met in real life, I’m sure we would never fall silent!

            In the Netherlands dress is very casual too and has become more and more so over the past thirty years. Furthermore I do most of my errands on bicycle (I don’t like driving) and it’s a flat, windy country over here: anything that isn’t securly tied to the head will be blown away. But: like Jimbo says, I do wear felt fedoras in autumn and winter to do my local shopping or to meet with a friend for coffee and often get compliments. I have a nice large brimmed Panama for casual summer wear.
            When I have an occasion like a wedding or a reception (and that’s very rare) of course I wear a hat (people would be surprised if I didn’t) and often I’m the only one. But It is not a bad thing to stand out if it is in a positive way and to be, like Mrs. Jimbo, the best dressed person in attendance. And at a wedding you don’t take away attention from the couple; instead you add glamour to the occasion!
            Choose nice bright colours for your casual hats, which lighten up your face, and soft flattering ones for your dress hats and you’ll see: men will hold doors open for you and women will wish they had had the courage to wear a hat too!

          • HQ, don’t you wear hats more in the autumn/winter months where you live? Where I live, (partially because I’m follically challenged) I ALWAYS wear a hat in colder weather, as does my beloved, who has actually been blessed with very thick hair. She is the only congregant who weekly wears a hat in our church. Last week, our former pastor was laid to rest, and she wore a wonderful black hat with huge deep pink flower which matched her suit. Clearly the best dressed person in attendance, even the immediate family!

  11. This is an excellent hat. I love the first pairing in particular. The second is fine, but perhaps not the best combination. The third is okay, the dress goes well with the hat in terms of colour; I know it’s meant to be a somewhat floaty style, but the outfit is let down by poor fitting which makes it look rather unflattering, I think.

  12. This hat is absolutely one of her greatest hits! The first outing is an absolute favourite of all of ours’ I think; this was when Sophie really gave her image a revamp around that time, and this hat was a signpost of so much amazing stuff to come.
    I never loved the pairing with that stiff suit in the second look, the suit’s fine, but a mismatch with the hat.
    And I know a lot of people weren’t keen on the new dress we’ve just seen, but I quite like a maxi dress and thought it was another great outing for her. The hat looks as fresh and current as ever.

  13. Is there a rose on the back of the hat? If so it is such a nice placement. I would like to see the hat..full outfit about two shades darker.

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