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. 

Ascot 2021

Here are the 17 different royal hats we saw at the races this year. Click on any photo to jump back to a feature post on that hat.

Day 1: June 15


Day 2: June 16


Day 3: June 17

Day 5: June 19

Which hat stood out most to you?

Images from Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images, Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images, James Veysey/​Shutterstock, Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images, Chris Jackson/Getty Images, Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images, Samir Hussein/WireImage, Chris Jackson/Getty Images, Chris Jackson/Getty Images, Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images, Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images, Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images, Antony Jones/Getty Images for Royal Ascot, Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images, Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images and Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Ascot Day 5 Round Up

The only other member of the British royal family to make an appearance on the last day of racing today was Peter Phillips, in his repeated black top hat.

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A number of additional hats caught my eye today:

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Lisa Tan’s black visored cap and Marni dress; Charlotte Hawkins in a Rachel Trevor Morgan hat and Lisa Redman dress

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The Tootsie Rollers in headpieces recycled from charity shop hats by Anabella Millinery

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Dapper feather trimmed  hat on Charlie Turner; Tilly Young in a pink button percher with veil and feathers

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Amanda Spencer in a charming blue hat; Katy England and Lizette Karrento both in Philip Treacy; 

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Lady Carolyn Warren in an ecru straw sidesweep with looping knots by Juliette Botterill

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Liz Claydon in a brocade suit and black Fez; Imogen Hands in a wide brimmed red hat with pink feathers

Milliner Jayne Alison’s client in a wonderful yellow and cream feather headpiece with quills and twists

ITV Racing’s Adele Mulrennan in a cream straw Jenny Roberts hat with claret roses and curling bows

British milliner Beverley Edmondson in a braided black hat with yellow stripes trimmed with lovely scroll work and her mum’s dress from the mid 1980s!

And Francesca Cumani in a fantastic ensemble- a bespoke John Boyd hat and Allison Rodger dress

That finishes off Royal Ascot 2021! There weren’t as many royal hats as some had hoped for but the ones we saw were great. What non-royal hats did you admire at the races today?

Images from Getty and social media as indicated  

Ascot 2021 Day 5: The Queen

It’s the smiling face we’ve been waiting to attend Royal Ascot all week!

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The queen attended the final day of racing today, repeating her aqua fabric covered straw hat with split crown and bound brim with sidesweeping brim pinched in a peak on the raised side. The hat is trimmed with a wide ruched hatband and, on the side opposite the raised brim pinch, pale grey arrow cut feathers and hand rolled pink straw flowers and curling green leaves. 

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This ensemble is such a lovely colour on Her Majesty, punctuated with the pink flowers on the hat and the peek of floral print from the dress. It’s also a piece we associate with happy events in the past (the knighting of the late Captain Tom Moore and Princess Beatrice’s wedding) which makes it feel like an especially joyful choice today.

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Designer: Angela Kelly, made by Stella McLaren
Previously Worn: June 17, 2020 (and June 17, 2020)

What do you think of Queen Elizabeth’s hat today at Royal Ascot?

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Images from Getty as indicated

Ascot Day 4

Sadly, there were no royal hats at the races today. Instead, I thought we might share the other hats we noticed at the races.

The first hat that jumped out to me this morning was this petrol blue (my favourite colour!) straw bandeau with feathers by Sarah Cant, worn by ITV Racing stylist Sarah Kate Byrne.

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What hats stood out to you at Royal Ascot today?

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Images from Getty as indicated