Rokit Goes Racing: A Vintage Love Affair With Ascot

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As Ascot is the highlight of British flat racing (and of the summer social calender) we at Rokit wanted to see what all the fuss was about. In many popular sporting events, it is not often the athletes who fill the spotlight. Similar to the Wimbledon tennis tournament and the Commonwealth Games, Ascot's media focus is placed on those who attend and what they are wearing...

Words by Alexandra Fairfield

Ascot Fashion Today

Since 1711, Ascot has been one of the most significant events of the social calendar, attracting royals, celebrities and socialites alike who flock to the grounds in their Sunday best. Since Ascot is owned, supported and maintained by the Royal Family, strict dress codes apply... Luckily for me, I attended the Windsor enclosure in which no dress code was applicable (yay) so I opted for an authentic 50's midi skirt, off the shoulder top (h&m), velvet shoes and leather belt to create an hourglass shape and a 1950's inspired outfit.

Ascot Fashion Then

However, this outfit (like many you see in the 21st century) would have been deemed extremely inappropriate during Ascot's early decades. My bare shoulders in the crop top and exposed ankles (not to mention the lack of a hat) would have had attendees tutting and my entry to the grounds refused. In the very early days of Ascot, especially Royal Ascot, there would have been dress codes even stricter than the ones in place today; class and sophistication were absolutely key during the early days of Ascot. Long, calf grazing hemlines paired with high necked blouses and jackets were the fashion essentials of the period. Men were restricted by the stringent dress codes too; only a full dress suit and waistcoat were permitted, whereas women were allowed a little more creativity with their outfit choices. The most prominent fashion feature of Ascot as a whole has remained the piece de resistance of any Ladies Day... The hat!

A Right Royal Hatrick: The Designers

David Shilling

David's flamboyant creations first came to public attention when he designed a hat for his mother Gertrude to wear at Royal Ascot. It was three feet wide with layers of black and white tulle. Every year after that he has designed a hat for her to wear, and they were frequently pictured in the press. In 1976 he opened a shop in Marylebone High Street selling high-fashion, one-of- a-kind hats. They were met with roaring success and the rest, as they say, is history.

Rosie Olivia

Rosie Norman is one of millinery's "brightest young stars" with an eye for truly out-of-the-ordinary headwear. Olivia has combined her expertise in millinery with a touch of bespoke and has created spectacular designs. From delicate net to intricate crystal, her designs are left towering high above the competition. Drawing inspiration from British heritage, Rosie uses handmade lace or screen printed ribbon for complete originality. From retro-inspired hats to cutting edge headpieces, Rosie's hats sure make a stunning statement.

Noel Stuart

Having designed hats for Roksanda Illincic, Erdem and Roland Mouret, milliner Noel Stewart translates high fashion into occasion wear from his small studio in Dalston. This year he has taken his English country garden theme to Brazil where he recreates traditional Royal Ascot headgear using feathers and flowers for majestic pieces. Voluminous crowns of hand-painted silk and bamboo feathers aren't for the faint-hearted; folding sun hats are a more casual affair.

Ascot In Cinema: My Fair Lady

The "practice run" for Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady is arguably the most iconic Royal Ascot scene in British cinema history. "I think the time has come to try her out... Let's test her in public and see how she fares... I know, we'll take her to the races... My mother's box at Ascot."

The elegantly-dressed ladies and gentlemen of the high society class are dressed in black, white, and grey. The Edwardian costumes and extravagant sets were designed by Oscar-winning Cecil Beaton on which the aristocrats parade about twirling their parasols. They stiffly wait for the start of the first horse race. In uniform fashion, they raise their field glasses toward the track, and watch in freeze-frame as the horses gallop by during the first race. Eliza then makes her spectacular entrance with Pickering by her side, dressed in a white gown and large hat.