Royal Ascot a riot of colour for Ladies' Day

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Royal Ascot was a riot of colour today for the annual festival of fashion that is Ladies' Day.

Racegoers, royals and celebrities were greeted by bright sunshine at the Berkshire racecourse on the third day of the meeting.

The Queen, wearing a lilac suit with a matching hat, accessorised with orange flowers, was applauded as she arrived at the racecourse in a horse-drawn carriage.

She was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of York and the Crown Prince of Bahrain in the first carriage, with Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie following them in the procession.

The youngest princesses were wearing eye-catching outfits, with Princess Eugenie in a bright pink hat and her sister head-to-toe in navy blue.

Bets had been placed on the colour of the Queen's hat - with yellow being the favourite. Purple had been the second most popular choice.

Celebrities enjoying the racing included actress Joan Collins, sporting a white Philip Treacy hat to set off her outfit of a floral turquoise and white jacket with puffed sleeves and a simple white dress.

Veteran presenter Bruce Forsyth, Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli and the composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber were also in attendance to watch the Gold Cup race, today's feature race.

Eye-catching headgear on display included a hat in the shape of a hat box, worn by 49-year-old Desanka Cvijanovic.

Mrs Cvijanovic, from York, said it had taken her sister-in-law, milliner Nataliya Tutus, six months to create the black-and-white striped hat, with turquoise, lemon and green flowers on top.

She said: "There were so many beautiful hats last year that when I had a chat with her, I said we should think outside the box.

"When I said that, she suggested making the hat box. Lots of people have thought it was a real box, rather than a hat."

Californian Rebecca Johnson, celebrating her 56th birthday today, had created a hat topped with a horse's head made out of papier mache and guinea fowl feathers.

She said: "This is one of the best race meetings of the year. I've always loved grey horses - they're so beautiful. I've tried to copy a bit of that magic with my hat.

"It's already trotted across the road once, and I had to go and rescue it."

Ms Johnson had made the rest of her outfit - a white skirt suit edged with black lace.

Some headgear looked decidedly uncomfortable - including hats made out of Lego bricks worn by Anna Carradice and Jonathan James.

Ms Carradice, whose hat included a Lego Big Ben and London Eye, said of the 2kg creation made of 1,400 bricks: "I'm wearing it all day. But it's very heavy."

Her hat, and a traditional top hat worn by Mr James, were designed by Leicester College fashion student Charlotte Samuel.

The controversial vuvuzela made a surprise appearance - but this time on a hat worn by one female racegoer. Her companion wore a hat topped with a replica of the Jules Rimet trophy.

Their outfits may not have been welcome in the Royal Enclosure where a strict dress code must be observed, however.

Women must wear a hat or "substantial fascinator" with off the shoulder and halter neck dresses, dresses with a strap of less than one inch and miniskirts all banned.

Midriffs must be covered up and trouser suits should be full length and of matching material and colour.

Men must wear morning dress with a waistcoat and top hat.

Each year, the crowds consume some 170,000 bottles of champagne, around 10,000 lobsters, 5,000 oysters and 18,000 punnets of strawberries during the five-day event.

Racing at Ascot dates from 1711 when Queen Anne drove from nearby Windsor Castle with her entourage for a day's sport organised at her command.

Fashion experts gave the nod of approval to racegoers.

Danish designer Isabell Kristensen and daughters Valentina, 19, and Nichola, 17, all wore dresses from her couture collection with hats by DD Valentine.

Ms Kristensen, wearing a white dress with a full skirt and a matching bolero, with a large-rimmed black hat accessorised with pink flowers, said of Ladies' Day: "It's fantastic. It's just one massive fashion show.

"We love to bet on the horses, but equally we love looking at all the hats and the dresses. It's all so much fun.

"This is like magic today because of the wonderful weather - our dresses were blowing up in the wind yesterday! You couldn't ask for a better day for picnicking and walking around."

Milliner Louis Mariette created not one but two hats for friend Anneka Svenska - the first a sculptured pink and silver creation made of cubes, and the second consisting of trailing artificial roses.

She said of the second hat: "It's actually comfortable. It's lovely because it feels very English.

"I love these pieces because they create drama."

Mr Mariette said: "Every year, I'm always observing what the latest trend is, and who's doing what.

"This year, there's been more effort. The ladies have been more adventurous, with their outfits much more vibrant and colourful. They're expressing themselves more, and they're not afraid to do so."

He said the atmosphere was "wonderful", adding: "Everyone is full of joie de vivre, which is what Ascot is all about."

Actress Lorraine Chase, wearing a black ruffled Dolce & Gabbana blouse with a matching skirt, Chanel shoes and two contrasting black and white headpieces, said: "The whole day has been wonderful. Ladies' Day is never a disappointment.

"I just love it. Whether you're into racing or not, it doesn't matter."

Florence Claridge, who has been attending Royal Ascot for more than 25 years, sported a fuchsia pink sculptured hat by David Shilling which consisted of three large hoops linked together.

She said she always chose a dramatic hat for the event, adding: "I don't see much point in wearing a plain outfit."

The Queen's outfit, fine crepe over a purple and cerise silk dress, was by Stewart Parvin, with her matching purple straw hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan.

Princess Eugenie wore a Diane von Furstenberg dress with a Maje jacket and a hat by Philip Treacy, with Princess Beatrice choosing a dress by Lungta de Fancy, a hat by Philip Treacy and a jacket by Emma Lloyd, who is one of her dressers. Both princesses wore shoes by LK Bennett.

Other celebrities present today included footballer Jamie Redknapp, with wife Louise, music mogul Simon Cowell and TV presenter Declan Donnelly.

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