Racing: It's Prim Up North

It was no ordinary day at the races yesterday. Susie Rushton presents a guide to the fashion form as the ladies of Royal Ascot went to Yorkshire.
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It was a day for umbrellas, or perhaps a none-too-chic clear plastic rain hood. Yet despite the drizzle at Ladies' Day at Ascot yesterday the overwhelming number of lady racegoers took the Queen's lead and chose headgear laden with feathers. Concerns over the effect of water on chicken plumes were quashed, for the tradition must go on.

It was a day for umbrellas, or perhaps a none-too-chic clear plastic rain hood. Yet despite the drizzle at Ladies' Day at Ascot yesterday the overwhelming number of lady racegoers took the Queen's lead and chose headgear laden with feathers. Concerns over the effect of water on chicken plumes were quashed, for the tradition must go on.

Hats, of course, are as as much as part of Ascot as thoroughbreds and champagne, and this year's new venue in York wasn't going to change the custom for the big, bold and often, frankly, bizarre. Top of the more eccentric trends spotted out in the paddock was 'The Twirl', also known as the 'Dali by Debenhams' look. This hat is a sculptural straw titfer that spirals skywards in a manner that threatens to take out the eye of any innocent top-hatted bystander, let alone frighten the horses. The slightly more feminine version of The Twirl is decorated with girlie feathers - although the plumes were more popularly worn as a pompon of avian fluff that floated at an artful angle.

In terms of colours, turquoise blue and fuschia pink stood out as a trend among more youthful racegoers, with the more mature set opting for wide-brimmed, symmetrical hats with deep crowns in cream or pale blue. In the end, though, while couture milliners such as Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones might (very discreetly) accept commissions to make hats for a coterie of aristocrats who attend Ascot, Ladies' Day racegoers have no truck with the diktats of fashion or trends.

Ultimately it's all about making a big impression, and the canniest yesterday fell back on the classics. If they had wanted to take note of fashion trends in catwalk millinery, however, there would have been outsized, Seventies-style hats (as at Dior) in the paddock, or tall, multicoloured bucket hats (as seen at Prada). At York, however, it's size that matters, along bold colour, deemed to bring out one's tan - another ubiquitous look at Ascot, despite the rain.

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