Royal Ascot Fashion ~ the 2021 version
~What they wore, how they wore it, and what it might mean for the rest of us ~
[Image from Royal Ascot Style Guide 2021]
Last year, the races were run behind closed doors (well, gates really).
This year, the gates opened - but only to limited crowds. The rest were encouraged to dress up and celebrate from their gardens or lounge rooms while the UK still battles with the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
[Image of friends celebrating RA 2021 at home, from @ascotracecourse ]
The official Ascot Style Guide for 2021 set an early indicator of changed times. It encouraged both sustainability and the support of small businesses - pairing vintage or sustainable fashion items as a backdrop to beautiful headpieces from milliners (one of the many crafts which has suffered economically in the last year). Guests at Ascot this year were encouraged to consider rewearing items from their closets. While not all adhered to this, a large number of guests did dig into their existing wardrobes.... or made it look like they had.
[Vintage looks from the Royal Ascot Style Guide 2021]
Normally, Ascot is a key indicator of some of the occasion-wear trends which will flow through to the Southern Hemisphere in the months to come. Will that happen this time?
Let's look at some of the key themes or interesting patterns which emerged.
BLACK SHOES (and other accessories)
Maybe it was a subtle homage to the late Prince Phillip. Or perhaps a more general overture of the times, with the Covid Crisis hanging over our heads?
Often, black shoes get pushed to the backs of the closet when Spring and Summer arrive (except for Derby Day of course). But are black shoes, and other black accessories, a summer trend this year?
No, it doesn't mean black and white. Mono (one) + chrome (colour) means one colour. Any colour.
There were many monochromatic outfits. It can be simple, elegant dressing at its best. The abundance of these outfits at Royal Ascot this year suggested that flamboyance was mostly out - instead, outfits were simple to reflect the pared-back times, but colour was used as a way to express some optimism and hope for the future.
They continue to gain in popularity. Trousers are comfortable and, in the variable English climate, often sensible.
With wide-leg trousers making a comeback, and a variety of lengths and styles of suits and jumpsuits gaining in popularity, this is one trend at the track which will continue to be felt for awhile.
Another advantage? They usually have pockets. Enough said.
HATS - THE SIDE SWEEP
If there was one millinery trend which really stood out this year, it was the popularity of the elegant brimmed side tilted hat (a.k.a. saucer, U.F.O., pancake, or, as I call it, the 'side-sweep'!!)
It's long been a popular style at Ascot, (especially given the headwear rules of the Royal Enclosure) but this year it seemed to be the dominant choice for women. Often, flowers on either side of the brim completed the look.
DRESSING DOWN AS DRESSING UP
I'm looking at you, Sophie, Countess of Wessex. Those of us who loved seeing her step out in jumpsuits the minute Royal Ascot allowed it, were initially surprised at the outfits she wore this year.
But, call it clever and strategic. With a country suffering from the effects of the pandemic, and few having the opportunity to attend an event like Royal Ascot this year, Sophie turned the fashion down a notch. Her outfits appeared to say, 'if you can't afford to dress up, then I won't insult you by looking too dressed up either'.
Sophie was the most prominent amongst many who recycled their fashion items (see below). The hat above was first worn by Sophie to Ascot in 2018. The hat she wore on Ladies' Day she wore back in 2011, to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
VINTAGE AND SUSTAINABLE FASHION
As noted above, a way to signal a more modest approach to dressing this year was the re-wear/vintage-wear/sustainable-wear outfit. The Royal Ascot Style Guide encouraged it, and many paid heed to the mantra.
Francesca Cumani's stylist kept to this mantra during the carnival, choosing pieces from vintage stores or those with sustainable credentials.
Many visitors re-used pieces - although it wasn't always easy to tell.
[Vintage outfits worn to Royal Ascot this year]
Others took the sustainable approach of renting outfits.
[Both outfits rented from By Rotation]
You'll wish you hadn't donated some of those unique looks you wore ten years ago.
And then, finally, we had the fashion Royalty of Ascot....
[The Queen wearing a monochrome outfit with black shoes!!]
[Jimbo the Labrador looking dapper in his top hat]
What will Ascot 2022 look like? Only another year (minus a week) to find out!
*Photographs in this blog were from Harpers Bazaar, Vogue, Hello Magazine, Daily Mail, and Royal Ascot.