Monday, July 15, 2024

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Royal Ascot and the Guide

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Royal Ascot horse race is one of the most famous horse races all around the world. In my opinion, the race itself might not be that interesting for many of us who know nothing about horse races but the environment during the race, now that is something to experience at least once in a lifetime.

My infatuation with Royal Ascot came around the time I started making hats. As Royal Ascot and Melbourne Cup are the two races no one will attend without a hat. While I got to experience Melbourne Cup (a world-famous horse race held in Australia) from far away thanks to my clients, I am proud to be able to experience Royal Ascot as one of the official milliners. It was a dream come true and was one of the reasons why I move to this island where occasionally forget about where the sun is.

So, before I start let me give a little information and history lesson here, though I am going to keep it short so I won’t bore you to death.

Royal Ascot is the horse race held every year around mid-June during 5 days period from Tuesday through Sunday. While history starts around 1768, it started to take shape in 1807 with the Gold Cup, which happens to be the third day of Royal Ascot which is the day millinery becomes a really big deal. By 1825 King George IV started the tradition of Royal Procession at 2 pm every day of the race when the monarch and the royal family arrive through the Royal Landaus accompanied by the National Anthem and raising of the Royal Standard (Wikipedia)

So, an international event like this generates a lot of income for a lot of different sectors from flowers to food, to temporary staff. The preparation starts the first Monday after the race is over each year. At least that is what I have heard from my sources inside.

Royal Ascot is very important for fashion businesses as well. As it is a different kind of runway. There is a total of four enclosures Royal Enclosure, Queen Anne Enclosure, Village Enclosure, and Windsor Enclosure. While Royal Enclosure can only be attended by horse owners and by invite, the rest is open to the public with a large range of ticket options. Each enclosure comes with its own dress code guidelines.

Now I am not going to explain all of them as the guide gets updated each year involving and you can check it out on the Royal Ascot website. Royal Enclosure dress guidelines still are the strictest ones. If you happen to receive an invite to Royal Enclosure; morning suits are a must for men and only in grey, navy, or black accompanied by a top hat, and ladies have to wear formal days wear like a full suit, or a dress, the shoulder must have at least 3 cm strips and a jacket is always a good idea to cover the shoulders when needed, but most importantly ladies have to have a hat with minimum 4 inch/10 cm diameter base.

From here let me take you to the hats of Royal Ascot, literally, every millinery in the country makes sure they have enough hats that they can accommodate clients from every enclosure. With most of my clients the first question I ask is “which enclosure are you going?” and the second is “which day?” As for Thursday (women’s day as well as the gold cup day) you cannot go there with a simple-looking hat. No, I will not let you do that and no I don’t care how much it costs you… Well, obviously, you do so we will see what we can do.

So, to be one of the suggested designers takes a lot of work. I remember when I first get selected one milliner asked me; ‘how did I do it?’ and ‘whom did I know?’ I didn’t know anyone other than my PR, and on top of it, one of the official Royal Ascot Race PRs made sure to let me know she didn’t appreciate my designs very much. Well, they no longer are part of it but we are still happy here so all I am going to say here is take what you can from each person, but do not get discouraged.

The whole selection is so serious that you have to be selected for ‘Ascot Guide’ every year to be published (except few designers who established the tradition itself and have OBC titles) but on top of that if you can get there you might also get an invitation for Royal Ascot millinery collective, in which you will get an official letter to design a one of a kind hat for Royal Ascot for the upcoming season. This year, I have had the privilege of being published in the Royal Ascot style guide four times, once including the cover, and got invited to be in the collective in 2019 also making the cover of the book, which also earned me the privilege of being one of the official Royal Ascot milliners.

It is not enough to be just good; you need to be established or upcoming to be able to get in there. A group of stylists requests hats from your look-books, and you do not know till the very last minute if you get published. It is a thing believe me. So, you have to have a hat that will fit their vision for that year’s guide.

How with this position I got to attend Royal Ascot several times and I had the privilege of attending the race at Royal Enclosure every time…? It is one of the craziest events I have ever seen. You want to come in earlier than the royals and if you are attending to Royal Enclosure you are likely to be going there by car, which takes about 45 minutes to an hour. However, you can also arrive by train and people are very committed. Thursday is ladies’ day so if you ever want to attend the event or have the chance, I would recommend trying Thursday.

Anyhow when you finally arrive and enter through the gates with a lot of handsome-looking men in their morning suits and officers, all the ladies make sure not to stick their heels into the grass holding tight to their escorts. Hats of all colors and styles are gorgeous-looking ladies, some with outrageous hats, some as the symbol of elegance. If you have a lunch reservation you end up in one of the tents or restaurants, if you do not then there are a lot of places you can buy food. No, they are not street foods, you still get luxury food sort of in a form of street food. The amount of champagne that you go through by the end of the day shows on everybody’s face.

I don’t particularly like gambling but eventually, you will end up betting on some horses just to be part of the excitement. My horses never win… They hand you a booklet to get information about the horses and jockeys. If you can understand, I respect you. If you aren’t like me, some amazing gentlemen that work for Ascot will come and help you to make your guesses and advise you on the horses and jockeys. Think about it even with that I still can’t win.

By 2 pm you have the royal procession and well if you get to see that then you never really need to see another. The royal procession as it is a full-on one and pretty close-up. You see the royals in their royal carriages coming from one end of the race track while seeing their faces live on the big screen. So, you don’t miss a thing. Once they arrive, they make their way through the boxes, to their own boxes getting greeted by everyone on their way up. It is always a good idea to watch people from every possible perspective. If you look from the balcony of your box you see a sea of colorful hats and top hats. If you go down the boxes by the racecourse and turn back to look at the boxes, it is like you are in a movie and all these gorgeous elegant looking people screaming and jumping for a horse is one of the most entertaining scenes on earth. At least for me but as I have been saying it is an experience.

And from that moment on, it is all about racing, drinking, and showing off your hats. Now, you would expect everyone to be extremely stylish at such an elegant event, wouldn’t you? They are, I promise you they definitely are. Till about 5 pm, this is when I prefer to leave. As the parties start after that you start to see these elegant people drunk and looking like they have been at the best wedding party they have ever attended. My friends usually enjoy this part more than the rest. Whereas, for me, the magic of Royal Ascot needs to stay magical and people need to stay as elegant as they can. Even if they are wearing the utmost ridiculous hat. The more daring the hat, the more respect I will have for you.

Before I end this, I would like to remind everyone of the people who got affected by the Earthquake and invite you to donate through https://ahbap.org/

Thank you all for reading me and see you soon…

Love

Merve


Merve Bayindir
+44 (0 )2077247878
+44 (0) 7714781389
28 Crawford Place
W1H 5NJ 
London UK
www.mervebayindir.com

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