There’s nothing like a strict dress code to make summer dressing difficult.
But as Royal Ascot rolls around, and a summer replete with postponed weddings reaches its peak, the time for fashionable hats has come.
The first step is to study the rule book. For the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, for example, a headdress isn’t going to cut it: you need a headdress with a solid base of 4 inches or more. Other than that, you are free to be creative.
Whether you’re looking for an eye-catching statement, something more affordable, or have left it to the last minute and need a quick fix, there’s a millinery for you. Here’s our pick of the best…
For the advancement of fashion: Stephen Jones
Famed milliner Stephen Jones is the visionary behind some of fashion’s greatest hats, as seen on Princess Diana, the Dior runways of the 1990s, and Rihanna’s potato-pearl headpiece at the 2018 Met Gala. Jones’s flagship store is located just off Covent Garden, where you can find the latest collections, including ‘Bonnes Vacances’, one of which was chosen by Meghan Markle for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Stephen Jones, 36 Great Queen St, WC2B, stephenjonesmillinery.com
For a wide range: Fenwick
On the second floor of Fenwick, you’ll find a haven of headwear for occasions, from standout fascinators, statement feathered hats, and smaller, more minimalist numbers. With experts on hand to offer tips and styling suggestions, you can expect to feel at ease in the process. Once you’re done, head over to the women’s clothing department to find the other missing pieces of your outfit. With a wide range of brands, you’ll be able to choose between the super luxury and more affordable labels like Whitley, where prices start at £89.
Bond Street Fenwick, 63 New Bond St, W1S, fenwick.es
For minimalism: Jane Taylor
If you want high-end elegance, Jane Taylor is a one stop shop. Skull cap styles are a great option for anyone who wants to nail the dress code but stay away from any heavy hats. The Aphrodite and Cybele styles are subtle and head-hugging, yet large enough to meet Royal Ascot’s Royal Enclosure requirements, while the larger styles come in monochromatic hues ensuring a striking yet simple look. Her biggest fans are the royals themselves, notably the Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex, who have exclusively worn her designs since 2009.
Jane Taylor, 111a Walton St, SW3, janetaylorlondon.com
For affordability: Phase Eight
Spending four figures on a headdress isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. Renting is great for avoiding the problem, but if you’re looking for a piece to keep, Phase Eight has a good selection of cheaper hats and they haven’t skimped on style. From white pillbox hats with veils for £59 to statement headbands £45 and larger saucer-style fascinators for £85, you can achieve a polished look without breaking the bank.
Find your nearest store here, phase-eight.com
For heirloom: Lock & Co. Hatters
Count on the safe hands of Lock & Co. Hatters’ in-house hatters, who come with an unmatched history in hat making. Founded in 1676, it is the oldest hat shop in the world and has dressed stars through the centuries, from Oscar Wilde to David Beckham. For women’s headpieces, they offer a range of more casual straw styles, as well as Awon Golding’s Lock Couture, the high-end line from its lead designer, which this season was inspired by majestic English gardens. It is suitably showy and full of flowers.
Lock & Co. Hatters, 6 St James’s St, SW1A, lockhatters.com