Stylish hats for Royal Ascot


by Camilla Robertson


Leading milliner Camilla Rose gives a quick heads up on the latest hat trends and insights on how to find your most flattering hat


Two typical examples of statement hats from Royal Ascot 2021

Whether you’re off to Royal Ascot, a summer wedding, the polo or a garden party, the British summer social occasions often call for formal dressing, and ladies this means hats. But let’s face it, more often than not, hats are purchased as a last-minute afterthought or a grim necessity through gritted teeth, only to be removed at the earliest opportunity. As a generation of fashionistas, we’ve lost our appreciation of the transformative power of a hat. But armed with a little millinery knowledge to help you make the right purchasing and styling choices, I believe you’ll quickly change your opinion. In fact, hats could become as much an integral part of your accessories wardrobe as your shoes, jewellery and bag.



Having played an integral part in many of this season’s most influential catwalk shows and photoshoots hats are definitely back. As a Milner, this is something I’m of course delighted about. Not only because it means business, but because I sincerely believe hats immediately elevate any look, bringing bags of fresh attitude and style. And many of the world’s leading designers are falling back in love with hats. 

So with this in mind, what are the key styles and trends you need to know about and how do you find the right one for you? Although I could wax lyrical for hours about the merits of how a casual fedora, pairs beautifully with trainers and a denim jacket, For the sake of brevity, I’m going to focus on summer occasions. This season’s trends fall into five essential summer occasion hat trends.

Ridley London blog - Royal Ascot hats

Phillip Treacy's ethereal show stopper on the catwalk, Arabesque hat from Camilla Rose Millinery, below: Camilla Rose's 'Stowaway Hat' at Royal Ascot


Cascade - Soft layers of fabric and embellishments that cascade down the front and off to the side of the face. Think ethereal, as the layers are generally of softer draping fabrics, like silk, that create an airiness to the height. As it’s top-heavy, this is a statement look and compliments a monochrome or a shift dress. 

Floral - floral headpieces meant to coordinate with, but not overpower, a dress. These are not overly subtle, but neither are they the oversized voluminous hats in flower shapes, but rather, more realistically sized floral pieces that can be worn with a floral pattern or a dress with complex construction, drawing on one colour in the print.

Literal -  These hats are the novelty acts of any summer event. Typically they are a literal interpretation of an object or animal morphed into a hat. Imagine a feather hat in the shape of a swan or an artist's palette and brush. It’s a witty way to stand out in the crowd and because it says so much about your sense of irony, these hats work best with monochrome dresses. They are the focus of your look rather than a complimenting feature

Tongue in cheek - these hats are whimsical, oversized elements of beauty. Think giant flowers or oversized hats of feathers. These are visual show stoppers that dwarf the head and single out the wearer in the crowd. They are only worn with monochrome dresses and are staples on the catwalk for their dramatic effect.

Classic - understated hats and headpieces with subtle touches of additional elements. Delicate hats of sisal, hats with proportionate brims and tulle veils. These hats work with busy prints as well as monochrome. They are classic and safe. They are also wise investment pieces because this look never dates. Think of the hats the royals wore to the events celebrating the Queen’s platinum jubilee and you will never put a foot, or in this case, a head, wrong.

 Ridley London blog - Royal Ascot hats

Giant Silk Rose in a Lilac Pink Ombre from John Boyd Hats, Stephen Jones for Dior  Bottom: Edwin Ibbotson's Cornflower blue hat with flowers from and Camilla Rose's green Volute hat with Ridley London's Tamara Maxi in sunflower viscose


Choosing the Right Hat

In my mind, the role of a hat is to complete your outfit and to flatteringly frame your face. For Royal Ascot, people are often braver with style and fashion but my advice: ALWAYS stick to what makes you feel comfortable; remember you’re wearing it the whole day! While I’m all for self-expression, if you’re going for a big statement, I would always suggest that the hat colour or tonally matches your outfit. Otherwise, you’re in danger of looking disjointed. Also, pay attention to the shape of your face. You don’t want a hat that overwhelms and overshadows. For those with a longer, slimmer face, a hat that draws the eye outwards away from the face is preferable to a hat that is ‘top-heavy.' So wider brims or a smaller shallower headpiece would be ideal. The angle a particular hat is worn at is also important. Most of my hats are made to sit at an angle to flatter the face, as this draws the eye up.  The Volute/Chaines is a prime example and I have yet to find someone it doesn't suit. It is, however, important to consider facial shape.

For weddings, the traditional practice of colour matching is still very much alive, but personally, I lean toward the subtlety of matching to one selected colour from the dress; keep it simple. If you have a busy floral dress I find pinks or greens are the best colours to match.  For a monochrome dress, I love colour clashing with fuchsia/orange as one of my favourite colour combinations.

 Ridley London blog - Royal Ascot hats

Zara Tindall wears Camilla Rose's Gala headpiece, and our model wears Ridley London's Miranda Maxi dress with pom pom print and volute hat in red and teal from Camilla Rose. Below, James Blunt arrives with his wife Sofia Wellesley to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Sofia is wearing Camilla Rose's classic volute headpiece.


Sustainability & Ethics 

This is such a key issue right now, and like buying anything I believe it’s really important that the hat you choose to wear is made ethically, locally and using sustainably sourced materials. The industry has made huge leaps in sustainability with companies working to mitigate the environmental impact. Large scale recycling of waste products – including outer layers, low grades of the sisal, etc. into usable bi-products is making a difference. Some of these materials are repurposed for biogas power generation with the rest used in making fertilizers.

Choosing a milliner who focuses on small scale production is vital for sustainability because it mitigates waste. Most of the well-known designer milliners are now working in this way and are completely transparent about production. However, a lot of off the peg high-street hats are still mass-produced abroad with limited information about materials, production and waste. Wherever you buy your hat from really should have this critical information to hand. All my pieces are handmade to order in my studio in Hampshire and are never mass-produced. Conscious of my ethical responsibility to the planet,  I made the decision six years ago to start my hire business to give new life to hats from past seasons, rather than commission them to storage in boxes!  The sisal straw is one of my main materials, I adore the unique quality of every individual hand woven piece. In small village communities growing raw sisal women are involved in every aspect of the business including in managerial roles - a huge step in countries like the Philippines.


Hat Hiring 

The real game-changer in terms of sustainability is hat hire. There are a number of businesses, websites and milliners like me now offering this service. I've recently added more hats for hire as the popularity of hiring grows.  All of my hats are available to try and hire at the Ridley store in Barnes, and Once the hire hats are past their best, I deconstruct them to use every bit I can to remake/produce a new hat. Since all my hats are made by hand in one place, it’s wonderful to be able to minimise waste - I never throw anything away!

Camilla Rose Millinery has been featured on:

Zara Tindall - Cheltenham (Gala Hat SS22)
Georgia Toffolo - Hello magazine (Spectacular SS22)
Tootsies at royal ascot
Virginia Chadwyck Healey - Sphere in the Telegraph
Sofia Blunt - Volute Royal Wedding

Camilla Rose's hats are available to hire and purchase at Ridley's Barnes store. Celebrate your individuality this season with a unique hat or dress that's individually crafted to flatter from your choice of any of Ridley's stunning new printed floral or solid silks or cottons. Or call us to arrange a virtual fitting: 

Ridley London, 82 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 0DQ T: 01730 823097


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