When Royal Ascot comes to mind, the one thing I think is Ooh, 'It is quite Posh'
In saying that the 'Royal Enclosure' is basically for the people who can pay and want to be seen but the 'Parade Ring' is the place to be for Royalty, best of everything and aristocracy from all Countries. Over the 5 days of Royal Ascot we spent times in different locations on course although did not make it to the Royal Box, when running into Mr Stephen Jones who went missing for about 40 minutes at about 4pm, I did ask him. “Did you have a sip of Tea with the Queen?” In a true gentlemen’s manner I saw a discreet smile and whimsical laugh. I know he had been having Tea with HRH.
Royal Ascot is something I hope will be on the agenda every year and 5 days straight of racing is a pleasure but were told that we were the only ones heading 5 days running. Australian Tour groups offer racing on the First day and Saturday. Ladies Day and the most glamorous day is Thursday, the day to be seen. Tuesday is a racing enthusiast day, but there are no days off for races that stop a nation. The transport is deplorable, but we are looking at a country that had roads and infrastructure established long ago. Heading from Knightsbridge each day took about 1 ½ hours and to get home took sometimes the driver 1 ½ hours to get to us and then the hour to get out and then past Heathrow another hour. We will save ourselves the headache next time and stay at a lovely B&B close by. I almost missed out on the last day of racing because of the headache of transport. (By the way, you don't say 'driver' in UK, you have to say 'My Chauffeur!”, which makes me laugh as it is just saying driver in french, go figure???)
The actual racing takes a little getting used to. There are between 20-30 horses in a race and depending on the handicapping you may get paid up until 5th place. The furlongs, 200m are usually run down the straight and at the 600-400 metre mark there is a rise in the track. You can understand how Black Caviar last year (well let us not say struggled) but was unsure of the course with this rise toward the finish line. The great mare is remembered well and everyone was commenting to us how they love her in UK. Banners everywhere on magazines and covers of menu's still have the trademark colours of the legendary galloping mare. Very proud of being an Aussie. Browsing through the photos you will also see an Australian favourite, Gai Waterhouse that posed for a snap. The horses in the parade ring seem somewhat leaner and finer compared with our Aussie Champions, but all in all we broke even and the betting was just somewhat of an interest compared with the dining and swooning over fabulous hats.
Now onto the hats. Fabulous, Fabulous, Fabulous. Let me tell you, Philip Treacy did seem to have a very strong presence here and the who is who of the Aristocracy was wearing the most coveted Philip Treacy pieces as well as the Royal Family who was passing us all day in the 'Parade Ring' Dining area. Many of the ladies in the very regal parts of the track do tell me they have bespoke pieces made by Mr Treacy. That is a price tag that I would be petrified to see although I know it would be remarkably well made and made just for me. Hats were big and brimmed and made beautifully except for the attention getters. (They were still fabulous) Now, I am not having a go, because this is all about getting dressed up and having fun and every one was having a ball. I love a BIG hat, but when you have to constantly hold it there, it may not be fun all day, especially if you have 5 days in a row. For the show ponies, you constantly walk around and around the parade ring and the papps and photographers will snap you. (By the way, when we are looking fabulous, none of us mind getting snapped) Catching up with Carole Denford from 'The Hat' magazine and Paul her photographer was fantastic. I had not seen her in years an we were both pointing out the hats we loved. Carole I dare say had the best hats, (oh besides mine, lol) of everyone. All brilliantly made and individual. There were not many pillboxes or small pieces. If you could not afford Philip Treacy, well you had to get a copy. Lol. There were allot of copies and I was a little tired of seeing the moulded satellite, I dare say it will be a hit a Spring Racing Carnival if we are going to follow our UK neighbours. Beware! So many copies and mass productions, allot of people were seen wearing the same hats! Oh, I do say! The wonderful Philip Treacy was not in the 'Royal Enclosure', but on Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful Grace Jones and Philip Treacy was in the 'Besborough' where I ran into my all time hero, Mr Stephen Jones, whom I address in this manner as he is so talented and fabulous. Deborah and Charlotte Quinn were both guests of Mr Jones and they both looked amazing in his hats. I was star struck when I was watching the Queen arrive and Mr Jones remembered me and introduced me to all his friends. I was so honoured. Thank you Mr Jones.
It is a great honour also for Australian Milliners with Carole Denford from 'The Hat' magazine commenting on how our milliners are so innovative and well recognised. Kim Fletcher, Serena Lindeman, Paris Kyne, Neil Grigg, Jonathan Howard, Waltraud Reiner and Louise Macdonald were just a few of the names that came up, with a big discussion on the talent of Ann Shoebridge Milliner. We were also talking about my trip to Hong Kong where I met the wonderful Jaycow Milliner, she was also bewildered by this amazing Milliner. I was also welcomed by so many International Milliners chatting about their aesthetic and looking at the mastery of their Millinery. A truly International Millinery Affair.
The dress code of the 'Royal Enclosure' was strictly adhered to with some being shunned and shocked making the grade. Not mentioning any names. NO, it was not me.
The ladies of 'Royal Ascot' and 'Royal Enclosure' were all elegantly attired and the mature ladies really set the scene. The dressing was very proper and English. Mainly dresses with coats and immaculate. I did see the cast of, I am not sure if it was Made in Chelsea or Everything Essex??, Umm, they were not welcomed into the 'Royal Enclosure' and they did not try although they were mingling out the front. They were very very tanned.
There is no 'Fashions on the Field', which I think shows that ladies and gentlemen are dressing for themselves and not to compete. In this we see that everyone is standing very comfortably in their own skin. Shock value and kitsch hats do attract the photographers and TV, but elegant attire is the way to go. There is nothing contemporary in the more traditional sections of the course, in fact that is where Australian Ladies you Rein Supreme. The Innovation of trends on the Australian Racecourse really does leave the rest of the world behind. The English are elegant and traditional, but do not press the boundaries of fashion. When heading to the lawn of 'Royal Enclosure' it is like stepping into the past with all beautifully dressed.
Something I did notice. Money can never buy class. I am always about having fun, being silly and enjoying, it is never how much you drink but how you act when you drink. When I was in the 'Royal Enclosure, Panoramic Restaurant', there were a group of well attired lads in their late 20s early 30s enjoying the day. They were musing over their trust funds, schools and fathers occupations. Each to ones own. They were not hurting anyone and talking like that in Australia would not be tolerated, but they would not be impressing anyone in Australia. (Probably as they see us as convicts, ha ha.) One thing that after a few wins and drinks, it was not profanity that came out of their mouths, rather the bigotry and hatred. I immediately wanted to get away from these people as the hatred they had for a group of people was so archaic and disgusting I could not believe what I was hearing. It honestly almost brought me to tears. Most times words can be shrugged off, but sometimes when you use words of hatred, it shows the class of person. I think this person needs allot of growing.
Let me break down the days for you. 5 days of phenomenal racing. You arrive and you socialise early and then you dine. Then you wait for the Queen to arrive. There are bets on what colour her hat is going to be. Mr Stephen Jones did predict the colour of purple, but maybe he had inside information. Then may the betting begin.
Royal Enclosure, Parade Ring, This is the crème de la crème of Royal Ascot. You constantly have Royalty including the Queen walking past you during lunch. Full view of Parade Ring and Horses, you are situated directly opposite to the 'Royal Box'. You are directed to the Grandstand for every race next door to the Royal Box. Sheer Indulgence, 7 courses. Exquisite Food, Bollinger on Tap and Aristocracy everywhere. $$$$$
Royal Enclosure, Panoramic, This is situated at the top of the Grandstand and has award winning Chef. Champagne on tap again and wonderful views. You do have to go down to the Parade Ring at Ground Level to see the horses Parade and there is a climb to the top again. On a mild day it is beautiful when the doors are open and you have a wonderful breeze. This is fantastic to see the race and you can take your beverages to the balcony and chat. There are allot of the aristocracy here, but the people are friendly, besides the bad taste remark. The staff are welcoming and so lovely and cannot do enough for you. You see all the races at the finish line and a perfect place to enjoy a meal and enjoy the races. I enjoyed here so much, I came twice. $$$$
Besborough. This is a huge 3 Tiered Marquee. You are not in the Royal Enclosure, but this area is still very posh. This is where you will meet celebrities and Sir's and Ladies. It is very similar to the feel of the 'Pharlap Marquee' at Melbourne Cup Carnival. It is not great for the racing enthusiast as you only see the horse past the post after the win. It is quite a walk to the Main Grandstand. You are away from the General Public Admission so you don't see the really messy people until you get out. Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy are among the guests here. You have entertainment such as Jazz playing and guest tipsters before the races. It is a fun relaxed day and the people who attend are super friendly. Great Food, 5 courses and again Champagne on Tap. $$$
Carriages. Again in the 3 tiered Marquee you have the same position as the Besborough. Although we went on the last day of racing. This day is very relaxed and so is the fashion. Even Carol Denford from 'The Hat' Magazine did not bother to attend as she said there was nothing really to see on this day. It is similar to Emirate Stakes Day during Melbourne Cup Carnival. Relaxed and friendly all around. Carriages is probably the least expensive of all, but it is good food and Champagne again although you are not in the quality of the Grandstand. On the last day the staff are totally over it. In this restaurant it unfortunately was apparent that the staff were on their last legs. They were polite although 5 days of attending to people the attentiveness of drinks and entree were not fabulous. It was fun and friendly but let me say, not my favourite. $$
Royal Ascot is the place to be when it is a chilly Melbourne although we do have the Winter Racing Carnival in Brisbane. The transport is terrible so next time I will be staying locally. The Hats are brimmed and beautifully made in most cases. If you are wanting to capture the cameras, bigger is better! Australia, you are the number one for innovation of style and fashion forward at the races. We love the tradition of the Royal Ascot and all the grace that comes with that. What we can adopt from the Brits is the Sing a long at the end of the day. This is where you are given Union Jack flags and sing with 1000s of others after the races. It is a fun day, although when entering the track, people are so well attired and just like Australia, Hats are flung, you can smell alcohol everywhere and ghastly sights of people falling in the bushes in their hmmmm, let us leave it at that. Totally loving Furlong Fashion Blog. Looking forward to another trip to Royal Ascot next year.