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July 14 2014

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2 posts tagged "Kentucky Derby"

Off to the Races with Piers Atkinson

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With all this talk about Gatsby and Punk, you may have forgotten that Saturday marks the 139th Kentucky Derby, which, in addition to being the biggest horse race of the year, is America’s foremost hat-stravaganza. However, whether you’re heading to Churchill Downs or celebrating at home with a mint julep, picking the appropriate race day hat can be a trying task. Luckily, we were able to get a hold of London-based milliner Piers Atkinson, whose something of an expert on the subject. This spring, Atkinson launches his second Racing Collection (above). Crafted from feathers and straw in a palette of black and white (a nod to My Fair Lady, he tells us), Atkinson’s range presents an updated, witty take on a time honored sartorial tradition. (Speaking of wit, his look book cleverly showcases the collection on a set of Barbie dolls.) “When a woman tries the right hat, suddenly she stands up straight, has a big grin on her face, and starts acting like a Hollywood movie star,” says Atkinson. “It’s quite instinctive, really.” Here, the milliner offers some tips for picking the perfect racing accouterment, and keeping your top-to-toe look from seeming old hat.

Formal, large brimmed hats seem the racing tradition, but sometimes they can feel a bit dated. Do you think it’s still modern to wear a giant hat?
Big brimmed hats don’t sell so much outside the races, but once the races come around, everyone goes mad. I like to do some really large brimmed hats this time of the year just to get people in the mood. And I don’t think a big brimmed hat is an age thing. It’s more about your body shape. So taller women can carry off a bigger brim, in my opinion. Saucer shapes are also quite popular, and they have big brims, but they can be worn tilted on the side of the head. Or you can get brims that kind of sweep up so you can see whoever’s underneath.

I think a lot of new hat wearers have a fear of looking silly in a big racing topper. What’s the key to feeling dramatic, but not cartoonish?
It’s all about confidence. People who wear bigger hats tend to have a sense of confidence, or to be more show off-y—in a nice way. If you’re confident, then you can afford to have a sense of humor. But most women don’t want to look ridiculous—they want to look chic, or sexy, or fabulous. For instance, if your hat is huge, and your trim is huge, and you’ve got feathers and roses, and then more roses, it starts to go into something that’s a little ridiculous. You can have drama, or a bright color or a wide brim, or a huge trim, or a fun detail, but not all of them at once. Just be chic. The main thing about wearing a hat, though, is that if you feel silly, you’re going to look silly. So get something that makes you feel nice. Continue Reading “Off to the Races with Piers Atkinson” »

The Only Way Is Ascot

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No hat, no entrance. Such are the rules of the Royal Ascot, the U.K.’s most prestigious horse race, sartorially and otherwise, and the functional English equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. Founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, the meet, which runs from June 19-23, attracts everyone from Liz Hurley to the Royals for five days of celebration, steeds, and, of course, spectacular headgear. “I couldn’t have imagined it in my wildest dreams. It’s sort of like heaven!” says up-and-coming English milliner Noel Stewart, who, along with Piers Atkinson, Charlie Le Mindu, J. Smith Esquire, and William Chambers, will showcase his hats at the races in the Stephen Jones-curated Headonism exhibition, sponsored by the Royal Ascot and the British Fashion Council. “It’s the highlight of a milliner’s year and crucially important from a business standpoint. It’s Christmas and Thanksgiving and everything else all rolled into one!” adds Jones, who, in addition to crafting a slew of Ascot hats, is in the midst of creating headpieces for Raf Simons’ debut Dior Couture show.

However, due to a few subpar skin-baring ensembles from years past, Ascot has tightened up its 2012 dress code. Fascinators have been banned in the Royal Enclosure, the race’s most exclusive viewing section (according to Ascot, they’re a “convenient way out” and not in line with formal daywear), and ladies must wear headpieces no smaller than four inches in diameter, as well as day dresses of “modest length” whose straps are at least one inch wide. (The powers that be have suggested the look at left as an example of race-appropriate garb: dress by Nicholas Oakwell, shoes by Bally, and hat by Stephen Jones.) Gents are required to turn up in a top hat and tails. “The new rules are about being more ‘English summer party’ than ‘pop star fleshy,’ ” says Atkinson, who designed a special Racing Collection (below), each hat from which adheres to Ascot’s regulations. His strawberries-and-cream-inspired toppers will be on sale at his pop-up shop at London’s Saint Martins Lane Hotel, open from today until the end of June. Continue Reading “The Only Way Is Ascot” »