Saturday, 13 August 2022

Hats off to Harry and Meghan

Hats off to Harry and Meghan

IF you want to get ahead, get a hat. This Forties advertising slogan may not apply to the rowers competing at this year’s Henley Royal Regatta, but it’s good advice for the spectators, according to milliner Louise Walton.

The official notice from the regatta is clear for women who are going into the stewards’ enclosure.

It reads: “Ladies are required to wear dresses or skirts with a hemline below the knee. Ladies will not be admitted wearing divided skirts, culottes or trousers of any kind. While not a requirement, it is customary for ladies to wear hats.”

Louise, who runs Louise Clare Millinery in Wallingford, says these rules should not only be obeyed but positively welcomed.

“A hat finishes off the outfit,” she says. “There are not enough chances to wear one, so when there is a opportunity, like Henley, then people should take it and enjoy it.”

This year she has found that pastel shades are proving particularly popular for the summer events season, with events such as the regatta and Ascot.

“Ice blues are doing really, really well,” she says. “Cream and nude colours are always very popular.”

Fellow milliner Liz Felix expects that the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will lead to a surge in hat sales.

“It will have a huge impact on what people want,” she says. “There were some very distinctive styles on show and there were a lot of discs, which sit on the side of the head. Some were quite plain but elegant.

“We are being asked for side discs a lot because they are comfortable, easy to wear and can be any colour and size.”

But Liz, whose customers at her shop in Reading Road, Henley, include Prime Minister Theresa May, says there will always be people who love a big hat.

“I have always sold, and will continue to sell, Audrey Hepburn-style hats. They are timeless and elegant,” she says.

“People tend to go for big and showy hats at Ascot. For Henley, it’s smaller and less showy.

“This year I’ve had some really interesting colour combinations that are bold, which could be seen to clash but actually work beautifully together — oranges and reds or reds and pinks together. People are looking for contrasts in their fabrics.”

But back to those hemlines and who better to supply the right-length dress than Louise Rose Couture, which specialises in Fifties dresses?

Louise Allison, who runs the business in Reading, says: “They are good for the regatta because they are below the knee.

“It’s a way of looking glamorous while still fitting in the dress code. There is a nipped-in waist so it’s flattering for women of all ages, shapes and sizes, which caters for a wider audience. The style has been back for the last five years or so and does not seem to be going anywhere. It’s sticking because it works for so many women.”

Our model Aspen Weatherburn agrees. She loved Louise’s halter dress in pink and floral print, which is designed to work for any summer event. I wore something similar to last year’s regatta,” she said. “The Fifties style is stunning and it’s actually very comfortable.

“The way women dressed in the Fifties was so beautiful. It’s curvy and a celebration of the woman’s figure. It’s not the waif look you’d associate with the Nineties.” Aspen added: “The regatta is always associated with glamour and fun. It’s a great excuse to get dressed up and enjoy the social side of it.”

However, the 41-year-old mother of one, who grew up in Henley and now lives in Albert Road, says that when it comes to clothes she tends to go for block colours.

She really liked a poppy red dress from Cliché, which is based in Beaconsfield. “It was exactly the sort of thing for me,” said Aspen. “I absolutely loved it.

“It’s beautiful and versatile and it could be matched with other bright colours. I go for bright block colours.” Aspen, who runs Hello Henley, a social media publishing and editorial consultancy, added: “I don’t normally go for a hat but after today I am considering investing in one.”

The dress code in the stewards’ enclosure is just as strict for men who are required to wear lounge suits, or jackets or blazers with flannels. A tie or cravat is also required.

Laurence Morris, who runs Laurence Menswear in Duke Street, Henley, says the regatta gives men a rare chance to stand out.

“It’s one of the few occasions in the English calendar where guys can express themselves through their fashion,” he says.

“There is a lot of eccentricity and colour. People see the regatta as a fun occasion so therefore, in many cases, it’s the brighter the better.

“I very much go by what’s in fashion at the time. It may be that stripes are more in one year than another or bright colours — it varies.

“People always like the navy blazer, cream chinos and a striped tie but this year there are also jackets with extra details and coloured stripes. Striped jackets are still very much in.”

Alistair Cooper, Aspen’s partner, says he would not normally choose to wear a cravat but has been converted after trying one with a striped blazer with a white shirt, red waistcoat and navy blue chinos.

He said: “The blazer is smart and I would absolutely wear it. It has a beautiful fit.

“The pink trousers of the more casual outfit would not be something I would normally choose but they were incredibly comfortable.”

Alistair, 40, a wine writer and consultant, is looking forward to the regatta itself.

“It's a great occasion and I love seeing how Henley comes alive is full of people and the businesses are doing well.”

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