After the Queen and wonder horse Frankel, one name is synonymous with Royal Ascot — Audrey Hepburn. Though her association with the Berkshire track is entirely filmic, her appearance there as reformed flower girl Eliza Doolittle has never been surpassed and every woman dressing for Ladies’ Day hopes to capture something of the My Fair Lady “Hep factor” in their choice of headwear.
For her pass muster test in polite society, Eliza stepped out with Professor Henry Higgins in a hat designed by Sir Cecil Beaton which instantly made her the favourite as very few milliners have won multiple Academy Awards for costume design and even fewer females can carry off such a bountiful biretta. That magnificent bonnet for Eliza’s debut at the “smashing, positively dashing, Ascot opening day”, has an entire section dedicated to it in a new gorgeously glossy book, Hepburn in Hats, by June Marsh which is published in perfect time for the Great British Season on June 30.
Whether peering provocatively from beneath the wide saucer brim of her black chapeau du matin as Holly Golightly or radiating beauty in the Charade movie pillbox that started a craze, the images of the late Ms Hepburn in her signature accessory remind us of her deserved status as a global style icon. Creating a hat for Hepburn was to stake one’s claim in fashion history and with her as a muse, Hubert Givenchy set trends and cemented his reputation.
One can only imagine how excited Philip Treacy would have been to dress the Hep head and add her to the list of royals and celebrities already modelling his surreal toppers. Many of his couture creations appear in another new hat tome, Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies, which offers a behind-the-scenes portrait of the magical milliner responsible for 30 hats at Will and Kate’s wedding including Princess Beatrice’s notorious pretzel. Snack hat aside, Treacy is a craftsman who has designed crowns for such fashion queens as Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker and Naomi Campbell (pictured below) for Ascot. He is also the first milliner to have his own show at Paris couture week.
As you flick through the pages of his bowlers, buckets and boaters, it’s worth noting that for 2013, Treacy has declared a fatal blow to the fascinator. “The fascinator is dead and I am delighted,” he says of the sequin and feather concoctions that sprout from the side of a head. “They have become so cheap to produce they are now no more than headbands with a feather stuck on with a glue gun. We’re seeing a return to proper hats.” Hepburn would have approved.
Audrey Hepburn in Hats
by June Marsh £19.95 (Reel Art Press) Philip Treacy: Head, Wear and Work
by Kevin Davies £39.95