Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large

Lady Helen Taylor at Ascot (via
My commute into work brings me through Waterloo which is also the station where most of the trains out to Ascot depart from. And so every day of Royal Ascot week, I am immersed in the throngs of morning tails, nude heels and multicoloured hats which are on their way to the races. It's a fascinating sight, especially when you're more used to a sea of grey business suits. However it always strikes me that, like men, most women ending looking very samey. When there's a dress code, that's bound to happen. But it does make me sad that so many people probably completely abandon their usual style and head straight to the nearest L.K Bennett or Coast in order to feel that they comply with rules which actually leave quite a lot of room for manoeuvre. There are variations of colours, brim widths and arm exposure but it still all ends up looking pretty uniform. There must be, or should be, some kind of Social Anthropology theory which explains it. Perhaps it's not really about the items but the way they get put together in such a ticking boxes kind of way. Dressing up is such a special thing that surely it should be one of the times when we're most imaginative with our outfits?

Anyway, Lady Helen Taylor did a brilliant job of showing that you don't have to sacrifice your personality for Ascot dressing. I'm pretty sure she's wearing a dress by Roksanda Ilincic and a hat by Marie Mercié (there's a similar one here at Avenue 32). Yes there are the ubiquitous nude heels but when their co-ordinating item is awesome round sunglasses, rather than a twee little clutch, they work. One of the traps that lots of racegoers seem to fall into is that everything must "match". Not true. Lady Helen's got a lovely blue manicure which co-ordinates with precisely nothing in her outfit, but it works because it throws the look off course a bit. It's unexpected. As are the jewels which look like they're chosen simply because she likes them rather than because they go particularly with anything else. While most matchy matchy gets boring, Lady Helen's hat and earrings are exactly the same same colour as her official name badge which is actually genius, whether it's intentional or not.

Lady Helen has an impressive fashion record already; she wore Erdem to the Royal Wedding and has collaborated closely with Giorgio Armani for years. The problem is that there's no way to really "learn" her kind of dressing. You either have the proverbial fashion balls and imagination to steer off the boring route, or you don't.


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