#EpsomHattitude at the Investec Derby Festival

Helena SheffieldWritten by Helena Sheffield, author of The Art of Wearing Hats


During the award season in Hollywood there is a huge amount of speculation. Who will win, who will behave scandalously, does Leonardo Di Caprio have a chance in hell (fortunately that’s finally been answered) and – of course – what will they all wear?

It’s not too different in the racing season, and as the Investec Derby Festival has now drawn to a close it’s high time to have a close look at one of the clear stars of the event: the hats.

This year we had a truly mesmerising variety: from the daring to the subtle, delicate pastels to shocking pinks and far more. I was lucky enough to be asked to judge the #EpsomHattitude competition (and therefore spent an entire day ogling other people’s headwear to my heart’s content), and the winner will be revealed forthwith.

Firstly, let’s have a look at a select number of stand-out hats that evoked some true hatmiration…


Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh arrive in the Royal enclosure on the second day of the Epsom Derby Festival in Surrey, southern England, on June 4, 2016.

Well, of course. Putting aside the fact that we’re celebrating the Queen’s 90th birthday this year, we still can’t ignore that our monarch still nails the fashion side of things even 60 years into the job. Her hat this year was straight and angular which, if you want to get technical, complemented the round shape of her face to perfection. But more importantly it was like a quirky twist on the top hat in white and royal blue with a quiet explosion of feathers at the front. Simple, classic, straightforward, regal.


Racegoers await the start of the second day of the Epsom Derby Festival in Surrey, southern England, on June 4, 2016

This gorgeous dove grey hatinator is a classic of the Derby and that’s exactly why it should be mentioned. It’s calmly stylish with its beautiful feature flower pared against the looping sinamay flourishes, and the gentle sweep of the brim lends it an oh-so-dignified air. It even manages to stand out against the pale grey top hats that surround it, as it looks light enough to have just landed momentarily on the wearer’s head before taking flight once more. Yes, hats are definitely animate objects.


Racegoers watch the racing on the second day of the Epsom Derby Festival in Surrey, southern England, on June 4, 2016I think Jackie Kennedy – icon of the pillbox hat – would have approved of this royal blue beauty. Spotted through a crowd, it’s noticeable for its neatness and vivid colour (which also matches her dress to perfection: not an easy feat). The large blue flower embellishing it adds a fabulous contrast to the otherwise subtle image, instead making this hat a bold choice that’s impossible to ignore.

Eleanor Tomlinson poses on the second day of the Epsom Derby Festival in Surrey, southern England, on June 4, 2016Eleanor Tomlinson

The Poldark star made the bold move of contrasting her red hair with a pale pink headpiece, but pulled it off with panache. The frothy petals of the flowers against the structured sinamay created a truly explosive vision in pink.


Vogue Williams – this was my personal favourite of the entire event. It was so completely unexpected, simply designed and understated that it caught my eye immediately. I am a strong advocate of the visor as an under-valued piece of head-wear, but Vogue demonstrated that it can be an effortlessly stylish option.

Clare Balding – hatinators are not for everyone, and Clare Balding presented an alternative style of hat which nonetheless looked sleek and proved that she knows what she likes and what suits her. This is always one of the most important aspects of hat-wearing: wear what makes you feel confident. Do that, and it’s impossible to go wrong.

Hatspirational, every one.

But now, on to the winner of the brilliantly titled #EpsomHattitude competition. It was not an easy choice, and I’d happily while away days on end looking at these brilliant submissions. But after strenuous deliberation, I am delighted to reveal the winner:

#EpsomHattitude Winner

Instagram entrant: @keerankk

I love so many things about this hat, but its swoop is probably my favourite element. It’s dramatic but soft at the same time, and the colours made it stand out – the slight shimmer in the purple is a gorgeously subtle addition.

But of course, we also have our glamorous runners-up, all of whom displayed style and/or creativity in their entries. Thank you to all who entered!

So alas, the Derby is over for another year, but if you’re feeling bereft I strongly advise you find a statement hat and parade about in it, secure in the knowledge that whether it’s a fedora or fez, sun hat or sombrero, you look completely fabulous.

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