Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style

Last week I was invited to the launch of a book about Ascot style. As a sucker for anything to do with high society and/or fashion I obviously jumped at the chance and the tome in question, Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style  combines all the best bits of both.

Although the book appealed as soon as I read what it was about, it was the prospect of the launch itself that really excited me. As those who suffer my inanities on Twitter may have spotted, it was held at Heywood Hill – the bookshop synonymous with Nancy Mitford.

While anyone is obviously welcome to shop at Heywood Hill, the concept of snaffling free booze and mingling with Mitfords in such historical surroundings was an opportunity too good to miss. Even more exciting, a friend of my friends works there and showed us piles of secret Nancy leftovers hidden away in the basement while revealing all sorts of scandalous stories. Too much!

Above we see a shelf of Mitford literature including a few first editions that I inhaled greedily, Nancy’s favourite chair which some chump had just broken and which is now destined to a life in the cellar, and the pigeonholes where orders live now, but where secret letters and special packages once got smuggled.

Adding to the excitement was the presence of a genuine living breathing Mitfordonian granddaughter – alas and alack, I missed which one – and, even better, a speech from Stoker Devonshire – or the Duke, as he is also known. My Mitford dreams came true on Tuesday, I can tell you.

The book itself is a treat for anyone interested in fashion in history and is packed full of beautiful images as well as a good deal of commentary from the author, fashion critic James Sherwood. Released to coincide with the 300th year of Royal Ascot it celebrates three centuries of the event, from hats and handbags to royalty and rioting.

A coffee table-sized thing of beauty packed with pictures from Hollywood interpretations of the races to the likes of Luella and Todd Lynn’s involvement with the event. Obviously my favourite parts cover the 1920s and 30s, as seen above in what has to be the most stylish era of racing.

Now I just need to find a book about Henley style and all my upper class fascinations will be covered…

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