Fashion: Winners on and off the rails

Wide brimmed picture hat in navy and cream - �395 from Jenny Roberts Millinery, based in Harrogate.
Wide brimmed picture hat in navy and cream - �395 from Jenny Roberts Millinery, based in Harrogate.
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As the Ladies’ Day racing season sets off at a gallop, Stephanie Smith has advice on how to take part in the Best Dressed Lady stakes.

Stylish women travel from throughout the county – indeed, from throughout the country – to throw their hat into the ring (not literally) for the title of the Go Racing Best Dressed Lady Race-goer in Yorkshire.

To take part in the contest (which is taken very seriously indeed by participants), you have to turn up to a Ladies’ Day in Yorkshire (see right for details), dressed in your finest (with hat – a proper one) and either put yourself forward to join the Ladies’ Day parade, or at some courses, catch the eye of the judges who are handing out invitations to be considered. The winners of each Ladies’ Day heat then go through to the Grand Final in Doncaster in October.

The honour was won last year by Deborah Grogan, who represented Catterick racecourse in the Doncaster final. “Any lady likes to dress up and look her best and a trip to the races is one of the few chances we get to really push the boat out,” she says.

First off this season was Wetherby, which most definitely pushed the boat out with its Ladies’ Evening last week, with fashion shows featuring couture designers and the county’s top milliners.

Leeds-based James Steward, past winner of Designer of the Year awards and Yorkshire Brides Couture Designer of the Year, has dressed celebrities for the red carpet (Katherine Kelly is a fan). His collections are always striking. He says: “Pencil dresses are fitted and sculpted and maxi dresses are floaty and feminine. As always, they are timeless pieces focusing on the cut and detail, which makes them adaptable to any occasion.”

Hats are an essential part of the Best Dressed Lady mix. Beth Hirst shares her Leeds studio with James Steward and has been a milliner for five years, sending headpieces to Royal Ascot, the Melbourne Cup and the Kentucky Derby.

Justine Bradley-Hill is another milliner, based near Ilkley, and specialises in creating stylish yet wearable silhouettes. She trained at Leeds College of Art and has shown at London and Paris Fashion Weeks.

Jenny Roberts has a Stray-side studio in Harrogate, where she creates her stunning contemporary hats and headgear, which have featured in Vogue.Claire Spooner launched her millinery label, Quaintrelle, in 2010 and runs a bespoke service from her studio in Pateley Bridge.

For a traditional twist, Leeds-based milliner Rhian Kempadoo Millar graduated in 2010 from Leeds College of Art, after a 15-year career in carnival costume design and founded the British Flat Cap Company. Her Le Tweed collection celebrates the Tour de France’s Grand Départ in the county in July.

So, if you fancy your chances as Yorkshire’s Best Dressed Lady Race-goer 2014, you’ll know where to find the top hats to be first past the post.


Here are the Ladies’ Day meets in the county for the season: Thursday, June 19 – Ripon; Saturday, June 21 – Redcar; Wednesday, August 6 – Pontefract; Wednesday, August 13 – Beverley; Friday, August 15 (evening) – Catterick; Thursday, August 21 – York; Saturday, September 6 – Thirsk; Thursday, September 11 – Doncaster; Saturday, October 25 - Yorkshire Best Dressed Lady Race-goer Grand Final in Doncaster.