Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Royal Ascot 2019: Fashion Review

When Americans think of horse racing and fashion, it's probably the magnificent hats of the Kentucky Derby. But when the British think of horse racing and fashion, it's all about the Royal Ascot. To many Americans, the image of the Royal Ascot that comes to mind is the breathtaking black-and-white "Ascot Gavotte" scene from the musical My Fair Lady.

Today, the hats are just as magnificent, but much more colorful, as are the dresses. There is a fairly strict dress code for those in the Royal Enclosure (originally reserved for guests of the monarch, but membership is currently similar to that of an exclusive country club: sponsorship of two current members plus a membership fee is required). Men are required to wear black or gray morning dress and top hats; women's dresses or skirts must be below the knee, with straps at least one inch wide, and hats or headpieces with solid bases at least four inches wide must be worn. Pants (including jumpsuits) are also allowed for women.

Let's take a look at some of the fashions that have been on display on the first day of the event:
We would expect nothing less than sartorial perfection from the ever-stylish Duchess of Cambridge, and she did not disappoint in a floaty, ethereal ice-blue ankle-length dress and matching hat. At another venue, the high-necked, long-sleeved, bow-tied top might look a bit dowdy, but it fits nicely with the traditional styles of the Ascot, and the sheer sleeves and yoke give it a contemporary flair. Her wide, flat-brimmed hat is tipped at a rakish angle with a large flower tucked under the brim, the light color set off nicely against her sleek, dark chignon.

The Queen herself also opted for a pale blue ensemble, paired a flared 3-button coat dress with a traditionally-style, flower-covered sun hat. She accessorized with a large black patent purse and sensible matching flats.

Princesses Eugenie (left) and Beatrice (right) also wore blue. Eugenie's teal blue pleated dress featured a vivid yellow lining and side inset that coordinated with her pert yellow hat. The bust was not terribly well-fitted, being slightly snug with the darts not quite falling in the right place, and I might have opted for a just slightly lower neckline, but in general it was a nice look, and I loved the daring contrast of the bright yellow. Beatrice wore baby blue lace with an A-line skirt and a wide-brimmed flat sunhat. A bit more conservative than her sister, but very pretty and flattering.

 The Duchess of Cornwall wore her signature light pink coat dress, in this case a long silhouette with front pleats and beautiful white appliques down the front, paired with white gloves, a white clutch, and her usual triple strand of pearls, topped with a lovely hat with upturned brim and large flower-and-feather detail. I found it a lovely, flattering, and age-appropriate look.

Many attendees wear deliberately simple dresses in order to call attention to their magnificent hats, as exemplified by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. She wore a simple tan-and-brown frock with a feminine sheer gathered neckline and bell sleeves, topped by a flower-laden tipped sun hat. I like the pop of color in husband King Willem-Alexander's purple tie; his dark ivory vest tied in nicely with her tan color scheme.

Princess Anne followed the trend of coat dresses favored by many of the older royals with this ivory, flared, patch-pocket coat dress over a high-necked ivory blouse. Her kettle-brim, flared-crown hat brought in contrasting brown in its wide hatband and ribbon-edged brim, coordinating nicely with her dark brown gloves, clutch, and pumps.

Lady Kitty Spencer hearkened back to the days of black-and-white ensembles in this demure white lace fit-and-flare dress with a pert white hat and black clutch and heels. Simple but elegant and classic.

Charlotte Hawkins' red print dress had quite a bit of personality with its puffed sleeves and long, full cuffs, topped with a feather-adorned red cocktail hat and strappy red sandals. She brought in just a touch of black with a narrow black belt and ribbon trim on cuffs and hat. I especially love the way the curves of the hat feathers echo the curves of the print on the dress. Eye-catching and fun!

Chelsey Baker certainly caught everyone's attention, not only with her brighter-than-bright fuschia dress, but with her impossibly huge, gravity-defying chartreuse hat trimmed with fuschia bougainvillea blossoms. An absolutely marvelous look.

Ilda di Vico wore a busy black-and-orange print dress with puffy short sleeves and a v-neck, topped by a hat that was less a hat and more a large cluster of red flower blossoms. Although I liked the silhouette of the dress, and the flower headpiece was fun, the colors didn't work together for me, and I found the whole look to be too busy.

Another wonderful pairing of a very simple dress with a magnificent hat was sported by Jodie Kidd. She paired a white dress with flared sleeves and a modified handkerchief hem, trimmed with a simple black belt, with a deliciously whimsical hat formed by multiple brightly-colored small hats stacked together. It caught the spirit of fun of the race in a charming way.

Flora MacDonald Johnston was one of a number of women who chose to wear trousers rather than a skirt or dress. Her bright red, overall-inspired jumpsuit was cute enough, although the hem was several inches too long (I can only imagine how muddy the bottom of her pants were once the rain started later than morning). But the fuzzy, colorless straw hat, although it was a fun shape, didn't work with the jumpsuit for me. Perhaps if it had been trimmed with some red (or even contrasting colored) flowers, it might have worked, but the ensemble as it is was too disjointed and casual for the event.

Georgia Fowler stunned in a long mauve bandage dress and a tall, white-and-pink fascinator, accessorized by a small white bag and matching pumps. Great lines all around.

Zara Sassoon was a little frothy for my taste in an oddly disproportionate white tulle gown with a marabou-laden picture hat and clunky white-and-gray kitten heels. The concept wasn't bad, but everything seemed just a hair...off. The sleeves were a bit too short, the heels were a bit too pointy, the waistline wasn't quite empire but it wasn't quite natural waist either, and the hat was a funny shape. It just didn't come together for me.

I loved the bold orange lace gown worn by this unidentified attendee, with its simple silhouette broken by a marabou peplum, and topped with a magnificent tipped hat accented with orange ostrich plumes radiating like the rays of a star. The large red roses in the center of the hat provided just enough contrast of color to save the look from being too monochromatic. A dramatic and effective look.

Some couples chose to coordinate their (often whimsical) outfits, as did Rebecca Johnson and her escort, with the purple-and-white diamond print of his vest and her dress and jacket echoing jockeys' silks. She finished the look perfectly in a hat with a hugely oversized brim sporting silhouettes of jockeys riding horses. The perfect blend of elegance, tradition, and whimsy that is the hallmark of the Royal Ascot.

Ines Hernandez sported one of the most magnificent hats of the day; a hot pink and pale green concoction with bright and light pink roses at the center of a pinwheel of pointed green organza leaves tipped with bright pink marabou feathers. The underbrim of the hat was a delicate crown of more bright and light pink flowers. Hernandez wisely paired the hat with a simple short sundress of a slightly brighter pink, and a beautiful pair of light green bowed pumps. Simply spectacular.

 Viscountess Weymouth wore a short, pleated ice-blue dress topped with a coordinating eyelash jacket with marabou cuffs, topped with a simply wonderful fascinator ornamented with chenille loops forming a flower. I'm not sure how she got around the "below the knee" skirt rule, but it's still a charming and elegant look.

Amanda Wakeley's charming blue velvet hat was designed for fashion, not function, so when the rain came out, she pulled out an umbrella to protect her lovely fitted cobalt blue satin dress with its bright coral underskirt. Too bad she didn't have a coral umbrella!

Some party-goers came as a group, like these lovely ladies in matching crinolined yellow wrap dresses topped with floral headpieces and finished with matching metallic sandals. A pretty but not especially eye-catching look - until you see five of them in a row.

This attendee chose a delightfully vintage 1920s look, with a drop-waisted black and white striped, mid-calf length dress, long pearls, and a black straw cloche adorned with a single black flower on the side. Bonus points for the lovely and period-appropriate embroidered hose.

The staff at the Ascot also wore matching outfits, vivid coral mermaid dresses and short black jackets with coordinating black-and-coral fascinators. I love the touch of individuality in the varying styles of black heels.

This enormous, gravity-defying, attention-grabbing, bright pink lace hat is adorned with a few puffy feathers. Magnificent!

These brightly-colored, oversized, flower-adorned hats were among the many fanciful and fantastical creations at the race. I especially like the yellow hat decorated with purple butterflies and pheasant plumes in the first photo, and the blue hat in the lower photo with its rainbow spray of feathers.

Doesn't it just make you want to go out and buy an amazing hat?!?

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Red Carpet Review: The 2019 Tony Awards (part 2)

Yesterday I critiqued the men; today I'll critique the women. A few of these looks I already mentioned during the broadcast, but I found a few that I'd missed, plus I'd like to get in a few more details and more specific comments on what I liked or didn't like about some others.

Just because I couldn't come up with a more creative way to do it, here they are in alphabetical order, by first name.

Ali Stroker would have been luminous in a paper bag, but she was even more so in this beautiful yellow satin gown. I would not have chosen either that color or that style for her, but clearly that is why her stylist is her stylist and I am not, because both were absolutely perfect. The skirt was hemmed in such a way that it made a graceful ripple at her feet without needing to be overly full, and the off-the shoulder bodice stayed firmly in place as she moved. Just lovely.

Ashley Park stunned in another vivid yellow dress. I loved its simple lines, with a narrow cuff across the straight bodice and a skirt that pulled up just a tiny bit at the sides, making a graceful curve at the hem. Her cascade of dark curly hair and a simple necklace and clutch were just the right accessories to accent but not overwhelm.

Audra McDonald always looks elegant and graceful, and this lovely white gown was no exception. I loved the soft waves of the ruffle-topped bodice, which was echoed in the gentle ruffle cascading at the side of the skirt. Simple diamond cuffs and loop earrings, and an absolutely stunning dragonfly brooch added just a touch of sparkle.

Beth Leavel cut quite the figure in this slinky, clinging, starry black and silver column. With a plunging-to-the-waist neckline held comfortably in place by a sheer panel, just-above-the-elbow sleeves, and a puddle of train, there are just enough details to make it gorgeous instead of boring.

I liked Caitlin Kinnunen's suit with one minor quibble. The fabric was great, the cut of the jacket was terrific, the cropped pants were flattering, the shoes were wonderful, but the little black panel/camisole under the jacket needed more structure. If it had been a short corset, or even just a more structured fabric, it would have worked for me, but it just looked droopy and out of place with the crispness of the rest of the outfit. Other than that, a nice contemporary look. 

Camille A. Brown's turquoise dress was a little frothy for my taste, but if you can't be theatrical at the Tonys, when can you? I did love the way the bodice was partly gathered tulle and partly spangled, and her gold-and-purple hairpiece was to die for, so I'm still calling this look a win.

I understand that Catherine O'Hara's dress was a nod to Beetlejuice, and it actually looks quite cute at this angle. But even just slightly from the side, the curves over the abdomen created a paunchy look  that was...less than flattering. I also felt like it needed some kind of funky hair accessory to complete the look. Great in concept, but slightly weak in execution.

Celia Keenan-Bolger was cute as a button in this lovely silver gown with its fan-detailed satin bodice and short angled satin skirt over a long tulle underskirt.Her sweet, feminine bobbed 'do and colorful pop of bright lipstick drew attention to her face, where it belonged. Lovely.

Cynthia Erivo looked like she had just stepped off the catwalk in this barely-yellow column with its high slit and marabou feather accents. Simple, elegant, and perfect to set off all that is gorgeous about her. Extra points for the pop of color in her clutch.

The fabric of Danai Gurira's white-and-gold dress had a wonderful antique look to it, and I loved the full skirt and bell sleeves. But the ribbon bow at the neck and the oddly-placed diamond-shaped insert on the bodice were a little frumpy. Not awful, but not one of the better looks of the evening.

Dominique Morisseau's sleek red column was accented with a sweetheart neckline, a twist of fabric at the hip, and a short train. Although I didn't love her heavy, asymmetrical updo, I loved her strappy silver sandals and her lovely makeup. She looked like she loved her look and was having the time of her life, which is always the best accessory.

I'm rarely a fan of Jane Krakowski's red carpet looks, but this lovely midnight blue number was a big hit with me. I lovely the rippled, variegated fabric, the sheer sleeves, the tiny black belt, and the full skirt with the slit up to there, which adds just the right touch of surprising sexiness so an otherwise very demure gown. Love it.
Judith Light tends to be hit-or-miss for me in her red carpet looks, often choosing a gown that looks lovely when she's posing, but terrible when she moves. This slinky metallic silver column, however, caught the light beautifully, clung to her figure perfectly, and added just the right pop of subtle color in its pale pink belt and stripe down the bodice. And the loose, waved hair and dramatic eye makeup worked well.

Karen Olivo wore a great take on a black tuxedo. Her pants were simply cut and basic, but the jacket was fabulous, with lace patterned cutouts at the waist and a long, high-low peplum attached to the waist. I'm not always a fan of women wearing jackets without shirts, but her jacket was so perfectly tailored that it avoided any gapping or awkwardness, even as she moved. Also, great shoes. Well done.

As much as I adore Kelli O'Hara, this outfit did NOT work for me. I liked the bodice, with its arched top and textured black lace, but the asymmetrical...skirt? peplum? I don't even know what to call it. Whatever it was, it didn't work for me, nor did the flared, bell bottom, lace just in front pants. Had it been a gown with the same silhouette, even if it were still transparent lace with an asymmetrical opaque overlay, it could have worked for me. But I'm sorry, Kelli, I just can't make it work for me.

I loved Laura Benanti's red gown when I first saw it, and I loved it even more once I realized it has pants underneath. The structure is absolutely amazing, from its gravity-defying loop of fabric that forms the bodice, to the arches over the hips, to the heavy draping of the overskirt. I love the slim cropped pants and strappy sandals, which take away from the starkness of the dress. This is a fabulous look.

Laura Linney is definitely a front runner for best look of the evening for me. Her gorgeous soft black velvet one-shouldered gown was studded with silver spangles. I love that it had two sleeves but only one shoulder, since a very dark gown with a single sleeve can look disproportionate and lopsided. And I love that her hair is slightly asymmetrical in the other direction, which counters the bared shoulder nicely. Linney's red carpet looks are rarely my favorites, but she hit it out of the park with this one. Glorious.

Lilli Cooper's deep blue mermaid gown was another really beautifully designed and structured gown. I loved the snugly-fitted bodice which ended in a graceful but flat gathering of fabric at the hips, flaring just above the knee into a hugely full skirt that was slightly longer at the back to form a sort of train. The lines of the gathered fabric created an interesting geometric texture without adding bulk, and the overall silhouette was simply va-va-voom. I didn't love the heavy asymmetrical pouf of hair on top of her head, but the swirled, cascading braid added a lovely line. And the dramatic eye makeup and nude lips complemented the look nicely.

When I first saw Lucy Liu's dress, I felt like the skirt was a bit overwhelming on her slight frame. But the more I see it, the more it grows on me, and I wish I'd seen her moving in it a little more - I have a feeling it's one of those rare gowns that actually looks better in person than in a posed photograph. What I absolutely did love right away, and continue to love, is the beautiful lines of the bodice, which is basically two wide straps over a bandeau that twists together in the front. I still think I would prefer it with a less voluminous skirt, but it is a lovely dress and a fabulous color on her. I'm calling it a win in any case.

I adore floaty watercolor print gowns, and Marisa Tomei's is one of my favorites ever. I love the structured bodice, the way the colors intensify from bodice to hem, the flare of the skirt, and the long train. This is another gown that moves beautifully and looks more lovely and graceful in person than in a still photo. The print is busy enough that Tomei's choice of a sleek hairstyle, minimal accessories, and natural makeup with just a bright pop of lipstick is just perfect.

I'm not always a fan of short dresses on the red carpet, but Montego Glover won me over in this simple frock. I love the body of the shiny print high-low skirt with solid black lining matching the simple deep v-necked bodice. Colorful makeup in the same palette as the skirt and a sweet side-swept ponytail fit with the slightly casual style of the dress, but Glover still looks elegant and formal. I love it.

Another of my favorite looks of the night, Regina King's bubblgum-pink satin column featured gathering to the hip and a lovely, swirly side train. It could have looked lopsided, but the fabric looked so graceful and floaty that it was absolutely perfect. As was King.

There are a lot of things I love about Ruth Wilson's gown: the overall silhouette, with a bodice fitted to the hip then gracefully flaring into an overlong skirt with a generous train, the delicious color, the shawl-like wrap of fabric from the shoulders to the neck. But the demurely high neck and short sleeves, paired with the old-lady coronet-style updo are rather aging on her. If the bodice had wrapped from behind the shoulders to form a v-neck, even one that wasn't that low, I think this look could have been much improved. But even so, I did really like it.

Samira Wiley's dress was proof that fit and tailoring make all the difference. Despite its wide and deep plunging v-neck, the dress clearly had enough body to stay in place. I didn't love the green sequin trim in closeup shots, but from farther back, it added just enough sparkle and contrast to really set off the color of the gown. A great look.

What was YOUR favorite look of the night?

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