My adorable friend Jennifer is married to a Brit and lives in London with her two sweet children, one of which happens to be Vivien's best friend and partner in many of her travels. Jennifer and I have had adventures with the girls in Chicago, London, Thailand and Rome. From elephant tours in Koh Samui to tea at the Berkshire, Jennifer always has the best and most memorable plans so of course I am always up for an idea from her when it comes to experiences that are unique and noteworthy.
Last year, she told me about the Royal Ascot, the quintessential British horseracing event filled with fashion, champagne and royals. Being one who hates sports and gambling but who loves the idea of popping on a couture hat and downing bubbly in the middle of the day, I was all in.
To do the Royal Ascot full CityMIG style, one must get a band denoting status into the Royal Enclosure which is the premier VIP way to do the Ascot. Since the Queen comes every day, it is your best chance at seeing her Highness up close and personally and, who knows, if you’re wearing a great hat, you might even get her nod of approval.
To get into the Royal Enclosure takes either being a royal or a special invitation for entry via the Embassy. Thanks to Jennifer's slick maneuvering, the U.S. Embassy happily provided both of us with the full status entry to which we will be immediately RSVPing yes to and then heading directly to the stores to determine a) dress and b)hat.
To get started, I asked my girlfriend Laura about hat 101. Knowing that she has gone to several charity events with hats she told me to consider Bergdorf's and Barney's in NYC. Duly noted.
One of the executive assistants in my office overheard me discussing the situation and immediately was offering help. She quickly recruited her friend and educated me that if I wanted to find a hat in Chicago, I had to "be escorted" and "know people" on the South Side who could hook me up with a gorgeous church hat which would allow me to answer the question on the purple carpet - "Who are you wearing?" to which my answer could be "A church hat from the South Side." That would be memorable. She also provided ideas for hat makers, all in New York.
So, I'm wondering about what to do. I have decided that I will select the hats first and dresses second. Ideally, I'd love to wear an up-and-coming U.S. milliner and help them get their name out and some experience. Since millinery is a bit of a lost art these days in the States, I'd love to encourage and help promote the trade that got Mme. Coco Chanel herself started.
So here's the challenge I am opening up. From now until April 15th, if you are a milliner or know a millinery student, I'm taking submissions for a designer to do my hat for the Royal Ascot. I'm planning to go 2 days so I will plan on purchasing one hat and wearing the student hat the other day so I'll also need recommendations for professional milliners in Chicago as well. For the student/up-and-comer, I'll cover the cost of materials, provide a bonus on top and lots of pictures of the hat at the Royal Ascot (maybe even with the Queenie).
Milliners and hat lovers, if you are out there, let me know!
And ladies who love hats, let's hear your advice.