I don’t think it’s any big secret that I love a hat. Each year I get to wear creations both beautiful and extraordinary from some of England’s best milliners, from Edwina Ibbotson to Rachel Trevor Morgan.
Then this July I received an offer that made me think again. Would I be interested in testing out the proposition Hair is the new hat at the races, specifically at Ladies Day at Sandown Park?
Well, yes, I would! I have never worn plaits as an adult, not for me the milkmaid braid or Heidi buns so popular on the runways and across Instagram. Along with my own case of serious butterfingers, which makes braiding my own hair impossible, I always thought I’d look a little jeune fille, that it would take too long, be too complicated.
So, duly primed, I went across town to Tatiana Karelina’s little jewel box of a hair extension and braiding boutique behind Kensington Church Street on the morning of the races last Friday to have my preconceptions challenged.
Much to my astonishment it took just under thirty-five minutes to weave a coronet of braids around my head, and attach a small hairpiece (they use tiny combs) to the end of the main braid, which was then woven into a fishtail plait. And lo and behold, a head full of pretty braids, which meant a hat was entirely unnecessary.
I absolutely loved it: it felt chic, but uncomplicated, and my girlfriends sent admiring WhatsApp messages throughout the day, asking where they could get their hair braided too.
I was a little worried that it would take forever to dismantle, but it was the work of minutes to unravel it, although I did leave in a little side plait for the next day to gather up into a ponytail, which looked great.
I wore a pretty black lace dress that I bought in Hobbs earlier this season, and carried the black and white Matryoshka clutch bag which usually house any purchase of Tatiana’s hair extensions.
We were so lucky with the weather – perfect blue skies, and a light breeze. Sandown Park is in Esher in Surrey, an incredibly rapid 30 minute, £7 train journey from London Waterloo, (I had no idea it was so near to London), in a pretty landscaped park.
We ate lunch in the Jockey Club restaurant overlooking the racecourse, before heading downstairs to place our bets.
My fellow guests included the judges of the Best Dressed Racegoer competition, milliner Noel Stewart and Lady Natasha Rufas Isaacs of Beulah London, and my dear friend, the ineffable Henry Conway.
It was rather grey when we left London, with the ever present June danger of rainstorms, so I decided upon a monochrome colour palette, with a mac overall in case of showers.
Below: Henry and Sky TV presenter Sarah-Jane Mee
Below: hope springs eternal. (Huge thanks to Perfect 10 mobile beauty services for the manicure and pedicure at home the day before the races.)
Dress: Hobbs: Black Lace Selena Dress. Was £249, now £179.00 in sale.
Shoes: Zara (past season) – similar by Carvela in sale here and on The Outnet here
Coat: Lands End Canvas white trench coat £175
Clutch: Tatiana Karelina (A Matryoshka doll clutch is offered with any online hair extensions purchase.)
Address: 33 Holland St, Kensington W8 4LX
Phone: 020 7937 1989
With many thanks to Sandown Park Racecourse for hosting me at Sandown Park Ladies’ Day, and to Tatiana Karelina for the wonderful braiding and clip in extensions.