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Millinery matters

As Royal Ascot plans to enforce its controversial fascinator ban tomorrow (Tuesday 19 June), we look at some of the unusual headgear on display over the weekend at the French Ascot, Prix de Diane, and a new range of headpieces being launched for men.

Few fashion items have fallen out of favour quite so spectacularly as the fascinator. Royal Ascot announced earlier this year that it was banning the ornamental headpiece from this summer's race meet, and last week the feathery headband-meets-corsage creation was given its own obituary in the Financial Times by Vanessa Friedman.

Pippa Middleton, above, proudly parading a fascinator last year

British racegoers entering the royal enclosure this week are required to take shelter under a more substantial bonnet than one of Pippa Middleton's favourite hair accessories - with a hat that has a base of four inches (10cm) or more in diameter - or face handing over £50 for the loan of a suitable hat from the organizers.

France's answer to Royal Ascot, the Prix de Diane, enjoyed its 163rd race over the weekend without a fascinator in sight - with mixed results:

This racegoer, above, is not having an insanely bad hair day at the meet in Chantilly, but is baking under a giant "wig" creation

Come back fascinator, all is forgiven? This guest, above, is packing some rather lacklustre feathers

Royal Ascot's tightened dress code does not, however, stretch to guests outside the prestigious royal enclosure - and in a bizarre U-turn, organisers announced this week that they will actually hand out fascinators, along with pashminas and ties, to guests in the general enclosure who turn up with bare heads, shoulders or collars.

The event, which will play host to 300,000 ticket holders, has employed a team of 30 "Dress Code Assistants" to scour the grounds for people whose attire does not meet its increasingly high standards.

Women have been told that skirts or dresses should be of "modest length", with anything falling above the knee in disregard of the official dress code. Men in the royal enclosure are banned from wearing cravats and must don black or grey morning dress with a waistcoat and tie, as well as a black or grey top hat and black shoes.

Royal Ascot racegoers from last year's event, above. The two women in fascinators, top right and bottom left, would pass the 2012 royal enclosure test only if their headpieces have a base of four inches (10cm) or more in diameter

While female racegoers' intricate and often gimmicky hats draw attention to the event every year, men rarely opt for unusual headgear - but one of the event's favourite milliners, David Shilling, hopes to change all that with a new range of eye-catching designs for men.

Shilling, who was making lavish hats for his mother Gertrude to wear to Ascot from the age of 12, described his latest collection as an effort to liven up "boring" hats for men.

"I realised that men won't really be equal until they are free to wear cocktail hats," he said.

Ascot regular Prince William would probably feel quite at home in this "Trooping the Colour" esque creation, below

We'd love to see some of these extravagant designs on display at Ascot this year

Above: Shilling poses in one of his own designs alongside his models at the launch of the wacky new collection for men

Are you filled with disdain for fascinators? Can men do cocktail hats? Tell us on Twitter or in the comments sections below.

Words: Anna Pollitt, Pictures: Rex Features

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