July Festival: Meet Newmarket's new Best Dressed

When the July Festival Style Awards returned to Newmarket - live and in person, following last year’s Covid hiatus - racegoers pulled out all the sartorial stops in a bid to be crowned Best Dressed. Velvet, media partner to the event, meets the winners

Ladies Day at Newmarket Racecouse, July course, top 10 finalists . Picture: Keith Heppell. (49016610)
Ladies Day at Newmarket Racecouse, July course, top 10 finalists . Picture: Keith Heppell. (49016610)

Defying the rainy forecast, the sun shone for Ladies’ Day at Newmarket: like the crowd, dressed to the nines for the occasion, the weather seemed to be celebrating the return of crowds to the famous July Festival.

Following last year’s hiatus, which saw the Best Dressed contest go virtual due to the pandemic, the Style Awards were back on the course. With a single Best Dressed category open to all - rather than the usual three, Lady, Gentleman and Couple, spread across the festival’s three days - hundreds of racegoers entered despite the 4,000 capped crowd.

“If there was a fashion theme, it was ‘joyful’,” says Alice Ryan, Velvet editor and long-time Best Dressed judge. “We saw bright colours, bold prints and outfits which had been put together with so much thought, from the crown of the hat to the tip of the heels. Like the smiles on their faces, every entrant’s outfit seemed to express just how happy they were to be back at the racecourse - and to be getting dressed up for the occasion, too!”

Joining Alice on the judging panel was award-winning milliner Ana Pribylova. A former Best Dressed winner at Newmarket herself, she specialises in creating bespoke headpieces for race-days and weddings - Ana Bella Millinery hats were even worn at the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“Even though the crowd was smaller than usual, the Newmarket racegoers really made our job a tough one - there were so many great outfits,” says Ana. “The millinery this year, in particular, impressed us. We could see how much people had enjoyed putting together their looks, head to toe.”

The judges selected first a top 10, each of whom received a luxury Style Awards goodie bag, and then the top three, who took home thousands of pounds in prizes between them, from spa days and hotel stays to fashion and beauty vouchers, chocolates, flowers and Champagne, courtesy of Charles Tyrwhitt, Penhaligon’s, Chestnut Group, Fairfax & Favor, The Spa at Bedford Lodge, Ana Bella Millinery, Hotel Chocolat, The Manor Florist, The Face Place and headline event sponsor Moet & Chandon.

Winner: Emily Roberts

Hairdresser and founder of Tabitha Ada Millinery from Bury St Edmunds

“I am honestly overwhelmed! I can’t believe I’ve won. . . I only started entering in 2019 and it was because of my hats: knowing I’m creative, a friend asked me to have a go at making a hat for her as she was going to a wedding and couldn’t find one to match her dress. So I did - and I was hooked!

“My house is a bit like a hat shop now; I’ve always got a new piece in progress. I sit in front of the TV most nights working on hats, then I get my husband to model them for me so I can see how they sit. It drives him mad, to be honest. But now I’ve won this - and four of my hats made it into this year’s top 10 - I think he’ll realise all my stressing to get things perfect is worth it.

“This outfit started with the hat, obviously. I was going to go for a head-to-toe red look, but one of the other girls in our group decided to wear red, so I swapped for this black dress, which I actually bought from Coast at the beginning of the year. The red accessories tie it together - I really love the heels, which are Jimmy Choo.

“I came third in last year’s virtual Style Awards. To be back at the course this year - with my amazing group of girlfriends, who are all wearing my hats, love them - is fantastic in itself; to win Best Dressed is honestly incredible. I’m excited about all the prizes - I cannot wait to go on that spa day. . .”

Second: Katie Cockerton

Owner of Bury St Edmunds aesthetics clinic Botanix

“I am so happy to have made the top three and am even happier that my friend Emily, who made this amazing hat for me, actually won! She’s incredibly talented and couldn’t deserve it more.

“I used to come to the July Festival every year. But, very sadly, one of the friends I always came with - who absolutely loved the whole thing, especially getting dressed up - died of a brain tumour two years ago. This is the first time I’ve been since she died, as it didn’t feel right without her, so it’s a little bit emotional. She would be so happy I’ve made the top three, though.

“I really wanted to come this year to support Emily. She actually put together this outfit and was going to wear it herself, then changed her mind. I had a green outfit planned, but this one was crying out to be worn! The dress is Asos and I absolutely love it; it’s elegant but also really comfy to wear. The bag is Asos too, and the shoes are Schuh.

“I’m looking forward to cracking open my prize bottle of Moet and I’m intrigued by the Penhaligon’s box, too - I love their fragrances. I’d encourage everyone to get tickets for next year and to enter the Style Awards: it’s been a really lovely day.”

Third: Ellis Dunn

Building society worker from Southend

“I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m honestly really chuffed to have made top three. My mates are taking the mickey, but I am genuinely interested in fashion. This pinstripe suit is Moss. When the sun came out, I was worried it might be too warm to wear it - but fashion won! I really like the double-breasted jacket and the cut, too.

“The shirt is Hugo Boss and my tie, pocket square and cufflinks are all Charles Tyrwhitt, so the £100 Charles Tyrwhitt voucher is probably the prize I’m most pleased with.

“I hadn’t planned to enter the awards, but I did always plan to dress up. We’ve not had a day out like this for so long, I said to all my friends that we had to make the effort. Then when I got here, one of the Style Spotters said I should enter and I thought ‘Why not?’ It’s been fun - I’d encourage any guys reading this to get involved next year.”

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