Hats have served many purposes for women over the millennia, from keeping warm, to being a symbol of fashion, status, and propriety. But they are no longer an everyday fashion accessory in most wardrobes, more of a special occasion item - weddings, picnics, and of course Ascot Hats.
Royal Ascot has been described as the hat equivalent of an international Fashion Week. Statement hats make an appearance at several horse races around the world, but nowhere do women pull out the millinery stops as they do for Ascot.
Royal Ascot publishes a dress code for attendees, to ensure “sartorial elegance”. And in recent years, it has enforced its code increasingly strictly. Some believe this is in response to the increasing presence of lycra and miniskirts at Aintree - the major racing event of Northern England.
Whatever the reasons, it is mandatory for women to wear a hat in the Royal and Queen Anne Enclosures, and there are specific rules for what makes acceptable Royal Ascot hats. For example, a hat must be at least 10cm in diameter for its wearer to be allowed into the Royal Enclosure.
Every year, women from all over the world vie to get spotted for their hats at this unique event. Even with the increasing emphasis on dress code, Ascot hats are still whacky, spectacular and jaw dropping, .
In the run-up to Royal Ascot 2016, here's our pick of Ascot hats from previous years that really caught our attention. They come in every shade of the rainbow and then some.
In the same way that there's a fine line between love/hate, pain/pleasure and madness/genius, we think this hat sits on some millinery equivalent. We just aren't sure what pair of words would do it justice.