The electric environment on the third day of the Royal Ascot at Berkshire, England, had an extra helping of colourful vibrance this year with as many as 1,000 ladies of Asian origin rocking the stands in saris, even as face-offs between the finest horses set hearts racing all around.
The fun initiative conceived by Indian women residing in the UK, was also an earnest endeavour to popularise the attire and bring to the fore the skills of weavers and designers that culminate in the creation of the six yards of magic. The women who took great pains to plan their dresses were presented 45 prizes just like winners of a pageant in recognition of their efforts and those of the makers of their saris.
Of saris and fascinators
The grandeur of Royal Ascot was matched by the music and dance, the choice and quality of food, and the royal procession in suave carriages, which this year was graced by Princess Anne as her mother Queen Elizabeth II had to give Ascot a miss. The Queen’s horses participated in all the seven races of the day, including the coveted Ascot Gold Cup, but none of them could win.
The ladies in colour-coordinated saris watched the races, placed bets, clicked selfies and groupfies as well as participated in the pageant. Each lady who was a part of the group at the Windsor Enclosure at Ascot on what is called the Ladies Day had been assigned one of 15 hues to choose from, to create a rainbow effect in the stands. For each of the 15 hues, two titles were presented — Best Look and Best Sari. While the Best Look was given based on how one presented themselves and the finesse of the embroidery of the sari, the Best Sari was presented based on the skill manifest in the weave. Fifteen other awards were also presented to encourage the participants.
(L-R) Dr Rupali Basu, one of the judges, with Dr Dipti Jain, chairperson, Medico Women’s Charity
Eight judges who had been invited to adjudicate the awards had flown in from different parts of the world, including sari lover and managing director and CEO of Woodlands Hospital, Dr Rupali Basu, one of two judges from India and the only one from Calcutta. The judges moved around in the breaks between the races, visited all 15 colour groups individually and evaluated the participants. While celebrating the magnificent creations of these master weavers, the event was also raising funds for them, which would be donated to help them set up small local businesses in a bid to make them more empowered.
According to Dr Basu, the success of the initiative was in being able to project the art of the sari to such an august audience. “The whole world should see and appreciate the artistic aspect of the sari. It’s very satisfying that some of these creations that happened in the remotest villages of India are being showcased at the Royal Ascot, a standout fashion hotspot of the world with over 300 years of history,” she said.
Pictures: Courtesy of organisers & agencies