The Ascot hats of Arena Stage’s ‘My Fair Lady’

Last month, we profiled Deborah Nash, Arena Stage’s chief milliner and craftsperson, as she prepared to make or reconstruct over 80 hats for the theater’s production of “My Fair Lady.” At the time we went to print, none of the hats for the famous Ascot scene were completed yet. (Nash says she moves all the hats forward at the same pace, finishing them just before the show begins.)


The cast of Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater’s production of “My Fair Lady” during the Royal Ascot scene. (Richard Anderson/©2012 RICHARD ANDERSON PHOTOGRAPHY)

When famed costume designer Cecil Beaton depicted aristocrats in achromatic ensembles for the film adaptation of “My Fair Lady,” he introduced American audiences to Britain’s most prestigious racing event, one where opulent, outrageous hats are more important than the horses. Audiences may expect a spectacle of black-and-white Victorian lace, but at Arena Stage’s production of “My Fair Lady,” they’ll see a tropical palette of emerald greens, royal blues and rich burgundies, a more realistic portrayal of the topsy-turvy hats on display at Royal Ascot.


Manna Nichols as Eliza Doolittle in Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater’s production of “My Fair Lady.” (Suzanne Blue Star Boy/Suzanne Blue Star Boy)

View Photo Gallery: Arena Stage’s costume shop contains thousands of hats, many of which were made by milliner Deborah Nash. Here is a selection of their favorites.

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.

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