By DEBORAH ARTHURS
Tropical: Tequila sunrise tones for this colourful quartet
It is the highlight of the summer social calendar and nothing - not even the prospect of the predicted 2pm thunderstorm - could dampen the spirits of racegoers on Ascot's Ladies Day.
The royal racecourse was transformed into a sea of colour for the third day of the Royal meet, with bright outfits topped off by the most flamboyant of hats.
Tickets have been sold out for months for this year's Ladies Day - the day in which women wear their biggest, boldest, and often most outlandish outfit.
With the rain falling steadily all night, the grounds were wet, meaning that ladies had to pick their way through muddy puddles in their finery - but even that was not enough to curb the enthusiasm.
Beautiful in blue: These friends colour co-ordinated their outfits for today's meet. Milliner Jayne Elwell, from Sedgwick, who created the teapot, stamp, fried breakfast, afternoon tea and crown-shaped hats, said: 'This is such a big year for Britain so we wanted to go for a patriotic theme
Despite the gathering clouds, the crowds were in high spirits as they flocked through the gates.
As befits tradition, statement hats were the order of the day, with everything from Olympic torches to teapots providing inspiration for the headgear on show, with many racegoers clearly keeping their most magnificent outfits for the occasion.
High fashion: Ascot chiefs said they were 'thrilled' by the sense of style shown by racegoers on Ladies' Day, after the dress code was tightened up
Excitement crept towards fever pitch as it was revealed the Middleton family would be joining the Royal procession later in the afternoon. Carole and Michael Middleton will today be taking part in the daily parade, arriving at the racecourse by horse-drawn Landau along with the royal family.
The Queen was in place on the royal balcony at 3.05pm to watch her filly Momentary, ridden by Hayley Turner, run in the Ribblesdale Stakes.
Matt Dobson, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said this morning: 'There will be pretty heavy rain first thing, turning murky and muggy by the late morning. In the afternoon, there is the risk of heavy downpours.
Sophisticated duo: Apprentice star Karren Brady with footballer husband Paul Peschisolido; RIGHT, Stylish: Louise Roe with companion
'If they get unlucky, there could be an absolute cloudburst. By 2pm there could well be thundery conditions.'
But as the crowds arrived to join in the revelry, it seemed as though nothing, even a deluge, would dampen the spirits of the guests determined to enjoy this magnificent day of racing - and of fashion.
As the day progressed, Ascot chiefs said they were 'thrilled' by the sense of style shown by racegoers on Ladies' Day.
Fine fillies: Two pretty blondes arrive early to soak up the atmosphere; RIGHT, splashes of red brighten up a pure white look
Chief executive Charles Barnett said: 'There is a tremendous array of hats on display today including a sea of fascinators in the grandstand - the likes of which we cannot remember seeing.
'We are thrilled with how the dress code has been embraced over the week and today is no exception, with everyone looking fantastic.'
The rain showers meant that an umbrella was a must-have accessory, but racegoers' vibrant outfits provided the splash of colour needed to brighten up the grey day.
Standing out: A painted face hat made a statement, while RIGHT, tea ladies pose for a photo in their impressive headpieces
The new dress code meant more thought had to go into outfits this Ladies' Day, always a highlight of the social season.
Headpieces, hats or fascinators must be worn in the grandstand area - with hats mandatory in the royal enclosure.
Bare shoulders are also a no-no, midriffs must be covered and dresses and skirts have to be of a 'modest' length. Men must also wear a shirt and tie in the grandstand. A team of dress code assistants were on hand to give out fascinators, pashmina-style shawls and ties to those not quite coming up to scratch.
Milliner Jayne Elwell, from Sedgwick, who created the teapot, stamp, fried breakfast, afternoon tea and crown-shaped hats, said: 'This is such a big year for Britain so we wanted to go for a patriotic theme.
Sporting summer: A very topical hat for this football-mad racegoer, while RIGHT, Gold medal for the lady who dared to wear an Olympic torch on her head
And if they get peckish... These ladies sought inspiration from the kitchen for their Ascot headgear
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