Whether you are heading to a wedding, christening, the races or a regatta this summer, occasion hats and fascinators are must-have accessories. We take you through the essentials on styles, rules and where to buy a hat for women and men...
Headpieces were originally worn for practical purposes such as protecting the head from the elements. Throughout history they have also been used to indicate class and social standing. Moreover, they've been worn to protect women from unwanted male attention and, conversely, to draw attention to the face.
Hats have now become accessories in their own right. There are even certain events in the social calendar which go hand in hand with stylish head-wear. Prime examples are the Royal Ascot and Goodwood are prime examples. You may also take time choosing a special hat for polo matches, regattas, weddings, and christenings.
This tradition of show-casing a fancy headpiece adds to the excitement of the occasion and allows men and women to express their personality and tastes creatively.
Did You Know?
A person who makes or sells women’s hats is known as a ‘milliner’. This word, however, is often used to refer to those who make and sell men’s hats as well. This term has been around since the 18th century and is derived from the word ‘Millaners’. These were travelling haberdashers who came from Milan and sold their items in Britain.
Choosing a Hat
With the huge range of hat designs on offer, it can be difficult to choose the right one for you. Take a look at our top tips for choosing a headpiece you’ll be proud of.
Buy the Hat First
When planning your outfit, always choose the hat before you decide on your clothes and accessories. It’s often easier to find an outfit that goes with your hat rather than the other way around.
While wide-brimmed hats are eye-catching, they can leave you looking unbalanced if they extend too far. As a general rule, stick to brims that do not extend past the ends of your shoulders.
Consider the curve of the brim. A hat that casts your whole face in shadow may look dramatic, but this can inhibit your conversations with people and make having photographs taken tricky.
Top Hat Tips
Top hats are available in a variety of materials including fur and felt. The antique silk top hats, however, are generally considered to be the most elegant and traditional. The hat should be lightweight with a glossy shine.
Many milliners suggest choosing a hat design that contrasts with your own face shape. If you have a round face, choose a hat with sharp angular lines and vice versa. Nonetheless, these rules don’t always apply. Your best bet is to try on as many different kinds as you can to find the one that looks and feels right.
How to Wear It
Know Your Crowd
It’s important to understand that different events often require different head pieces. Ascot is widely considered an opportunity to go big and bold. The hat is often viewed as a style statement and a piece of art in its own right. A traditional church wedding on the other hand, will usually call for a low-key headpiece in a shade that matches your outfit.
Know the Rules
Some events have specific rules which must be adhered to. This year at the Royal Ascot, the hat base must cover a sufficient area of the head (10cm). Whereas, fascinators are no longer allowed in the Royal Enclosure. Be sure to do your research before you choose a hat to avoid a telling off!
Mind Your Manners
Generally, hats are taken off at mealtimes, however it is often considered polite for a man to remove his hat indoors and when being introduced to someone.
Where to Wear It
Royal Ascot, Ascot, Berkshire.
Henley Royal Regatta, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire.
Qatar Goodwood Festival, Chichester, West Sussex.
Cartier Queen’s Cup, Egham, Surrey.
Royal Salute Coronation Cup 2016, Egham, Surrey.
The Royal Ascot Millinery Collective
Ascot Racecourse has collaborated with six of the UK’s most exciting milliners to produce a unique and stunning six piece collection: The Royal Ascot Collective. The collection features individual pieces from iconic and world renowned milliners. These include: Stephen Jones, Philip Treacy, Piers Atkinson, Noel Stewart, Rachel Trevor Morgan, and William Chambers.
Each of the milliners involved has a strong relationship and history with Royal Ascot and a clear brand identity. This makes for a stunning collection which is available directly from the milliners.
Image credits: Header: www.ascot.co.uk; 1. By Joseph Christian Leyendecker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; 2. John James Chalon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; 3. www.goodwood.com; 4. www.ascot.co.uk; 5. www.thehatclub.co.uk.
Please note: style guide details correct at time of writing.