Sure, there was a swoon heard round the world when Kate Middleton donned a tiara and Alexander McQueen lace to wed her prince last year. But the chic, young duchess of Cambridge also deserves sartorial props for her hats — tiny, feathered fascinators (basically headbands with oomph), saucerlike numbers and insouciant berets. Her chic headwear — combined with retro, hat-heavy costume dramas such as “Mad Men,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Downton Abbey” — has reignited an interest in fashions that, well, go to your head.
“I’ve seen a big change in the past year, with people not thinking wearing a hat is unusual,” said Anna Fuhrman, owner of Proper Topper, Washington, D.C.’s 22-year-old temple to fedoras, cloches and more. “The royal wedding provided a push. People are also feeling braver about taking fashion risks.”
Whether you seek stylish shade at the beach or a feather-trimmed, Scarlett O’Hara-ish confection for a horse race, keep a few things in mind when setting your, er, cap, on a certain topper. First, “a hat is part of your ensemble,” Fuhrman said. “So think about where you’ll be wearing it and what you’ll be doing.” That means a wide-brimmed wonder works on the polo grounds, but stick to a less view-blocking fascinator or cocktail hat for the theater or church.
And remember, the point of a hat is often to get you noticed in a good way. “They add glamour and make you stand out,” said Washington performance artist Holly Bass, who is known for rocking headwear in everyday settings as well as at events such as the annual Seersucker Social (this year on June 9), which she co-founded. “Put a hat on, and you can adopt another persona, be a woman of mystery.”
And even if you’re having a bad hair day, “wearing a hat usually makes you say, ‘Damn, I look good,’” said Long Island, N.Y., milliner Marcia Lacher (Lovemyhat.com).
We knew Kate didn’t snag Wills with her smile alone.
• Milliner Louise Green’s sweeping straw hat puts you in the winner’s circle at horse races ($195, at Proper Topper stores and www.propertopper.com; see also www.louisegreen.com)
• A floppy tomato-orange straw chapeau deflects rays ($15, Target stores).
• DeLux’s 1920s cloche in straw works for walking to work ($50, at Proper Topper stores and www.propertopper.com).
• Feathers give designer Jane Tran’s hat a romantic vibe ($155) and her spidery flowered fascinator ($85) boasts a bloom of wire and fabric. Both available at Proper Topper stores and www.propertopper.com.
• Pin Marcia Lacher’s saucer hat on long tresses for a garden bash ($155, Lovemyhat.com).
Top it off
‘When people wear hats to events, they act more like ladies and gentlemen,” said Washington artist Holly Bass (Hollybass.com), who collects both new and vintage ones, inspired by her mother’s lifelong love of headwear. Here, she shows how to transform a plain cloche ($15, Target stores) into several party-worthy styles.
Bass is known both for her provocative dance performances and her cool hats. Here, she adds a silk scarf and a flower pin to the Target hat.
Tip 1: “You can find really good flower pins at H&M,” says Bass, who simply planted some on the hat’s existing black band.
Tip 2: A length of striped ribbon (buy at fabric stores or Mjtrim.com) turns the hat into a picnic-ready piece.
1. A person who fascinates; see Kate Middleton
2. A piece of headwear between a headband and a hat, often embellished with flowers or feathers.