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The magic of millinery
FASHION NEWS

The magic of millinery

If there is one thing guaranteed to make anyone feel like a couture model, it’s a fabulous hat. A day at races provides the perfect opportunity to show off whimsical and fantastical creations, whether custom-made by a milliner, discovered in a vintage store, or even made at home. Experimenting with memorable hats and headpieces may be the most fun you can have with fashion.

Kirstie Clements 22 August 2023

After the last few years, it feels like time to really push the fashion boundaries. There is a lot of talk around about the return of surrealism, an art movement that has been traditionally defined by arresting headwear, such as Elsa Schiaparelli’s Lobster hat from 1939 and his High-heeled Shoe hat from 1937. Many international designers are currently embracing the absurd and the playful.

There are literally no rules when it comes to choosing a hat, only that it suits you. There are, however, some styling tricks that can help you make the most of your headpiece.

If your outfit is very busy, colourful, or voluminous, you may want to make your choice of hat smaller and neater, so that they do not compete. On the other hand, if your clothing is very pared back – say a simple sheath dress or a sleek pantsuit – then your hat can get bigger and more boisterous with feathers, flowers, or any sort of ornamentation. Take inspiration from the haute couture collections such as Valentino, Chanel, and Dior, which have featured the most magnificent hats for the last few seasons, with exaggerated proportions and a renewed sense of glamour.

The 2022 September issue of British Vogue features supermodel Linda Evangelista in a series of portraits wearing some truly fabulous hats, including a bright vinyl red hat and headscarf ensemble, and one in jaunty leopard print.

There have been definite trends in racewear and hats over the past decades, which reflect the history of the times. Some of these are the huge picture hats of the Edwardian period, adorned with satins bows under the chins, and trailing tulle and ostrich feathers; the cloche hats of the twenties; beautiful floppy brimmed hats of the thirties; the neat fedoras of the forties; the small cocktail hats of the fifties; the tall Nefertiti styles of the sixties; and the elegant turbans of the seventies.

Fascinators have also been long popular, smaller cocktail hats that will sometimes feature a veil and are not as unwieldy to wear for a long day at the races. There is always the option of the jewelled or floral headband (or tiara if you so choose). There are also different styles of hats that will suit varied weather conditions – a wide-brimmed hat will keep you cooler in summer, or a chic fabric hat in a large sou’wester style could be a gorgeous addition for blustery or rainy days.

The whole spectrum is open to explore, and the point is to have fun. Celebrated British milliner Stephen Jones sums it up in a past interview with AnOther magazine, when he Stated his thoughts on millinery – “I think it’s very simple: it needs to make somebody happy. That’s all.”