Getty Images/E! Illustration
by Seija Rankin | Tue., Dec. 6, 2016 11:00 AM
Getty Images/E! Illustration
Hear ye, hear ye. Gather round, fair maidens, for this is the tale of royal hats past.
Royal watchers and royal novices alike can pinpoint the slightly odd fact that the Royal family is simply fascinated with fascinators. Make that toppers of all kinds—ascots! Bowlers! Chapeaus! Trilbies! Berets! It's become almost shocking to see British royalty with a bare head (the horror!).
This being the Royal family, it's a tradition as old as time. (That is, of course, because nothing the Royals do is new or revolutionary; all practices must be thoroughly time-tested.) Well-heeled British people have been wearing hats for centuries, and it wasn't until the 1950's that going without even began to be appropriate (don't even get us started on the gloves).
While most of the commoners in England have slowly done away with the tradition, the Monarchy is almost solely responsible for keeping it alive through to modern times. One could draw all sorts of conclusions about the failure to think of anything new to wear, but the sheer age of many of the Royal family's yearly events holds much of the blame for the hates we know (and laugh at) today. Goings-on like Wimbledon or Lords Cricket or the Royal Ascot date back hundreds of years, and the corresponding dress codes do, too.
Take the Royal Ascot, for example. It's a racecourse in Berkshire, England, that holds a social gathering each year called, we kid you not, Royal Meeting, which draws all of England's greatest society members together to celebrate...horses? Who knows, but we can confirm that members of the Monarchy have been attending for ages. Every Thursday of the Royal Meeting is dubbed Ladies' Day, and since 1823 has been a party in which women in the Royal Enclosure (again, you can't make this stuff up) are required to wear a hat that covers, and we quote, "The crown of their head."
That tradition then began to seep into other life milestones like weddings or tea parties or stopping by Whole Foods. Queen Elizabeth herself is partially-to-mostly-responsible for carrying on this tradition, as she has a hat for basically every occasion. Word around Buckingham Palace is that she actually keeps to this dress code out of the goodness of her own heart; she wants every member of the adoring public to be able to pick her out in a crowd. They have been queuing for hours and should be rewarded, or at least that's what they tell the Queen.
Most of us could never even dream of being part of the Royal family (although, if your aspiration is as such, might we suggest auditioning for a USA show, stat?), but that doesn't mean we can't act the part. The easiest way? Hats. Whereby, our handy guide.
Get thee a personal milliner. Everybody's doing it...the Queen, people who want to be like the Queen. You get it. Elizabeth's current hat maker du jour is Rachel Trevor-Morgan, who has made her some 50 toppers and counting. She got her start with the Monarchy when she created a look for the Queen's 80th birthday services and St. Paul Cathedral and the rest, as the Brits say, is history. In 2014 she was even awarded a Royal Warrant—we're not exactly sure what that is, but it sounds real fancy.
Know when to wear a hat and when to wear a fascinator. The F Word is not to be taken lightly, whether one is referring to the expletive or the head topper. The differences between a hat and a fascinator may seem benign, but back in the day wearing the latter could be considered blasphemy. That's because once upon a time, fascinators were made in factories, whereas hats were a more intricate process done by milliners themselves. Nowadays these smaller head pieces are considered to be much more high end than they once were, and are often reserved for occasions in which you want to be courteous to your neighbors in regards to their sight lines (read: a wedding, where one may not appreciate a tall top hat). But be warned: You may want to use caution when busting out the word "fascinator."
Understand how your hat projects your wealth. You didn't think that Brits (and the Royals) wore hats just because they were fun, did you? It's all about the status, darling. The more outrageous, the higher your (perceived) wealth and stature in society.
Be very picky about your designers of choice. Immediately cease any plans to just run down to Bloomingdale's and stock up on whatever they have in store. Instead, stick to Philip Treacy, Jane Corbett, Laura Cathcart, William Chambers, Stephen Jones and the aforementioned Rachel Trevor-Morgan, as they're pretty much the only brand names you'll see associated with the Royal Family.
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