Get a head start on picking your headwear with our handy guide

It’s the fashion dilemma facing every mother of the bride: hat or fascinator? We’ll help you make up your mind

So you’ve chosen a colour, decided on your style and bought an outfit that fits you perfectly. Now it’s time to figure out what you’re going to wear to top it all off – the perfect accessory, in other words, to get you turning heads for the all the right reasons.

As hats are the sort of thing people only ever wear at very special occasions, it can be tricky to know whether or not they suit you, or even what sort of style to go for. We spoke to a group of headwear specialists for some top advice on looking sharp and feeling good.

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Carla Disc hat, POA, Ann Balon

The case for… a hat

While fascinators have long been a popular choice among MOBs, it seems there has been a shift back to the more traditional hat. “There has definitely been a move away from the fascinator,” says Niall Walker of William Chambers Millinery (williamchambers.co.uk). “One of the first things many of our customers have said to us recently is: ‘I don’t want a fascinator – I want a proper hat!’”

The case for… the hatinator

Catherine Hamilton, who makes hats and fascinators (hatsandfascinators.net), has another suggestion: “Hats are fantastic but unfortunately they don’t suit everyone. That’s why I think hatinators are a great alternative – wearing one will give you ‘the look’ you’re after, but they’re much more convenient. You can choose from so many different styles, and everyone suits them if they are balanced properly.”

The case for… the fascinator

You will undoubtedly be getting your hair done for your daughter’s big day and won’t want anything to mess up your ’do. As Catherine says: “Fascinators on a hairband ensure hair remains exactly as it was styled.” Because they are so easy to wear, it’s also more likely that you’ll use your fascinator again for a special occasion or fancy shindig.

Matchy–matchy

Keep your outfit co-ordinated by having a good idea of what colours will work with the ensemble you’ve chosen. Better still, take your outfit with you when you go shopping for headpieces.

“It’s great if you already have an idea of the colours of your dress, shoes, bag and jewellery,” says Niall. “That way, we can create something that works with all the other components. And if you’ve already bought an outfit, bring it with you – it will make finding the perfect match so much easier.”

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Two-colour hat, POA, Veni Infantino

Candice Nicol of Catherines of Partick (catherinesofpartick.co.uk) has more advice: “You should always try the hat on with the outfit to see if the colour and style work together. Never just hold a hat against the outfit – they will be made from different fabrics and you won’t be able to see the colour match. Always have the hat on with the outfit to see how the colour works.”

And it’s not just the colour of your dress that you should consider – something that will complement your skin tone is just as crucial. “If your hair or skin tone is light, never put the lightest colour against it – it will wash out the skin tone and it gets lost in the hair,” advises Catherine Hamilton. “If you have dark hair, go with the lightest colour against the head but ensure bright colours are used to accessorise it.”

Don’t forget to take your stature into consideration when finding a hat that’s right for your frame: “Make sure the hat does not extend beyond your shoulders,” says Candice.

Made to measure

Many shops offer a bespoke service which allows you to alter a hat or fascinator to complement you and your outfit.

“You make an appointment, say what your budget is, decide on a shape that suits you and your outfit, colour match then assist in the design – which basically means you are wearing your personality and not that of the designer,” explains Catherine.

Perfect timing

When it comes to beginning the search for the right accessories, it’s always best to start sooner rather than later. Catherine advises that MOBs should head out shopping “as soon as you have your outfit”, while Niall says: “Our turnaround time is two to six weeks, depending on style, so it’s probably best to start shopping no later than a few months before the big day.”

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Sian hat with bow, £270, Maggie Mowbray Millinery

The clash

Since hats are such a specialised product, it’s not uncommon for at least two guests at a wedding to be wearing the same one. Ask around to see what everyone else has chosen – and once you’ve picked out your head-topper, be sure to let everyone know.

“We always ask our customers for the name of the bride and groom and the event location to ensure there are no similar hats going to the same wedding,” says Niall. “Seven of our hats were at the same wedding recently, so we had to make sure the shapes, trims and colours were all different!”

Mother knows best

The mother of the bride has a uniquely important place at a wedding and there are long-standing customs that honour this. Our experts are divided about whether or not these customs still need to be followed.

“It’s tradition that hats should not be removed until the MOB has removed hers, but these rules are rarely adhered to these days,” says Niall. “In any case, our customers usually want to wear their hats for as long as possible!”

Catherine says: “The others have to keep theirs on their head until the MOB removes hers – she is first.  Guests should never try to outshine the mother of the bride or groom.”

Feelin’ good

The most important thing about deciding on a hat or fascinator is that “you have the confidence to wear it”, says Catherine. Make sure you feel comfortable in whatever you choose so you can enjoy the day without worrying about what’s on your head.