Hats and fascinators: a guide for mums

Top off your outfit with a showstopping finishing touch. We’ve asked the experts how to choose one and wear it with style

Stretch jacquard dress and co-ordinated wide brim bow hat (style 26222B), £POA, John Charles

Just picking an outfit to wear to the marriage of your son or daughter is an achievement in itself. There are literally thousands of dresses and ensembles to choose from, so when you finally find the one that’s right for you, you’ll probably feel like you’ve just conquered Everest. Unfortunately, much as we hate to spoil your moment of triumph, you’re not quite finished yet.

That’s because a hat or a fascinator is essential to complete the look. And, just as you’d expect (or fear!), there are countless variations and options for this finishing touch. To lift the lid on the world of millinery, we have enlisted the help of two of Scotland’s top hat-makers, along with a fashion-forward mother-of-the-bride boutique. Taking a close-up view of everything from fabrics to colours, we’ll attempt to simplify the process so you can find a headpiece that you’re happy to wear all day long.

So what does it take to create a wedding-worthy headpiece? William Chambers, of Glasgow-based William Chambers Millinery, talks us through it. “Our hats are made of sinamay [which comes from the coconut plant – it’s a rough fabric, made up of woven fibres] and straw for summer collections, and felt for winter collections.”

From left: Hatinator with feather and flower detail, £239, both Catherines of Partick; Bespoke handmade free-form hat, £POA, Joyce Young Design Studios

“The trims and flowers are mostly made of silk or, for a more modern look, leather,” he says. It’s reassuring to hear that only the best materials are used in the construction of top-quality hats: “We like to use luxurious materials so that the hat matches the quality of the outfit.”

Headwear is so personal to each customer that it’s not surprising to discover that customisation is often offered. “In addition to the usual millinery materials, it is possible to include fabrics or an emblem used in your outfit, such as a bow design or a particular lace,” says online specialist Maggie Mowbray of Maggie Mowbray Millinery. “These can really help to tie your whole outfit together.”

Not convinced online shopping is the way to find a hat? Maggie makes it surprisingly easy by offering the personal experience. “Our consultations are online and I work closely with customers to create bespoke designs,” she explains. “Simply by sending us an image of yourself and including other relevant information, we will suggest styles to suit.”

William offers a similar experience, but at his boutique in Glasgow: “Pop into our shop, where you can try on various headpieces and discuss materials, style, colour, shape and size with us. All our hats are handmade by me and my team in our studio. Once yours is ready, we’ll carry out a final fitting to ensure it sits right and feels comfortable.”

If you’re not the kind of person who normally wears a hat of any description, you might be struggling to know what would suit you. If that’s the case, you’ll be delighted to hear that almost anything goes. “There are more options than ever, all the way from a small feather fascinator to an elaborate bespoke hat or hatinator,” claims Pauline Spiers of Falkirk boutique Catwalk.

Designers are keen to take the guesswork out of it. They know that most of us want to match our headwear to our outfit, so many of them create a range of hats to complement their dresses. “This is a really easy way to get something in the right colour and fabric,” explains Pauline.

Once you’ve got these elements sorted, the next question is shape. Your appearance could be the key here, suggests Maggie: “The size and shape of your face, your height and various other aspects of the way you look have an impact on what suits you.”

Dress and jacket in Rich Teal (style 70833) by Condici, £759, and hat, £195, Sheila Conn Ladies Fashions

William agrees: “We’ll advise on the right shapes and styles to work with your face, hair and height.”
Hopefully you can now see that there is some method to finding the right headwear and that it’s not just down to chance – knowledge which should help you to relax. As William puts it, “Have some fun! The process of trying on different hats with your friends or family is all part of enjoying the occasion.”

You’ll be amazed at how your new hat will make you feel when you’re standing alongside your family. “We find that when women wear hats, they stand taller and feel more elegant, which they project outwards,” says Maggie. The right hat will give you poise and grace on the day – and nothing wears an outfit better than confidence. So whether you have something made especially for you or you try on a whole collection, stand tall and enjoy it.