Head start – A helping hand for selecting headwear

Help the other leading lady of the day to look her best with our essential guide to buying a hat

Words by Rosalind Erskine

Nigel Rayment Milliner
Style 10982 by Nigel Rayment Milliner, POA, stockists include Catherines of Partick, Elegance of Perth and Reeta Fashions

If you’re the mother of the bride, you have probably been planning what you’ll wear on the big day just as much as your daughter has. If you’ve managed to get your outfit sorted, well done – now all you need to do is add the finishing touches, whether that’s a hat, a fascinator or something in between. Sometimes, though, this can be more tricky than finding a dress – few of us wear hats very often these days, after all. So we’ve asked the experts for tips on getting it right.


You might think you already know what you like in a hat, but it’s really worth trying on a wide variety of styles. Nearly everyone is surprised to discover that a certain colour or style that they hadn’t considered before actually really suits them. “The right size of headwear depends on your height, your shoulder line and the shape of your face,” says Kayti Masson from Elegance of Perth (eleganceofperth.com). “But it’s not always the case that tall women should wear large hats and short women should wear small ones.” She’s right: something tall or wide-brimmed can add height and look lovely on a small-framed person. The key is to avoid anything bigger than the width of the shoulders – it will drown you otherwise. Taller or bigger-framed ladies need larger pieces to balance them out but that needn’t mean anything big or heavy. Go for something light with feathers or which will give the illusion of height.
If you’re uncertain even where to begin, ask for some advice for the experts – they’ll be glad to help. “We’d suggest you bring in your outfit to the milliner’s and try hats on with it. It’s the only way to be sure you’ve got the right colour and shape – and we’ll make sure the hat is properly fitted to the shape of your head,” says Kayti.

1 Presen makes hats that pick out some of the detail in its outfits 2 Whiteley hat with large brim up-turn at side with silk rose flower and angled crown, £230, Elegance of Perth 3 Light grey-coloured peachbloom felt beret with hand-cut and shaped felt feathers, with grey and pink stitching details, £200, Couture Hats by Beth Hirst 4 Lilac large sinamay button with purple grey silk flower, lilac swirls and dark purple coque feathers, £175, Couture Hats by Beth Hirst 5 Evelyn Anne model saucer-style on satin head band with sinamay straw loops of black and rose pink with pheasant motif feathers, £195, Elegance of Perth 6 Katya Modern Pride tartan fascinator, £165, and Keri corsage, £45, Tartanwraps.com, also available at Glitterati See page 394 for stockist details


The type of wedding will play a part in your choice of headpiece. A very formal do may call for a traditional hat, to be worn all day; whereas a more relaxed, alfresco celebration will allow you to go for something more fun. A pretty fascinator, sitting off to one side, would be good here as most of these have feathers which add height and movement. “Your day will involve kissing, cuddling and greeting all the guests, so I would suggest a saucer or pillbox style as these sit off the face,” says Beth Hirst of Couture Hats (couturehats.co.uk). As a general rule, light colours flatter most skin tones whereas some dark colours can be draining.


Hats, fascinators and ‘hatinators’ (small-scale hats) can be bought off the peg or made to measure. Buying ready-made is, of course, the quickest and easiest option. Department stores and the high street have plenty to choose from, but specialist shops usually have the edge when it comes to style, colour and design. Many will sell hats alongside formalwear, so you can try on everything at once and see how the outfit works as a whole, but there are specialist hat retailers such as Elegance of Perth. “We stock all kinds of shapes and style from fascinators to pillar-box styles, ranging from £45 to £300. Your outfit’s style and colours will determine what kind of hat is best. For example, if you choose a dress coat (like Carole Middleton), then you should go for a hat with a more fitted structure, whereas a cocktail-style dress will suit a softer-shaped hat,” says Kayti.

Above: Veiled super floral print hat, £680, William Chambers Millinery Left: Sweeping sinamay brim with lustrous satin crown, finished with a satin bow, ruffles and feather spines (style BM214H), around £214.50, Richard Designs


If you can’t find precisely what you want among all the gorgeous ready-made headpieces out there, a milliner can make you a bespoke hat to your exact specifications and measurements. This is a great option if you have the budget and the time and are looking for something totally unique. “We offer a bespoke service to all our customers, depending on how much they want to spend on the hat,” says Kayti. “A milliner can colour-match materials so your whole outfit is co-ordinated, and they’ll also ensure a perfect fit,” says Beth. “Three to six weeks is usually required for bespoke pieces, depending on the design (but be prepared to wait up to eight weeks), and you’ll be asked to attend a fitting too. For long-distance clients, I offer the facility to have an item designed and made remotely, communicating by phone, email and Skype.”
If you already have a hat you like but which isn’t a perfect match for your outfit, it’s worth asking a milliner if they can customise it. This can take about two weeks to do, and will give you something unique. “This is a good way to ensure a unique style. At Elegance of Perth, we can colour match to create a contrasting hat or headpiece for your outfit,” says Kayti.


Be careful not to over-accessorise – you don’t need a hat, sunglasses, large earrings and a statement necklace. Pick just two for an elegant look. Similarly, a statement hat or headpiece will stand out better against a plain dress – or go for something smaller and simpler if your dress is quite fussy. And one last tip from Beth: “The piece should be light and comfortable to wear, and it should fit so well you don’t even realise you’re wearing it.”

Looking trim

Kayti Masson at Elegance of Perth shows us the options for having an off-the-peg hat customised with trimmings to match your outfit



• Choose a colour and style to go with your outfit, which you should take with you to try on as a whole look.
• Remember that certain designs and colours will suit your frame and skin tone more than others.

Peony crin teardrop hat, £360, William Chambers Millinery

• Getting a hat made to measure takes roughly eight weeks. You will also have to find time to go for a fitting.
• Personalising an off-the-peg hat is a great alternative to a bespoke number as the work takes less time but you will still end up with something unique.