HAT’S OFF The addition of a hat can turn an ordinary outfit into an extraordinary one.
‘If a woman rebels against high-heeled shoes, she should take care to do it in a very smart hat’ — George Bernard Shaw
Is there anything more stylish than a hat? It has the power to transform the plainest outfit into something stunning. Whether for a wedding or a day at the races, it’s the little piece of magic that provides the perfect finishing touch. I’ve yet to see a ‘Best Dressed’ winner with a bare head. Just wouldn’t happen. It’s hard to know when hats as fashion, rather than function, originated. We know the slaves of ancient Greece and Rome wore them, but more a badge of trade. In the 17th century, millinery was fast becoming a reputable industry, and hats were definitely an important element of fashion. Interestingly, the term ‘Milliner’ is derived from ‘Millaner’, as hat-making began in Milan.
When composer Irving Berlin wrote the wonderful song ‘Easter Parade’ in 1933 it brought the bonnet into vogue for the annual Easter Sunday Pilgrimage in New York. The bonnet was a large elaborate affair, trimmed with ribbons, flowers and all sorts of other frippery, and it dominated women’s fashion.
During the 1950s milliners played a crucial role in the fashion world. Every woman wore a hat; you only need to look at old photos of parents and grandparents to see what I mean, it was compulsory to wear one, even when shopping. I adore that particular decade, much more stylish than latter ones, in my humble opinion.
The ’60s was all about big hair with loads of back combing, and dressing was less formal. Unfortunately, the hat became one of the first casualties.
Still, anyone who grew up Roman Catholic in the ’60s and ’70s will remember the sin it was to enter a church with a head uncovered. The 1917 Code of Canon Law mandated that women wear a veil or head covering. School kids didn’t have hats then but, we all had mantillas – gorgeous little triangular shaped bits of lace. Anyway, if we forgot to bring our mantilla to school on a Holy Day we were forced to wear dusters on our heads. I swear this is true, though hardly believable today.
There have been fits and starts at reviving the glory days of hats as fashion, yet it’s mainly the ubiquitous ‘beanie’ that dominates today. That said, there are still some great alternative options out there too.
Are you a hat person? There’s one to suit everyone, it’s just a matter of knowing what your particular best shape is. There are two basic styles, brimmed and brimless. Milliners work with these two shapes to create all manner of styles. The goal is to create harmony. Let’s explore a few face shapes.
If you’re small don’t overpower yourself with a huge brim, or you could end up looking like a mushroom. You however, will look great in a beanie. Lucky you, I look like a peanut when I put on this style.
People with oblong faces should choose something with a little width and a shorter crown that will balance out the length of the face. A cloche looks fabulous on this face shape.
For those with square faces, it’s all about softening the angles, so curved styles are great. Try a bowler, or floppy fedora for softness. A square face looks great in a trilby; look for a narrow brim. You will also suit the cloche, as its softness balances out the angles of the face.
You need to create the illusion of length by going for something with a wide brim. The height helps to slim the face. The fedora is a good style for you.
This, along with oval, is considered to be the best and most attractive face shape, and any brimmed hat suits you. Lucky you!
> Maggie Gibbons is an Image/Style Consultant based in Louisburgh. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.