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Picking a Hat to Suit You

By: Lisa Thiel - Updated: 22 Jun 2012 | comments*Discuss
Hat Formal Millinery Cloche Pillbox

As we're no longer living in the 19th century, hats tend to fall into one of two categories - strictly practical winter attire or dramatic occasionwear. Whether you're after a titfer to impress or something to stop your head freezing at the footy, follow these tips to make sure you get something that'll fit your needs perfectly.

If the Hat Fits…

Make sure you know what you're going to be using the hat for. If you're going to a wedding, the races or a formal event where millinery's de rigueur, you'll need a formal and eye-catching style, while a hat to keep your head warm while running or cycling will need to be warm and close-fitting. An all-purpose hat needs to be hard-wearing, easy to clean and should also match the coats you own.

Heads Up

Different hats will flatter different head and face shapes, so take a good hard look in the mirror before you set out. Those with round faces should steer clear of narrow-brimmed hats or cloches, which will make the lower half of your face look wider. Pick a wide-brimmed style to balance out your cheeks and chin instead. Less formally, beanie hats and close-fitting knitted number will make you look fatter.

On people with long faces, anything that sticks up too high will elongate your head to ridiculous proportions, so keep headgear small and neat. Heart-shaped faces should avoid broad-brimmed numbers, which could make your chin disappear entirely, and baseball caps, which obscure the top half of the face.

Planning to wear a formal hat also means thinking about the hairstyle you're going to be wearing under it. Don't think you can get away without properly grooming your barnet because the hat will sit unevenly over frizzy or hastily tied-back hair- and if you put it up, ensure the knot doesn't get in the way of the crown or brim.

Ideally, wear the hairstyle when you buy the hat, when you can check it fits properly.When you try on a hat, make sure it's snug on your head. A too-big hat will flop about and obscure your vision, while a too-small one will just give you a headache.

Classic Types of Hat

While formality in hat design's pretty much gone out the window in today's world, you may still hear some terms being bandied around, so here's an explanation of what they mean.

  • Picture hat - a formal hat with a wide brim that tilts at one or both sides, allowing the front brim to frame the face. Often highly trimmed, the style's very traditional, old-fashioned and strictly formal.

  • Trilby/Fedora - originally made for men from felt, a fedora has a neat, narrow brim and a high, curving crown with a crease running down the centre and a 'pinch', or depression, in both sides at the front. A trilby is simply a more softly constructed version of the fedora.

  • Cloche - a brimless hat popularised in the 1920s for its modern style and easy 'pull-on' practicality. Nowadays, cloches are usually more formal wear.

  • Pillbox - round, hard, flat, brimless hats, teamed with a veil in the old days, but now often the base for dramatic decoration.

  • Beret -flat, soft, round, brimless caps originally worn by peasants and sported by military types. Civilian versions, usually in wool, smack of French chic.

Colour and Style

If you're planning to wear a really dramatic hat, don't pick a bold outfit to go with it or you'll end up looking overdone. Follow the either/or rule - either wear an eye-catching outfit and co-ordinate your hat, or choose a more muted backdrop and team it with head-turning millinery. Take your outfit with you when shopping so you can check the hat's a good match.

Try to make sure the styles of your hat and clothes aren't at odds with one another. For example, wearing a masculinely-tailored trilby with a dress would look a little odd, so stick to hats with rounder, softer brims and pair trilbies with trousers or a suit.

Does It Need To Be A Hat?

If you really can't find a formal hat to suit you, don't despair - opt for a headpiece instead. Unlike traditional hats, headpieces have small bases that fit snugly to the head and derive all their detail from decoration, so you're bound to find something that co-ordinates with your outfit without being at odds with your face or hair. Another alternative is to opt for a large, elaborate hair decoration that clips into your style.

With the advent of hoods to keep us warm, the need for a hat's very rare today - so when it's time to wear one, you might as well have fun with it. Be as bold, daring and inventive as possible, dare your friends to wear outrageous creations to formal events, and take bets on who'll be the first to get photographed by the papers.

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