JOINT BLOG, THANKS TO LYNN LEACH, Portsmouth Milliner, “LMJL Millinery” Facebook page. Telephone number 07803 316146

As you may imagine, there are some similar and some different considerations for men and women when deciding whether to wear a hat, what type will suit, and hat etiquette.  This blog post, in two parts, aims to cover all of them – for formal headwear.

Similar considerations for men and women:


150 years ago, a hat was an essential item for most people, whether it was a daily accessory or just for Sunday best.  Fiona remembers 50 years ago being in London’s Financial Square Mile and seeing lots of men in bowler hats and pin-striped suits.  Times have changed, and hats are now more of a rarity (albeit a great fashion accessory as seen on catwalks), and there are still occasions when they can, or even should, be worn.

The main occasion these days is at a wedding, which could be one of the most formal situations that some people find themselves in.  Wedding formality varies, and so if you are invited and want to know what the protocol is, it would be best to check with whoever sent the invitation.


Asking about the formality of the wedding, and your role there, will guide you to the type of outfit that would be suitable, and once you have an idea of that, the hat accessory (if appropriate) will need to suit the outfit and you, both in terms of colour, size, material and so on.


Should you match the outfit colour so it blends together, or use a contrast colour?  That may depend on the colour, availability of hat options in your price bracket, and what you feel looks good and is comfortable for you. If you have been “colour-analysed” you should know the most flattering shades of colours for your skin-tone, and that would be helpful for your decision.

Another consideration for colour – especially at a wedding – is what the wedding party will be wearing. If there is a colour scheme, or the bridesmaids are going to wear a particular colour, you may want to avoid matching in with them.  Also, the bride may not be wearing white or cream.  It would be bad form to wear the same colour as the bride, unless that was sanctioned by the bride, but that doesn’t mean to say that you couldn’t choose a cream or white hat, if the rest of your outfit were a different colour, if you knew the bride was wearing white or cream.

There may also be a theme which dictates the colour, for example “Gothic”.


A hat can be an expensive item.  You may want to think about whether you will need to use the hat again (in other words it may be worth buying it), or whether to hire (this would save you having to keep it somewhere, as some hats take up a lot of room).  Hiring is often a less expensive option.


Another consideration with your budget is the required quality.  How substantial does the hat need to be?  Is it something you would wish to bequeath perhaps?  A hat is an unusual item and could be passed on – even if for “dressing up” by future family members, who may like such a keep-sake from you!


There are lots of materials and adornments for hats: felt, straw, feathers, ribbons, beads, and so on. What will suit your requirement will be dictated by your outfit, any rules/protocol, your personality, what will suit you, and possibly the weather or circumstances.

Beware of summer straw hats of poor quality – those that are more paper-like will not keep their shape, especially if squashed in a suitcase!


What options do you have locally or maybe further afield?  These days it is easy to search the internet and find suppliers that you may not have found in the past.  However, are they still a going concern?  If you’re looking to source one on a lower budget, perhaps consider borrowing from family or friends, visiting charity shops, second-hand/vintage clothing shops, markets or local “bring and buy” or swishing events that could be a source of a fantastic, suitable bargain.  And, if you are in a different area (or abroad) you may find something really terrific, but beware buying without your outfit if you’re trying to exactly match the colour.

Lynn says to beware of buying hats pre 1920s, as they were made using mercury and will still be unsafe if worn today!  (That’s where “mad as a hatter” originates from as it literally turned milliners mad back in the old days!)

The middle ground is to find a hat in a department or specialist hat store.  There are still some very good stores around with lots of choice.  The downside with this is that you just may find someone else at the same event with the same hat (or something very similar) if it is the current fashion.

If you have plenty of time, and money is not a big factor, you can consider having a hat made just for you.  It might be easier, though, to have your outfit sorted first in this case and get the advice of a milliner (and/or personal stylist) on what would suit you and the outfit.  The best thing about having one made is that it will be unique, and you can choose everything about it (colour, style, material, fixing), AND it will fit your head perfectly.

Not only that, a good milliner who is making several hats for a particular wedding or event will make a note of the colours and styles for guests, so that there will not be any embarrassing similarities.

Another consideration would be to have a current hat altered by a milliner, which may reduce the time-frame and price of the finished item.  The result could be just as suitable as if it had been created from scratch.  Depending on the material, there may be scope for dyeing too, if the colour needs altering, but do find this out before deciding to have one altered, if colour is important.

Look out for Part 2 of this blog, which will cover similarities and differences for men and women under these headings:

  • Size – of hat and your head
  • Hair (or no hair) and hairstyle
  • Accessories with a hat
  • Weather
  • Face shape and how to wear the hat
  • Transportation
  • Etiquette / rules


If you need assistance deciding on your hat, please contact Fiona, Your Colour & Style Consultant on 07469 246722.

LYNN LEACH, Portsmouth Milliner, can be contacted on 07803 316146.