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

This blog is part 2 about formal hats, and is going to address the similarities and differences for men and women when deciding whether to wear a hat, what type will suit, and hat etiquette.

Similar considerations for men and women:

1. Size – of hat and your head

The size of hat that suits your outfit and your head will vary.  This is partly due to your unique body shape and head size, and partly what image consultants call your “clothing personality”.  Head size/shape does not have anything necessarily to do with clothing personality. A person with drama in their personality would likely need a big size/shape hat (but not necessarily have a larger head size), whereas another person may suit a petite hat or even a fascinator to show them at their best.

Another consideration is your height.  The taller you are, the more you will suit a bigger brim.

If you are getting a hat made for you, it is likely that the milliner will want to measure your head, in order to get the correct fit, and they will discuss what they think would suit you and the outfit.  Plus, they will discuss with you the type of attachment required for the size and shape of the hat, plus for your comfort.

2. Hair (or no hair) and hairstyle

Whether you have any hair, or fine or thicker locks, plus your hairstyle and length of hair will have a bearing on your hat.  Also, you should think about how your hair will look once you take your hat off, if you will be taking it off whilst still at the event. (See “etiquette” later.)

If you have fine, thin, or no hair, you may also like to think about the material of the hat, in case it would be irritable on you, and whether there is a lining that would prevent this.

3. Accessorising with a hat

Lynn advises her clients to minimise the jewellery when wearing a hat, so as not to detract from the hat, and says that some simple ear-ring studs, such as pearls, look very elegant. She also advises against wearing dangly ear-rings, as they will detract from the hat, especially if the hat adds height. Fiona agrees, but would discuss options and like to see the whole outfit before deciding what exactly might be best for the overall look, plus considering that the hat may be taken off at some point.  (Jewellery could be changed after a hat is taken off, and jewellery can usually easily be carried in a small handbag.)

Ladies who wear glasses with a hat often prefer elastic to keep the hat on, rather than a headband. (Elastic, by the way, is worn at the back of the head, not under the chin, and can be matched to hair colour to disguise it more.  It is worn under the hair, though.)

(Having an elastic fixing generally applies to button hats, hatinators and fascinators.  A brim and crown type hat wouldn’t have any fixings as it would be made to fit the head size, with the exception of some shallow crown boaters or cartwheel type hats that would need the assistance of elastic and maybe a comb for attaching.)

4. Weather

The weather (both temperature and sun or rain) will need to be factored into your choice of headwear, and whether you will be able to use an umbrella.  If it is too windy for an ordinary umbrella, for example, you may also need to think about how secure your hat will be, never mind what happens to it when it gets wet!  (You can get see-through umbrellas which are less prone to being blown inside out as they lower more around the head and upper body.)

Plus, if it is going to be hot, you may not want a heavy-based material (like thick felt) that will trap in the heat.

5. Face shape and how to wear the hat (see also below)

Oval face shapes suit any kind of hat really.  If you have a square face, you would be advised to choose something with softness to counteract the distinct edges of your face. Feathers on a soft small base, preferably worn to one side, will look best.

Again, with a round face, you should wear something smaller and to one side, but you could choose something that gives height to make your face look longer as an oval face is considered the most appealing shape.

If you have a heart-shaped face, it may be better to steer clear of wide brims or the hat will look like it is perched on the top and your face descends to a point.  In other words, it will look unbalanced.

You may like to think about how the hat is fixed to your head if you wear glasses too, and about keeping the hat clear of your specs.  Maybe, for the day, you could try contact lenses to save complications with the hat.

Formal ladies hats are generally better worn at an angle on the head.

6. Transportation

A formal hat will need to be properly protected during transportation.  It is possible to get a suitable hat box or carrier, and to have sufficient tissue paper to protect it from being bashed around inside the box. Beware that hat boxes are usually quite big, if you are travelling abroad for example.

7. Etiquette / rules

There are rules about when to take your formal hat off if you are a male or female.  Males should take their formal hats off indoors generally speaking, but whilst in a public place such as a train station waiting room, or hotel lobby, it is not so important to take it off, unless you are in the presence of a lady.  Hats should also be removed during weddings, funerals, playing of the National Anthem, photographs and when being introduced to someone.  Ladies, on the other hand, are not considered rude when wearing their hats anywhere indoors.  The exception is where you may be blocking someone’s view, or it would cause inconvenience to someone else.  Ladies can keep their hat on during a National Anthem, or when being introduced to someone.

If you do want to remove your hat at a wedding, ladies etiquette is to wait for the mother of the bride to do so first.

When a hat is removed it should be held so that the inner is not visible to others.

Another rule is that ornaments (feathers, beads etc) on hats should be on the left side of the hat for men, and on the right for women.

When men and women used to wear hats often, it was accepted that men would wear their hats more on the right, and the lady would tip it to the left, as when they were promenading the male would be able to see the lady’s face.  Nowadays, that doesn’t seem such a consideration, but Lynn would recommend wearing the hat on the parting so there is plenty of hair that can be styled up on the other side.  Button hats are usually worn on the front of the head about an inch above the eyebrow.

Remember that Ascot has its own rules about the size of hat, especially in the Royal Enclosure, so be sure to acquaint yourself with the rules to ensure you’re not prevented from attending!


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.