We’ve all seen them. No matter the occasion, no matter the age of the wearer, they are sure to appear atop the heads of the most beautiful, classy, and famous people in all of the United Kingdom. Over the years they seem to have gotten more and more outrageous, leaving observers to wonder if there is some sort of unofficial competition for “The Most Preposterous Headpiece.”
Well, as you might have guessed, the wearing of the chapeaus has been a part of Royal etiquette for a long time - and it’s not about to go away anytime soon. Tradition means a lot and thanks to this one, milliners all over the Commonwealth get to stay in business!
If you're like me, then you've often wondered about the origin of the seemingly-silly practice. It's surprising and sometimes downright alarming to see what sits on top of the royal heads . . . and I'm not talking about the crowns!!
I mean, of course, the ostentatious hats and fascinators that are 'de rigueur' whenever a royal lady attends a major event.
Granted, some of the selections are more conservative than others. Take, for example, this one worn by the Duchess of Cambridge at her sister, Pippa Middleton’s wedding:
And the Queen tends to tone down the gaud when dressing her cranium, but she ALWAYS makes sure that her topper matches perfectly with whatever ensemble she is wearing a the time.
The Royal Easter Bonnets are no exception, In the photo below, we see six different Royal ladies (Sophie, Duchess of Wessex; Her Majesty the Queen; Autumn Phillips; Princess Beatrice; Anne, Princess Royal; and Princess Eugenie) with their individual personalities shining through in their choices of chapeaus.
Gazing across the generations reveals that the hat was omnipresent atop the heads of ladies throughout history. Below, we see three beautiful royals: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; Diana, Princess of Wales; and Queen Elizabeth II.
Not even expectant mums are exempt from the “hat rule” as evidenced by the photo, below, of Zara Tindall (granddaughter of the Queen) arriving at Easter church services.
Just to clarify, The Huffington Post puts it this way, “while both hats and fascinators can be decorative, they aren’t technically the same thing. Hats typically cover the top of the head and have brims and bases, while fascinators are essentially bits of ribbon and fluff that affix to the head with some sort of comb or clip.
“Hats also have functional aspects (like shielding your face from the sun) while fascinators are mainly decorative.”
According to William Hanson, etiquette tutor at The English Manner who spoke to Town & Country, “it is considered proper etiquette for ladies to wear hats to royal weddings.
“Up until the 1950s ladies were very seldom seen without a hat as it was not considered ‘the thing’ for ladies to show their hair in public,” Diana Mather, a senior tutor at The English Manner, told the BBC. But she added, “all that has changed and hats are now reserved for more formal occasions.”
But more than anything else, hats and fascinators are, simply put, a “part of British culture.”
“When it comes to a special occasion in British society, the special occasion is not complete without a hat,” Hilary Alexander, former fashion director at the Daily Telegraph told ABC News back in 2011, ahead of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s nuptials.
“There has to be a hat. It’s part of the social fabric,” Alexander said.
So, like them or not, it appears that the decorative headwear is here to stay, at least in Royal circles. With Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s upcoming wedding just days away, we can’t wait to see what outrageous and, dare I say, preposterous ideas the female attendees select for the big day.
So, in looking back at the photos included in this story, are you able to tell the difference between a ‘hat’ and a ‘fascinator?’
To see some of the brightly-colored hats the Queen has worn over the years, watch the video, below.