Roundup: Hats


By Kirsty, APW UK Guest Editor

When it comes to what to wear on your head when you wed, the possibilities are endless. Thousands of blog inches have been devoted to discussing the relative merits of silk tulle versus French net, and let’s not even start on flowers, feathers and sparkly headbands.

But your wedding doesn’t exist in a bubble (unless you’re getting married at the Eden Project, in which case it does and please send us your pictures). If you’re planning your wedding, there’s a good chance that other people you know are tying the knot too. The year I got married, I went to six other weddings. A friend of mine went to ten in a single season. So let’s put aside the bridal attire for a minute, and talk about guest style. When you’re attending someone else’s wedding, what the hell do you put on your head?

The answer, of course, can be nothing. That’s perfectly acceptable. Flowers, feathers and sparkly headbands also work well. But this, my British friends, is our chance to show the world what we can do. And nobody—nobody—can do hats like we can.

Unfortunately, our native hats are in danger of becoming extinct, seen only on mothers-of-the-bride, drunk people at Ascot, and the Queen. In recent years, fascinators have become the go-to option for fashionable guests. Fun, flirty, relatively low-key: fascinators are the Pippa Middleton of headwear. Like Pippa, they’re nice to look at, but you’re not quite sure what the point of them is.

A hat, on the other hand, has a certain presence. Whether it’s a flamboyant, sculptural piece or an understated classic, a hat makes a statement. There’s no denying that a proper hat takes some guts to pull off, but I urge you to reclaim your heritage and give it a try. The results are worth it, I promise.

So! Without further ado, here’s my roundup of excellent hats (all available, and many of them made, in the UK).

Big hats can sound scary, but they’re actually the superhero of the hat world. The key to big hat success is to expand horizontally, rather than vertically. Wide-brimmed hats create an invisible force-field into which lesser, fascinator-wearing mortals dare not step. Guaranteed personal space is always welcome at a wedding, I find. And, while big hats can certainly make for a dramatic entrance (picture Kate Winslet emerging from under her hat at the opening of Titanic), they aren’t just for centre-of-attention people. Desperate to avoid that cousin who always brings up the time you got a pea stuck up your nose when you were five? All it takes is a tilt of the head and you’re invisible, safely concealed behind the brim of your gigantic hat. Come evening, simply take it off and you have a whole new look, Clark Kent style. Like I said: superhero hats.

1. This Willow hat by Bundle Maclaren, £140, might be the only way you could get away with wearing white to a wedding 2. The name of this one makes me think of those sherbet-filled flying saucers and now I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT THEM. Pink bow saucer hat from Debenhams, £36 3. Ever since I saw Audrey Hepburn wearing her racing outfit in My Fair Lady, I’ve had a soft spot for a monochrome hat. This Invitation Saffron hat by Hobbs, £79 reduced from £100, fits the bill nicely. 4. If I give you this pretty disc and bow hat from Marks & Spencer for a reasonable sum of £29.50, perhaps you’ll forgive me for… 5. Heather hat by Jane Taylor Millinery, £1,285. I know, I know, it’s an absurd amount of money for a hat, but it’s so beautiful! It’s like something from the front cover of a Penny Vincenzi novel! In a good way!

I wish I had a secret online source of original vintage hats in pristine condition to share with you but, if this magical unicorn exists, it has eluded me. If you’re a person for whom only genuine vintage will do, there’s nothing for it but a good rummage around your local vintage and charity shops. Fortunately, “vintage-inspired” styles are far easier to find, and the good news is that there’s an option to suit everyone. A Gatsby-style cloche works really well with short or bobbed hair, while a classic panama oozes masculine chic. Vintage shapes are unusual without being wacky, and unlikely to date. Worth the investment, I’d say.

1. This Mamie teardrop hat in Shetland tweed by Hello Strumpet, £45, is sweet and simple but uber glam. 2. Channel your inner Daisy Buchanan with this red stripe cloche by Maggie Mowbray Millinery, £85 3. This one is just too flipping cute. Petit Llaç pillbox hat by eliurpi, £56.35 reduced from £80.50 4. Regret not wearing a birdcage veil for your own wedding? Make up for it as a guest. As long as it’s not in shades of white, I reckon you’re in the clear. Pale pink herbaceous flower beret from Debenhams, £76 reduced from £95 5. Ladylike headwear isn’t the only option. This White Yorkie snap brim Panama hat from Liberty, £90, would be effortlessly dapper.


The British might have a reputation for favouring the traditional, but as a nation we certainly have a wild streak when it comes to fashion (think Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, erm, Boy George…). This wouldn’t be an APW roundup if we didn’t have some alternative choices. Every one of these hats is completely wearable as long as you’ve got the guts to pull it off, and you don’t mind people coming up to you all day telling you how much they absolutely love your hat. Being fabulous is such a hardship sometimes.

1. It’s like summer in hat form. Painted Ladies cocktail hat by Sally-Ann Provan, £240 2. Tweed cocktail hat with faux pom by Maggie Mowbray Millinery, £120, because who doesn’t love a faux pom? 3. I’m in love with these colours, but if they’re not quite you (and you’re prepared to invest), this hat can be made in any combination you like. Para disc spray by William Chambers Millinery, POA 4. For the apostrophe lovers among us (just me?), this studded cashmere beret by Ann-Marie Faulkner, £105 is the perfect balance of simple and quirky. 5. And last but not least, Natalia by Bundle Maclaren Millinery, £90. The first person to wear this to a wedding gets a prize. And the prize is that you are AWESOME.

Photo by Lillian and Leonard

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  • Kristy, you are hilarious. I love this round up!

    • First time I laughed out loud at a simple round-up. Also, this only reinforces my encouragement of hats at my some-day wedding.

  • rys

    Love that red stripe cloche!

  • Toronto Rachel

    YES! I have been wondering who to ask my hat etiquette question to, and so your timing is perfect, APW UK!

    I am getting married in December, and we are hosting an afternoon tea for a reception. Finger sandwiches, Fortnum & Mason tea, petit fours, 3-tier trays and lots of champagne.

    I would LOVE if our guests wore hats (I don’t plan to dress them, I just know that I have a few close friends and female relatives who would love to RUN as long as they weren’t the only one who would show up in something like the header image) but does one wear hats in December? If you google “hats in winter” from a Canadian IP address you get nothing but toques. Are hats to shield you from the sun, or just for looking stunningly glamourous?

    We are having a church ceremony, if that makes a difference.

    • Peabody_Bites

      Definitely hats in December! I am an enthusiastic hat wearer and have several darker hats which I wear to winter weddings. People do wear fur hats to winter weddings – uber glamorous in an Anna Karenina kind of way, but I don’t have one.

      Incidentally, people will usually take their hats off after the church/drink stage, rather than continuing to wear them for dinner (or other food). If you have deliberately encouraged people to wear hats, it is quite helpful to provide somewhere for them to be hung up (e.g. ribbons on trees / walls / marquee edge, with clothes pegs (clothes pins)).

    • meg

      Fortum & Mason <3

      I'm out, so it's time for me to go to Heathrow, which is the only place I know of where I don't have to pay my first born for it.

      • He charges you for tea? Quite the little entrepreneur. Takes after his mum.

        • meg

          He currently has a hustle selling single paperclips to pretty ladies. So you know.

          (They cost a dollar, in case you were wondering. Each.)

    • Funnily enough, the wedding that the header image is from took place in December! So I think that’s a resounding YES.

    • You can definitely wear a hat in December. My go to solution recently with wedding guest dress questions has been to consider what Kate Middleton would have worn. She is basically the most appropriately dressed person, so if ‘appropriate’ is what you’re after, she’s your girl.

  • Abi

    I LOVE a hat. It’s my favourite thing about going to a wedding. I feel like I’m properly dressed up. I didn’t realise they weren’t worn at American weddings until I was invited to my American friend’s wedding last year and I made a comment about how I might have to wear my hat on the plane as I couldn’t fathom how I would pack it. The conversation then went something like “Why are you bringing a hat?” “To wear to the wedding, of course” “You’re wearing a hat to my wedding?” “Of course, isn’t everyone else?” “No, is that some weird British thing?” “No, it’s clearly an odd American thing not to wear one” “You guys are so formal” “You guys are so informal”. In the end, I didn’t have to pack a hat which was a win. When she came to mine, my mother gave her a hat to borrow. Hilarity ensued. Hats guys. Americans are missing a trick!

    • SamanthaNichole

      Ugh I know! I always say we need to bring hats to the States! I’m just not properly knowledgable about how to do it! I would love a wide brimmed hat like #2 . . . Maybe I’ll start with a fascinator and get bigger as I get bolder!

      • I’m trying to bring them back in North Carolina- luckily we’re south enough that there are hats in stores in the area. Not great hats, but reasonably decent ones. Just try some on until you find something that looks great on you! I love wide brimmed hats, but I find that a cloche works better for my face (it draws attention to my eyes) so I usually wear those day to day. Good luck!

    • meg


      Also, all my english relatives are married or 14. So. That’s not helpful.

      • Nerds, I knew I should have invited you. I even had a hat making hen party before the shenanigans!

        Hats are good, people. Wear them, make your own (like I did for the wedding I went to last weekend) but make sure you wear them.

        And the flipside to those who thought they should take their hat off in church, I was always told it was rude not to wear a hat in church.

        As for taking them off, only when the mother of the bride removes hers. (But who knows if she’s crazy enough not to indulge in a massive hat!)

  • Peabody_Bites

    Kirsty, you star. Not only is this funny, it is also extremely useful, as I have been considering a new hat purchase for the several weddings I have remaining this year.

    I would like to point out that Bundle Maclaren (cf. Hat 1) is a hilarious (and deeply English) name.

  • Amy

    Well obviously I am a hat fan. I never knew they weren’t worn in the states, I obviously overlooked their absence in all American wedding films and on all US blogs and just focused on Andie McDowell in 4 weddings!

  • Rachel

    I was just telling a friend of mine how I really wish hats at weddings would become A Thing in America. I think a lot of Americans would like to wear them but don’t want to be the only one. Any advice on letting your guests know that if they’ve ever really wanted to wear a hat to a wedding, you’d totally welcome/encourage that?

    This is basically the look I’m going for for my wedding:

    • LondonSarah

      Just a note on the invite – ‘hats welcome’?! Or even, ‘glamourous hats welcome’ if you’re worried it could be misconstrued as wooly hats?

      Didn’t Charles and Camilla, when they got married, ask the guests not to wear hats? I think the Queen still did, but then, she is the Queen. There were a lot of fascinators.

      • meg

        No one in America owns this kind of hat. So. That part would be tricky. I think everyone would be confused and wear fedoras. Or something.

        • LondonSarah

          Now that would make for a cool photo – everyone in fedoras! I hadn’t realised hats were so British.

          • LondonSarah

            I mean fancy wedding hats. Or hats to go the races too I suppose.

        • Brenda

          African-American ladies know how to wear hats still. I used to go to Sears in my fairly heavily black neighborhood growing up and try on the hats. It is a shame that it’s not something that really features for most white Americans though.

          • meg

            THAT IS FOR A FACT.

            I should have noted that. There are some *serious* Sunday-go-to-meetin’ hats that happen in Oakland once a week. (However, very different style.)

          • dawn

            Even white girls get to wear hats to the Kentucky Derby :-)

    • Toronto Rachel

      I went to a wedding last summer where the couples’ website listed a dress code of “formal dress requested, fascinators encouraged.” But Meg is right about North Americans not “getting” hats, and so I think that was easier with fascinators.

      So the answer here is AUNTIES. Tell your aunties that you wish hats would become a thing at American weddings, and get them excited about getting hats together. I think the problem is that since they’re so rare over here, no one wants to be the only one in a hat, for fear of looking too flashy or drawing too much attention. Get your mother in on it, and word will spread through your family that way.

      Same deal with close girlfriends. Just tell them you think it would be great, and you’ll know which of your friends would agree with you/be excited about the chance to go to a milliner.

  • These hats are stunning! Some great ideas to wear to a luxury hen party!

  • Sara

    Yessss! Hats. I have a family wedding coming up and recently got a pixie cut so definitely need to fancy-up my head. Kirsty – you are awesome.

  • Trisha

    Great roundup! I wish hats were a thing at US weddings!

    • LMN

      Ditto! I doubt I could successfully encourage my guests to wear hats to my wedding so my backup plan is to host a Kentucky Derby party some year.

  • Apparently there was an extensive discussion in Badger’s extended family as to whether our wedding was going to be a ‘hat’ wedding or not (Ireland, like our neighbours, is fond of hats at weddings and horseraces). We had a civil ceremony which I think kind of threw them – those are still pretty rare in Ireland (at least for country bumpkins like ourselves). They kept asking his mum whose response was – ‘well I’m not wearing one, but wear one if you like’ – and since no one wanted to upstage the mother of the groom, most of his side didn’t wear any. I wasn’t even sure what I would wear on my own head until the morning of the wedding – when my friend who did my hair fashioned an ordinary piece of cream netting from a fabric shop into a fabulous shape and pinned it to the side of my head (true story).

  • Melissa

    I would love to wear a giant gorgeous hat! Every summer I agonize over purchasing one of those oversized-but-oh-so-elegant sun hats and every time, I just can’t take the plunge. I want to, though. I wish I had more Scottish relatives that were of the marrying age, so I could go and wear a big fancy one and not look out of place : ]

  • Pillbox hats are awesome at weddings. There were a couple at mine and I LOVED them, though my bridesmaid who ALWAYS wears hats to weddings did not wear one as she was instead having amazingly glorious hair from my hairdresser.

    I now would like a pillbox hat for my remaining weddings of the year (I am attending 3) but maybe I need 3 hats. Oh the drama!

  • 1)Why oh why is my favorite hat £1000! Is there a discount version of this?
    2) I have been to a lot of UK weddings and I LOVE the hats (and fascinators). What I don’t get is feathers. Why feathers? I don’t think I’ve ever looked at someone and thought, “You know what she needs? Feathers.”

    • meg

      You haven’t? Because I think that when I look in the mirror all the time. Mmmm. Feathers.

    • AshleyMeredith

      Mmm. I recently bought a feather headband from Goorin Brothers (who clearly need a shout-out in this hat-friendly environment, though none of you will thank me when you get addicted). It was a practical thing as the big feather holds back/hides my growing-out bangs, but I get so many compliments on it. From guys, too, if that matters.

  • We need APW UK style a bit more often me thinks.

    Also. I LOVE hats! It took me a while to find my style with them, but hats and I have now created a beautiful relationship and I’m almost always in one during the summer. Portable shade! I love the big brims. I love how flirty they are. More hats please!

  • Heather

    Okay, I’m not gonna lie, I always wanted to wear a vintage hat and dress suit out of my wedding, like what women used to wear to get on planes all dressed up. I didn’t – and I don’t regret it, but still! HATS. The red stripe cloche is perfect.

  • Meg

    Some part of me is insisting that I have to buy and wear a hat for a wedding I’m going to next weekend… a part of me that had been silent until now.

    Also, am I the only one who saw the apostrophe hat and thought it was a sperm?

    • I exactly-ed to the sperm hat. :p

    • Ha! I did not see that, but now I can’t unsee it. THANKS.

  • Emily

    The first hat will be mine. I don’t have anywhere to wear it. Maybe just around the house? Doing dishes? Hmm.

    • I have a flower wreath with ribbons cascading down my back I wear on occasion just because. It makes the mundane so much better.

  • Ellie

    Yay for hats. I need one for a Decemberwedding in the uk. Have decided to go big, thanks to this!

  • KC

    This is a glorious roundup. I have a friend who occasionally puts something to the effect of “hats encouraged for ladies” on party invitations, but I’ve never taken the fancy-hat plunge properly.

    So, from an American who has not figured out The Secret of Wearing Fancy Hats, how are the large-but-flat hats affixed? Is this a many (hidden) hairpins, much hairspray sort of thing? What happens if they fall off or blow off or if you forget you’re wearing them and knock them into a doorway, or does this not happen in practice? Is it best for clumsy people to practice wearing large hats at home until they get the hang of it? The hats look absolutely fabulous, it’s just the prospective hazards of wearing them that seem daunting…


      To me they’re bad enough in the movies (and lets not forget the uterus-esque hat worn at Wills and Kate’s wedding. *Tacky!*) and especially at “racing carnivals” (horse races) down here in Oz.

      Why my distaste for big headwear by ladies at weddings?
      A.) I’m American and hate hats period.
      B.) They look rediculous. (Plus, once your hat comes off, how do you manage your hairstyle that looks wonky without said headpiece attached?)
      C.) How the hell do they stay on your head?! (I had a simple crown and veil for my wedding and that alone had all maner of hairspray and bobby pins keeping it on.)
      D.) You can’t see at a wedding with all those flying saucer-esque hats in front of you. I’m a guest at a wedding, I want to see what’s going on, NOT be blocked by a huge hat.
      E.) I have enough dresses from fancy occasions cluttering up my closet that I don’t need hats to clutter up with them.
      F.) I come from a religious upbringing where you took your hats off in church as a sign of respect. The minute you were on church ground, hats off. Period.

      Have I mentioned how much I dislike hats being worn at weddings? I’ve been known to rock a nice headband or two (one with peacock feathers attached for my brother’s wedding, a custom piece made my a friend on etsy) but they’re small and easy to see over/around. Any other hat haters?

    • You use a hat pin to skewer it to your hair. (different to a hair pin, although you could use those too I think)

    • From a fellow American figuring out hats, I looked through the replies for your comments and noticed you didn’t get a lot of advice. I am not an expert, but I figure I’ll chip in what I’ve learned through trial and error, and if anyone says I’m wrong- seriously, believe them. They know what they’re doing!

      Anyways, for me, it depends on the hat. Large hats with a brim often need hatpins (think sewwing pins, but much longer) which you attach by pinning them through the hat, catching up some of your hair, and then putting the end through the hat again. If your hair is fine (like mine) you can make a cross with bobby pins where you want the hat to sit, or tease it, then guide the pin through the bobby pins or teased hair. I usually only need 2 pins, placing them at opposite sides of the crown.

      Wind is dangerous and hat pins will not save you in strong winds. Instead, just put your hand up there and try to stay out of a gale. I’m still trying to figure this part out. Good luck!

      As far as practicing, I’ve never had a lot of trouble with hats and balancing. Most of them are not terribly heavy, and those that are are usually pretty balanced. Just find something that feels comfortable and makes you feel fabulous!

      • KC

        Thank you! That’s very helpful. :-)

      • So helpful! Also, you’ll find that a lot of the wide, flat hats actually have coordinated hair bands (like an Alice band, I think you call them?) attached to them, so you can just pop them on your head. Good for my pixie crop!

  • Emilie

    APW how to request : how to rock hats in non wedding and church functions. In the USA. I need to know how to pull this off in real life.

    • Yes! I need more advice with hats (I’m mostly self taught) and more reasons to wear them! APW hat meetup anyone?

  • Manya

    In Nairobi there is a new hotel offering a classic (and gorgeous) Afternoon Tea. I am going to take my daughters there and I am going to dress up and WEAR A HAT. Acceptable or gauche?

    • ItsyBitsy

      Totally acceptable (says the girl who knows nothing about tea etiquette).

  • ItsyBitsy

    AMAZING. As an American who has always loved hats (I blame Blossom), I really, really wish there were occasions where it was appropriate to wear them. All the wide-brimmed hats are making me swoon.

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