Yes, You Can Wear a Hat
by Laurie Nienhaus
“The hat I was married in, will it do?
White, broad, fake flowers in a tiny array.
It’s old-fashioned, as stylish as a bedbug,
but it suits to die in something nostalgic.”
As surely as we see sugar bowls on the tea table, we expect to see hats upon the heads of tea party guests. It’s not a requirement of course, but tea and millinery do share a long standing relationship.
“The hat is not for the street. It will never be democratized. But there are certain houses that one cannot enter without a hat. And one must always wear a hat when lunching with people whom one does not know well. One appears to one’s best advantage.” Coco Chanel
However, some find that relationship a strain, claiming they cannot possibly wear a hat – not any hat, ever. With all due respect, I can only reply, “Nonsense.”
There are really only two obstacles to standing in the way of chapeau bliss. First, hats naturally attract attention. Couple this with the different visual perspective our adorned head gives us and it’s easy feel self conscious or somehow not ourselves.
“I began wearing hats as a young lawyer because it helped me to establish my professional identity. Before that, whenever I was at a meeting, someone would ask me to get coffee.” Bella Abzug
If you can’t overcome this first obstacle, for which we can offer only emotional support, your hat will likely wear you rather than you wearing it. And, sooner or later the poor hat, through no fault of its own, will find itself sitting upon a folding table at a garage sale.
The second obstacle is the fact that most of us lack the DNA necessary for millinery savvy. But with the following principles as your guide, you’ll not only appear joyfully and completely put together, you’ll likely overcome the first obstacle on your own.
– Only little girls wear hats sitting further back on their heads. A grown woman wears her hat sitting down upon her forehead – roughly one finger’s width above the eyebrow.
– Always tilt your hat to one side or the other, especially if you’ve a round or square face. And, although the milliner may have envisioned the hat sitting a certain way upon the head, there’s no reason why some hats can’t be turned in another direction.
– As a hat sits so close to your skin, choose colors matching your skin tone. If you’re sallow, a yellow or pale green hat is not for you. Pale skinned women should consider warm colors. Women with very dark hair should steer away from black hats.
– If the color of your hat exactly matches your outfit, accessorize with a complementary color.
– Always try on a hat in natural light.
– Rather than using the small mirrors universally sitting upon shop counters, look at yourself in a full length mirror while trying on hats, preferably while wearing the clothing you’re buying the hat for.
– Bangs are best tucked into a hat.
– Tucking your hair behind your ears, in a ponytail or a chignon, usually improves a hat’s appeal.
– Because your hair is away from your face, consider earrings to complement the hat and your outfit.
– The top of a hat’s crown should be at least as wide as your cheekbones and the brim should never be wider than your shoulders.
– If you’re tall, consider wide brimmed hats and avoid small hats.
– If you’re short or have a small face, avoid large hats.
– If your face is long, consider wide brimmed hats and push the brim down further on your forehead. Narrow brims will only make your face appear longer.
– Wide brimmed hats balance curvy figures.
– Round or floppy brims make a round face appear even rounder. Instead, choose a hat with a high brim and/or an angular shape.
– If you have an oval shaped face, you can wear most any hat, no matter what its shape.
– As a rule of balance, the more skin you’re showing, the wider your hat’s brim can be.
– No white after Labor Day remains a steadfast rule for millinery.
– Generally speaking, hat size decreases as the day progresses. Miss Manners says, “If the hat looks like you built it, it may properly go to daytime functions; but if it looks as if it just landed in the hair (bits of netting, tiny feathers, sequins, etc.) it goes out at night.”
– Pairing a vintage hat with modern clothing can sometimes work but often only creates a mismatched silhouette. Consider carefully before venturing out into the wide world with that 40’s hat upon your head.
– One of the easiest ways to dramatically change a hat is to cover the crown. Tie a knot in each corner of a square scarf to “round it off.” Center the scarf over your hat’s crown and tuck the edges and knotted corners under. Let the edges drape and secure with a few hidden stitches.
“Hats have never at all been one of the vexing problems of my life,
but, indifferent as I am, these render me speechless. I should think a well-taught
and tasteful American milliner would go mad in England, and eventually hang herself
with bolts of green and scarlet ribbon — the favorite colour combination in Liverpool.”
Laurie Nienhaus is an author, playwright and public speaker living on Fort Myers Beach, Florida. She is also the director of Gilded Lily Publishing and Beach Haus Productions. To learn more, visit www.GLily.com.