Clotheshorse: a conspicuously dressy person
Fashion Plate: a person who dresses in the latest fashions
Chic: elegantly and stylishly fashionable
There are people who simply look ridiculous in a hat and then there are hat people, people with the right shaped head and hat faces.
Hat people—a people for whom a chapeau rests atop the noddle at a jaunty angle without self-consciousness, without apology—tap into a weird, mysterious style universe, which is stubbornly nebulous to a wider population. Hat people possess a compelling confidence. Whether they sport a Kangol, boater, fedora, cloche, homburg or even…gasp…a beret, they carry themselves through the world as if they know exactly where they are off to. Self-assurance is a must when you don a hat because when you wear a hat, all eyes will be upon you.
Hats through the ages have been simple or elaborate. Women in every society have decorated their hair and hair covers since time immemorial. Native Americans used feathers and beads, Africans cowrie shells and gold, Europeans jeweled broaches and ribbons, and Asians bone and jade pins. Almost nothing was off limits. The very first hat may actually have been the head of a bear draped over the head of a Neanderthal!
Until the early twentieth century, people of all classes wore hats due to custom whether they looked foolish or not. A man without a hat was a sign of poor breeding and a lady without a hat and gloves was even more damning: not a lady at all.
But as time and a loosening of social mores marched on and rules of how people should and shouldn’t dress changed, it was up to the truly fashionable to carry the hatbox. Which they did by running the gamut from quiet morning chic with beads and discreet veil to bonnets sporting whole aviaries!
Hat people showed up and showed out, rivaling anything PT Barnum had to offer! Talk about drawing the eye! And nothing draws the eye like a hat, unless it’s a fascinator.
Dating all the way back to the 1860s, fascinators—part hair accessory part hat—often starts with an “Alice” band or more commonly a headband, as its base and can be an ostrich feather attached to a dainty wisp of silk or as grand as something floating through Marie Antoinette’s court or Her Royal Highness Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’ wedding.
World War I nixed the Royal Ascot race day love of over the top headgear except for special occasion but the less showy style melded perfectly with the more streamlined fashions of the 1920s. Flappers bobbed their hair and adorned their fascinators with brooches, jewels and feathers.
Women like Harlow Ophelia Jackson not only looked good in all kinds of hats and fascinators but loved them and appreciated their millinery artistry. Harlow, Greta Garbo, Josephine Baker, and Myrna Loy understood that there is nothing sexier than confidence. And to pull off a proper fascinator or a statement hat one needs confidence by the hatbox.
Placing atop a perfectly coifed head a dove gray fascinator with a cobalt blue poplin veil which ends at the curve of your rouged top lip, your kohl-rimmed eyes serving come-hither as you leave both men and women wanting more, wondering what’s she know that I don’t know and how can I get the skinny?
And later screen sirens like Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge in seamed stockings and cocktail hats spoke of an unerring style which says I can’t explain it, but I know it when I see it or in the immortal words of Chicago’s Billy Flynn:
Give ’em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle ’em
Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give ’em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather ’em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?
…Razzle Dazzle ‘em
Are you a hat person?