Hats are this summer's must-have accessory. They will not only add a dash of chic to any daytime outfit -- making even last year's wardrobe look fresh -- but also protect your skin and hair from the scorching sun. And, as guests at Kate and William's royal wedding showed, a well-chosen topper can take a cocktail dress or formal gown to new heights of glamour.
Yes, a fascinator -- those small embellished hats that sit adorably just off the side of the head -- can be overdone and look absurd. (That's right, princess Beatrice, we're talking about you!) But done with the right proportion of panache and restraint, a fascinator is head-turning -- without being jaw-dropping -- as Victoria Beckham proved with the navy Philip Treacy fascinator she donned when the duke and duchess of Cambridge exchanged vows in Westminster Abbey.
Whether you're headed off to a beach holiday or a stylish wedding, or just chillin' in the city, here's how to choose the right head-topper for you.
A Weekend in the City
A fedora with a menswear feel is the perfect way to add a touch of chic on that steamy day spent running errands, hanging in the park or enjoying some sightseeing in a new city. What make this season's styles fresh are updated fabrics and fine-tuned details. The Origami fedora by Michael Stars, for example, offers a black and cream graphic pattern, while Target's Xhilaration fedora is a summery shade of green with a paisley scarf above the brim. Traditional fedoras look fresh with a lace or striped grosgrain ribbon band; try them as a stylish counterpoint to a flirty short summer dress.
Another daytime option is the cowboy hat, a fetching look when you're wearing a halter top or T-shirt with straight jeans, cutoffs or more polished shorts. This year, you can find them in ivory decorated with tortoise-shell links, or in crocheted raffia with a thin leather band. For inspiration, check out the collections at large online boutiques, like Shopbop.com.
Less structured floppy hats add a sexy pop to the maxi dress, one of the season's staples. Kate Spade offers one with an oversized brim and citrus-colored stripes, while Juicy Couture's woven paper-straw hat features shimmery stripes in combinations like white and gold or orange and natural.
A Day at the Beach
Wide-brimmed hats will always look glamorous on the sand or around a kidney-shaped pool. J. Crew has one with an extra-wide brim and ruby or indigo stripes. Madewell's version in black straw will take you from floating on a raft at noon to margaritas at sunset.
Tightly Woven Hat
Darker-hued or tightly woven hats offer extra sun protection, but to be sure you're guarding against damaging UV rays, choose one with a label that says it's certified UPF 50. UPF stands for ultraviolet protection fabric; it's the clothing equivalent of the SPF ratings you find on sunscreens.
A Summer Wedding
You don't need to be attending a royal wedding to show off a fascinator. A hybrid of a hair accessory and cocktail hat, fascinators are made of whimsical materials like feathers, flowers, lace, ribbons, beds or sequins, which are attached to a base and then fastened to a comb, clip or headband. Whether you're wearing something flouncy and sherbet-hued or a classic black cocktail dress, there is a fascinator that will perfectly complement your look. Find one at websites like FascinatorsNYC.com and FascinatorsByDesign.com (a British site that ships to the U.S.).
If it's a daytime wedding, consider flowers and lace. For an evening event, go for the drama of sequins and feathers. Just remember to wear the fascinator askew, and not right in the center of your head; that's part of its off-center charm.
Alison Singh Geeis a former style features writer for People magazine and has also written about fashion, beauty and design for InStyle and Marie Claire. She is the author of two books, including an upcoming memoir, The Peacock Sings for Rain.
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