The English summer season of weddings, christenings and Royal Ascot is now upon us. As a milliner, I often finds myself turning fashion agony aunt as people fret and worry about not only their choice of hat to wear in a church or at the races but also about how to wear it.
The most frequent question I get asked is “Can a lady ever take off her hat in a church service?” The straight answer is “no”, even if you are wearing a large-brimmed Mother of the Bride hat that is blocking the view of all those behind. My advice for those attending a church service – whether it be a baptism, wedding or funeral – is try to keep your hat size “neat” and don’t wear a hat with too wide a brim.
Or wear a fascinator. At the Pippa Middleton (now Matthews) wedding, I had a number of hats worn by guests. The most successful was probably my eye-catching Iris feather hat as it allows guests in the pew behind to see the bride and groom.
For gentlemen, you must always take off your hat the moment you enter a church, or the lunch tent at Ascot, or even if you are sitting down to enjoy a hot dog in the stands. It’s considered seriously faux to be seen eating indoors wearing a hat, especially when inside a building, hotel or marquee.
If you are trying to court a lady, the failure to remove one’s top hat (one prays it is silk) once you step inside a church or grandstand will be held against you. You should also doff your hat to say the briefest “hello” on encountering a female acquaintance or friend outside the church or on a lawn at, say, Ascot.
The biggest problem these days is social ignorance. As a society milliner whose creations are stocked in shops such as Fenwick and Fortnum & Mason and who also makes bespoke hats for racing royalty (and some real royalty), I’m often asked about the social codes of hat wearing.
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