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The Fascinating History of Fascinators and Classy Headwear

The Fascinating History of Fascinators and Classy Headwear
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The Fascinating History of Fascinators and Classy Headwear

It used to be said that if you wanted to get ahead you should get a hat. Well, perhaps we can change that expression now to say that getting a fascinator is the best way to get ahead and make an unforgettable impression.

Many people have become interested in them due to the fact that high profile fashionable ladies such as Kate Middleton, Victoria Beckham and Princess Beatrice have been regularly photographed wearing this type of headwear.

Yet, not everyone is clear on what a fascinator is or why they have suddenly become so fashionable.

What Are Fascinators?

The simplest way to describe fascinators is to say that they are ornamental headwear pieces that get fitted on using some sort of headband or tiny comb. These are lightweight pieces that tend to attract a lot of attention due to them being decorated with attractive elements such as feathers and flowers, while some use a veil for a more dramatic effect.

The idea is that this looks incredible at special events but doesn't mess up your hair in the way that a hat might. You probably know that fascinator is a recent term that only came into use in the 1990s but did people wear stuff like this in the past?

Ancient Head Coverings Around the World

If we step back in time we will see that women all around the world used ornamental hair coverings and decorations in ancient times. From feathers to beads, and from leaves to coloured pieces of cloth, there appears to always have been a strong desire to make our hair prettier and more attention-grabbing.

Just about every century since then has had its own style of headwear, with many of them related in some way to the fascinator look. From the hugely elaborate objects of the 15th century to the lacy veil from the 17th century that was also given the name of fascinator, the style of each century has changed how we adorn our hair.

The 20th Century See Big Changes

Perhaps it was during the Edwardian period at the start of the 20th century that we saw the first modern pieces of headwear that began closely resemble the fascinators that we can buy nowadays.

Take a look at images of headwear from the Belle Èpoque and you should see a few pieces that wouldn't look out of place in a modern day wedding or horse racing event. Although there are many far more extravagant items as well, admittedly.

We can then see how simpler designs appeared in the "flapper" period of the 1920s. Some of the feather and bead headwear pieces from this decade still look fabulous today and it is no wonder that people still enjoying dressing up in this style.

There was then a lull in which hats largely fell out of fashion. However, Australia in the 1960s saw the arrival on the scene of small cocktail hats known as fascinators. Combined with the modern hairstyles on show, this showed a new tendency to use headwear in a casual and less formal way.

The word fascinator wasn't used again until the 1990s but it was in the 1970s that London milliners Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy began to introduce a style like this to the country's fashion leaders.

The 1980s and 1990s

These decades saw many hats became more casual and more fashionable. For example, if you look at pictures of Princess Diana with a hat on you will see a mixed bag, with some of the smaller pieces looking pretty much like current day fascinators.

While the 80s is commonly regarded now as the decade that fashion forgot, there are still some terrific examples of fashionable hats from that period. Apart from Princess Di, Madonna, Grace Jones and Boy George were among those who tried to put the cool back into the world of headgear, with wildly varying results.

The 1990s were a big decade for fascinators, as this is when the word was first used in the sense that we use it now. Among the fashion leaders who championed the style in this decade were milliner Laura Whitlock and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The 21st Century

It is really since the start of the current century that fascinators have become must-have fashion accessories. So far, we have seen them at famous horseracing events, at weddings, at parties and on the catwalk.

The Royal Family has led the way with this fashion trend, with the Queen wearing one at Peter Phillips' wedding and Princess Beatrice wearing one to Prince William's big day. In fact, this Royal wedding was one of the first times we had seen so many of these pieces of headwear in one place.

For a completely different type of look you could see how Lady Gaga has used fascinators in some of her bizarre looks in recent years. Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Christina Aguilera are other celebrities who have also given the fascinator look a bash lately.

However, the undisputed queen of the fascinator is surely Kate Middleton. She has tried a great number of them and achieved some brilliant looks in this way.

Check out the images from recent sporting events such as the Grand National, Kentucky Derby and Melbourne Cup to see a staggering variety of fascinators on display in the crowd. As you would expect, there is now a huge number of fascinators on sale online too.

You can choose one with flowers, one with bows or one with any one of a number of other styles and ornaments. If you are going to a special event where you want to look fantastic without being overly formal then this is a fantastic choice.

The Hatinator

You might also see the word "hatinator" used for this this kind of style, generally referring to a fascinator that veers more towards the style of a hat.

A hatinator is something of a cross between a hat and a fascinator. It is a term that has recently come into use and it is used most often to describe the Duchess of Cambridge's elegant headwear.

Indeed, the lines between cocktail hats, fascinators and hatinators are somewhat blurred. Having said that, it is doesn't really matter what you call it as long as you love it, does it?

Whether it is a wedding, a sporting event or a fancy cocktail party, the right piece of headgear like this will give you a look that turns heads for all the right reasons.

The Fascinating History of Fascinators and Classy Headwear
Many people have become interested in them due to the fact that high profile fashionable ladies such as Kate Middleton, Victoria Beckham and Princess Beatrice have been regularly photographed wearing this type of headwear.