Fascinating Fascinators: The View From the UK

June 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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kate-middleton-2-435In the first novel in the Four Seasons Quartet, That Summer in Cornwall, the typical attire that clothed my characters consisted of blue jeans, cable knit sweaters, and green, rubber Wellington boots. Nothing nearly as glamorous as one of the frothy headpieces Kate Middleton has put on the map.

Ah…but in the new book, all that will change! That Autumn in Edinburgh involves the world of design, and those in that world tend to be snappy dressers, which means while I’m in the UK on my reserch trip, I’m keeping a sharp eye out for what is fashionable, and what is not.

Like most Americans, I first became truly aware of those minuscule,feathery, sometimes veil-swathed confections women wear on their heads called “fascinators” during the courtship and Royal Wedding of Prince William and the stylish graduate of the University of St Andrews.220px-Kate_in_Ottawa_for_Canada_Day_2011_croped

The newly-minted Duchess of Cambrdige wears these poofs stunningly well and undoubtedly has done the millinery business a world of economic good both in the UK and on our shores—especially given American women practically gave up wearing hats, except for festivites at the Kentucky Derby each year.Beatrice-Eugenie

However, the realm of fascinating headgear definitely suffered a set-back when Prince William’s cousins, Beatrice and Eugenie, turned up at his wedding in the most outlandish concoctions. Down right mesmerizing they were, opined the fashionistas, “and not in a good way.”

images-1My sources in Britain tell me that originally the term “fascinator”referred to a fine, lacy head covering—a sort of abbreviated mantilla. But with Kate’s savvy style sense, the addition of judiciously-selected feathers and exotic trimming, along with her jaunty air when donning the chic models she wears, today’s toffs beyond the royal palace find them a welcome alternative to full blown hats when attending weddings, garden parties and the like.720130505181329001_t607

To be sure, there were a few fascinators to be seen at this year’s Kentucky Derby, though the over-the-top Big Hat models far surpassed the stiff-ribboned variety of postage stamps sur-la-tete. This woman appears a bit bemused by the explosion going on over her head, and this red number certainly didn’t provide any shade or SPF protection! But then, given there was rain on race day, I guess that wasn’t a factor.


Nevertheless, floppy, outsized roses, wide-brimmed beauties overlaid with layers of flowers, and even a pink flamingo or two stole the spotlight and attracted the cameras in Louisville last May.Julia Morgan Dinner (7)

I have been known to sport a fascinator of late and find it a great, packable item to tuck into a suitcase if there is any chance of a formal event enroute. So far on our research trip to the UK for That Autumn in Edinburgh, I’ve not had a chance to whip one out and dazzle my English cousins (whose names happen to be “Cousins!”) but I haven’t given up hope.IMG_6985

And the good thing, these little bits of fluff and feathers don’t take up much room. Even so, I imagine that when I return home, I will return to my Big Hat ways–seen here at the very proper (for Americans, at least) Lovejoy’s Tea Room in San Francisco…

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