Why British Women Wear Hats (It’s Not Just About Fashion)

Grandeur, fashion, pomp and circumstance will be on full display this weekend when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marry. Set to make a grand appearance amid all the excitement is a parade of haute hats. The Brits really have the hat thing down.

You’ve seen them. They climb, bend, twist, float, and defy physics. They look like works of art, works of comedy, or the work of a mutant science experiment gone wrong that make you concerned for the wearer.

Women don fascinators, calots, boaters, and other styles not only on special occasions but sometimes for casual affairs, too. Carefully placed atop the head, they are the perfect accent for an outfit.

Here in America, hats are major for Easter and the Kentucky Derby, but what we see for festive occasions in Britain is something else. This year for the royal wedding, the hats will be a B-I-G deal. Why? Not only is headgear part of tradition, but this piece of fashion is considered etiquette for royal events.

For royal weddings, there is a dress code in place that is written and delivered to guests. In addition to longer hemlines and no exposed shoulders, ladies are typically asked to wear hats. On the invitations for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, women have been instructed to wear “day dress with hat”.

This video from Wochit touches on the history of wearing a headpiece for royal social occasions, and how the practice started before the 1950s. Up until then, women rarely showed their hair in public, so most of the time they wore hats to cover it.

These days, women bare their hair freely, but fascinators and hats are worn for formal outings like weddings. Members of the royal family have kept the old tradition going with their stylish head gear and have certainly set the bar high. The Queen even has her own appointed milliner who constructs her headwear to coordinate with her outfits.

As you pay attention to the cascade of head toppers (as they’re affectionately called) for the upcoming wedding, you may or may not notice a subtle difference among them. By that we don’t mean the categorical differences between hats and fascinators. We’re referring to the tinge of class and status attached to what type of head accessory one is wearing.

Folks associate a certain level of wealth with the style and price of the hat. What may look like a ridiculous piece that resembles a dead and resurrected animal rolled into one may actually be a screaming “upper class” symbol to the world. You’ll see which guests are rocking the wildest or most chic at this wedding!

Click on the video below to hear more about the hat tradition in Britain. Be on the lookout at the royal wedding for pictures and videos of whimsical, elegant, stylish, and frightening head pieces that you may not see twice.

Did you know about the history of fancy headpieces in Britain? Are you interested in seeing the hats during this spring wedding? Would you incorporate a tradition like this into your own wedding?