It was mostly about headgear yesterday. Posh headgear. Not cycling helmets or berets or straw boaters or little transparent plastic rainhoods the like of which my nan always used to have handy in her bag in case of a sudden rainshower.

It was important that those little rainhoods were transparent. I mean, you pay all that money for a purple rinse so people should jolly well be able to admire it,  even in the harshest of Welsh weather.

I’ve quite liked headgear since my school boater (yes I still have it.. Every time I find it unexpectedly in the attic, I can’t bear to throw it away). The boater was traditional thick straw weave with a band of my school colours – drab bottle green and grey – around the crown.

It was a rite of passage every year at the end of May to get rid of the awful bottle green skirt, white shirt, green stripy tie, grey cardigan and black shoes and put on the green and cream check summer dress with brown sandals, short white socks and the boater. We all suddenly looked very summery and the pretty ones looked prettier. Not that anyone actually *wore* the boater. It was quite uncomfortable perched on the head and refused in any way to relent or mould in the slightest to the shape of your skull. If you were a complete dork, you’d use the elastic strap under the chin to ensure it stayed put, but in five years, I didn’t see anyone do that. It was just a cool thing to carry round – and most importantly no other schools in the near vicinity had them.

Trying on hats was always an integral part of a shopping day out with my dear departed mumsie. We’d trawl John Lewis and spend at least half an hour in Hats, pretending we were going to something tremendously stylish and trying on.

She would go for the Audrey Hepburn type hat, smaller and chic, while I looked better in something wide-brimmed enough to cast a shadow over the Isle of Wight. We would invariably try completely unsuitable hats in the process, causing helpless guffaws and sniggerings.  Berets were a case in point.  Mumsie could wear a beret and look as though she’d just stepped out to buy du pain from a Parisian market.  I looked like Bennie Hill.

But I’m not going to wear a boater to no2 son’s wedding, or a hat. I want something a bit different and individual. No it’s not going to look like the carved chairback that Princess Beatrice wore to the royal wedding but it’s going to be fun putting together ideas involving silk, twirly things, feathers perhaps and I might even venture some netty stuff.

I’ve spoken to a woman who can do wonderful things with twirly things, silk and feathers, although she knows the proper names for it all.

I was thinking of something bigger than a fascinator (I always thought The Fascinator would be a tremendously exciting sequel to The Terminator but featuring Beyonce as a SuperHero with extravagant headwear who could taser people using only her ass). It would be a fraction smaller than an average hat and would not gradually slide down my head, ending up just south of my left ear.

“I’m thinking netty dinner plate size with squirls, and petals and perhaps some sticky-out feathers….?”  I started off.

“I’ve just done a lilac-pink disc crammed with roses and finished with two quills and a butterfly,” she said.

I would point-blank refuse to wear any species of Lepidoptera or, knowingly, any members of Insectivora,  but in general terms she seemed to be describing more articulately, the kind of thing I was imagining.

I thought “I can work with this woman.”

So in the meantime before we get down to a serious chat, I will doodle some designs and look for ideas. I might even paint some. I have the gouache. I have the paper.  I have the dress already. It’s purple. I have beautiful purple shoes. It’s possible the two could be worn together.

So I’ve begun preliminary investigations, starting with Philip Treacey as he is the Lord High Emperor of Contemporary Headgear.

This is amazing Isabella Blow, sadly deceased, late of this county, wearing a Philip Treacy with the necessary panache.

Elvish lives.  Not the King,  Lord of the Rings Elvish.

The world is your lobster.

The exploded starling look.  She’s not miserable. Just traumatised.

I like this but it’s probably too Tiller Girls for a wedding – a kind of Roman Candle in feathers.

Mmm. I do like this but has that flower been overdosed on growth-enhancers?  Plus, she has cheekbones. That makes a big difference. Bee-atch.

Not quite sure what this is about and although it’s vaguely reminiscent of a sparrowhawk’s dinner it looks pretty good on the lovely Kate.

Author: janh1

Part-time hedonist.

30 thoughts on “Headgear”

  1. Oh, great post Jan. Hats, especially those of the wonderful, but totally daft Phillip Treacey, have taken centre stage since the wedding, these here couldn’t be more dafter, in my opinion. By the way, checkmate, I too wore a straw boater at school…although, when I say I wore it? …….
    I do like wearing hats, and do wear them regularly , although my daily head gear is of the peaked cap variety, even the masculine flat cap is amongst my collection. When the occasion requires something special, I have to go searching the shops, but, even if I could afford it, it wouldn’t be a Phillip Treacey. Good fun though Jan.

  2. I hated my school hat. Fortunately it was soft straw and it could be folded in half and stuffed into a bag – of course it had a large non-standard crease down the middle, but since I only ever wore it going in and out of the gates that didn’t matter. I ceremoniously burnt it on the last day of school… hated the thing!

    On the other had I love trying on hats – and that is one of the ‘things’ that my daughters and I always do when we go shopping together. It’s a laugh!

    I don’t reckon any of the ‘creations’ you have put up here can be classified as a ‘hat’ – I wouldn’t wear any of them. Some of them look like decorations for a Christmas tree – and I’m not a Christmas tree!

    I’ve never understood why some women think that sticking birds, bells, huge feathers and lobsters (!for heavens sake!) on their heads will enhance their appearance – or perhaps that’s the point – they are trying to draw attention away from what they look like!


  3. I hate to rain on your parade, but be careful.
    I have noted that feathery things look much better on young skin and can be rather ageing by themselves!
    Better I think to have them as a decoration on the brim of a hat.
    As mother of the bridegroom it might end up as mutton done as lamb or seen as a way to upstage the bride!
    This one strikes me as fraught with pitfalls. I do hope it isn’t Imperial purple? Sends all sorts of messages!!! Or is striking terror into the heart of your putative daughter in law the desired effect? A jolly thought!

  4. Didn’t you have a winter headcovering at school, janh1? One good thing about moving from junior to senior school was graduating from the felt pudding-basin to a beret. It’s much easier to shove a folded beret in your pocket, though it was strictly forbidden to be found outside the school gates without headgear. Yes, Boadicea, even in the town there were always those ready to phone the headmistress to tell her they’d seen some of “her girls” without a beret!

    Thanks for the lovely hat photos anyway.

  5. Happy hunting, Jan. I’m a great fan of hats, I have er a few!

    Think elegant and a brim; I’m not keen on these fascinators, they are very tricky to anchor to the head. I have a couple and they were quite tasteful but wouldn’t stay put.

    Actually I have the same problem with hats on a windy day. I have a collection of hat-pins but I’m not keen on sticking one half an inch into my brain just to look chic. 😉

  6. Hi Val – a boater girl too!! I forgot to say there was a green beret for winter Sheona, but no-one wore those either. You just had to make sure you had it with you in case there was a prefect in the vicinity!

    I don’t generally wear any headwear except my cycling helmet, which is for purely practical purposes – but I do have a purloined cap which is handy for holidays and bad-hair days 🙂

    Greetings Boa – so pleased to hear you and your daughter have fun in the hats department too! Must be a bonding thing. How fortunate that your school hat was collapsible. I liked mine too much to make a bonfire of it.

    Yes, the distraction technique is a good theory but I reckon the weirder headgear must be all about status. Isabella was at the very top of the fashion tree so she couldn’t be seen in anything that wasn’t cutting edge – and the PR was worth oodles to the designer.

    Bravo – everyone would be under the pews in a second if I turned up in one of those with the customary accompaniments!! 🙂

    All observations welcome, Tina. Feathery things, to be honest, look better on birds! Your point was beautifully illustrated today when the future sister-in-law and i tried on a feathery black fascinator – looked ok on each of us – then her son’s girlfriend – all long white-blonde hair and perfect dewy skin – tried it on and immediately looked like a fashion magazine image. Striking terror definitely not the purpose. Future daughter-in-law is lovely! 🙂

    Glad you like the hats collection, Sheona!

    Greetings Araminta – my favourite hat is a proper brimmed black one with a big bow on the back It’s my Tote Placepot hat. Won the placepot at Chelters. Expected a pay-out in the region of £1k. Excitedly bought winner’s enclosure hat (I owned the hoof of a horse at the time) for £75. Payout was something like £73.50. Still got the hat, though I never got to wear it in the winner’s enclosure.

    Yes the main thing with a headgear is the anchorage. Droopy is not very fascinating!

  7. We had corduroy navy berets at school, all year round. And they had to be worn….on a three mile walk to school it was hard to decide exaclty when they should be applied. usually at the bottom of station hill. I have hated wearing hats EVER since!
    Good luck with yours.

  8. It all depends really if you wear your hair up or down or short. To be avoided at all costs is the droopy hair, droop hat and droopy jowls matching! Looks vaguely akin to a King Charles Spaniel!!!
    Do your hair as you will wear it and then go and find a hat!
    Personally I would avoid the hat, shoes and dress matching, plus purple next to the face with a few drinks might just have the effect of an apoplectic alderman.

    All depends on what shade of purple but the palest turquoise may go well and far kinder on the skin tone.

    Happy hunting.

  9. Hi janh1

    I am sure that you will look stunning on the day, whatever you choose to do titfer-wise.

    Personally delighted to read that the ‘Beautiful Shoes’ may well be featuring, unless, of course, you are referring to another pair of purple shoes.

    For auld lang syne, I went back and found your December 2008 blog on MyT. A joy to read it again.

    The Beautiful Shoes.

  10. Ah John, such unfounded confidence. But yes these are still Beautiful and match the dress pretty perfectly.

    Thanks Tina – turquoise is a good idea. I wear that anyway – it suits and looks good with a bit of a tan. People have told me that “matchy-matchy” is not trendy now. I’m learning so much!

  11. Make sure it is VERY PALE!
    Otherwise a dogs dinner!!!!
    Never wear differing colours of the same hue.

  12. I took to wearing a country straw hat to weddings a few years ago, but soon ditched it after boyfriend of the time made some disparaging Worzel Gummidge aspersions.
    I prefer flowers now; fake roses are all the rage, and they currently do not have any San Fran running-away-with-the-fairies connotations. In fact, in the worst case scenario, I would probably just, well, sort of nick one from somewhere. You will save the hassle and the money and everyone will say how nice you look!

  13. Thanks Pseu – they are surprisingly comfortable. I’ve danced in them but hey, they have *purple* slippers! I might get some of those anyway.

    Thanks Tina – are you channelling your aunty by any chance? 😉

    Hey Claire, I tried on a straw hat with silk flowers on today. It had *enormous* brim – I’d need a whole pew to myself if I wore it in church. Great fun for something like Ascot though – and five people could shelter under it if it came on to rain. Did you like that giant pink rose creation in the pic above with the netty stuff? I did but I think you need hair up and I’m not doing that.

  14. Heels like that would cripple me… and make me 6’2″ or something ridiculous 🙂

    Love the idea of your giant hat offering shelter in the rain. Save carrying an umbrella then?

  15. Probably !
    Mind you, using colour for ten years designing exhibition stands is a good substitute!
    ‘Spose the rules of colour really don’t change wherever you use it though.
    Aunt Anita would be wincing at the thought of the roses for the over 40s!
    I can feel the emanations through the ether!!!
    But then she used to dress the Diplomatic Corps, literally.

  16. I don’t know… I prefer flowers to have the natural look, rather than to be great spotted, netted cockatoo affairs. It has always been the way at Aintree – for people to spout entire gardens and birds’ nests – so I have a bit of an aversion to it I suppose..
    Heels though. Are we talking proper stilt jobs or wedges? I am quite used to heels, even in work. I can actually feel a Jimmy Choo moment coming on, which on my budget, means New Look. 🙂

  17. Well, Pseu I’m definitely wearing them. Change of dress plan today. Got another one, with a little jacket thing, kind of abstract purple flower pattern against cream silky stuff. Quite fitting. Doesn’t look bad. More interesting than plain purple – and the shoes are perfect with it. Will have to tone down by more outlandish ideas for the fascinator considerably though as there is pattern in the dress.

    Gosh, aunty used to dress the Diplomatic Corps, Tina?!!! Doesn’t it count if you don’t *feel* over 40? Am ditching the roses idea now.

    Hi Claire, I don’t have much idea about shoes as I don’t normally wear heels at all. They are probably 3″ but not skinny little things. I can dance in em without falling over (well, a topple did threaten once but I was caught in the nick of time by a district nurse. He was 6′ 2″)

    I’m not sure I’ve seen a Jimmy Choo, except in Sex and the City but I now know what ‘f*ck me’ shoes are thanks to the helpful folk on this site. 🙂

    If New Look can copy fashions successfully, I don’t see any problem. Who can tell? 🙂

  18. Will one of you Ladies please explain to me what, in the name of all that’s holy, are you talking about? Listen, listen, listen, these are the only criteria for buying clothes. Shirts are bought by neck-size, colour and pattern immaterial; trousers are bought by waist and inside leg mesurement and shoes (two pairs only to be owned at any one time) are either black or brown and have enough room for your toes. A man can therefore replace his entire wardrobe in twenty minutes flat. END OF!


  19. I recommend a sort of hybrid of platform and wedge, without actually going so high that you look like you are walking on mini boat things. You can walk in them, and the leg lengthening possibilities are endless.
    I have rarely seen a real live Jimmy Choo either. I am just surmising, and fantasising, about a life less ordinary, I guess. Sniff…

  20. OZ, this is why men are so useless at shopping and so boring to shop with. When daughter and I go shopping we amaze husband/father by announcing that we’re not looking for anything in particular and can return home quite happy without having bought anything. It’s the looking and comparing and imagining that is the fun. Similarly here, we are enjoying ourselves thinking about Janh’s outfit and looking at photos of lovely hats and gorgeous shoes. Now run along and play with your Meccano set!

  21. Greetings OZ but the point really isn’t to replace your wardrobe in 20 minutes…the point is to shop, as Sheona says… to wonder and try on, to love or to hate, to consider one’s bum and whether it indeed does look big in said dress/skirt/trousers, to reject, to ridicule sizes and cuts and designs, to decide whether it’s affordable, value for money, too good not to have… Tbose are the primary considerations 🙂

    I’m pretty hopeless at shopping too, Pseu, but like anything, if I have to do it, I do it 100%.

    Claire, I do like the sound of leg lengthening possibilities. I mustn’t get too tall tho, as I’m already 5′ 7″. Talking about fantasising, my favourite looking shoes are always in Karen Millen. There’s a shop in Cheltenham Promenade. I have to pause to admire the elegance and beauty of their strappiest sparkly high heels. (Could never wear them, obviously!)

  22. Sheona @ your #22 and #25. I always tried to explain that spending all morning in B&Q drooling over power tools and ‘stuff’ was an activity much more important than merely shopping. Unfortunately, A Zangada never saw it that way and had a hair-trigger impatience quotient measured in seconds, at least until we went to a shoe/dress/shoe/handbag/shoe shop; or a hairdresser; or a manicurist. And don’t even talk to me about Singapore’s Orchard Road, Dusseldorf’s Königsallee, Regent Street or Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall.



  23. Shopping is more of an art form, although it can feel like a gruelling marathon when you are in Primark and haven’t even bothered to buy or try anything because there are too many people pushing and elbowing you out of the way. Then it is to be avoided like the plague!

  24. I like that, Claire. Shopping is an art form, presumably even drooling over power tools as OZ does. Our modus shoppendi now involves parting company as we enter the store or shopping centre, having agreed a time and place to meet. Then husband can go and look at cameras, computerish bits or whatever, while I inspect important things like shoes.

  25. OZ you must be one of those blokes who are v helpful when I’m looking for, say, a sink plug and my eyes glaze over at the sheer enormity of the task of finding one among the many racks of materials in B&Q. You chaps seem to absorb the geography somehow. Personally I think they should issue customers with Garmin GPS systems where you just punch in what you want and your GPS takes you straight there!

    Claire I can’t stand crowds so I either go very early or five minutes before closing time and whizz around like a dervish. I bought a pair of cycling short in Evans’ Birmingham (including trying on) in three minutes at nearly six o’clock so they could close the doors right on time. Very nice they are too 😉

    Sheona that’s very sensible. Our annual Christmas shop is only made bearable by meeting for tea and a bun and meeting again to have a longish lunch with wine!

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