How to Wear a Hat or Fascinator

With race day events packing out our calendars and with wedding season in full swing, hats and fascinators have become in hot demand here at After Hours Boutique. But while choosing one is hard enough, figuring out how to style it is a whole other issue.

It might seem like a simple enough task: just stick it on your head, right? But orientating these feathered and flowered confections can be easier said than done.

Here is our go-to guide for understanding the basics of wearing a hat or fascinator, including how to choose the right one for your face shape, some simple hat etiquette, and tips to style them on the day.

First things first: What is the difference between a hat and a fascinator? And what on earth is a hatinator?

Simply put, a hat is something that completely encases the head and has a brim. 

How to Wear a Hat


A fascinator is much less structured than a hat and therefore can come in a great variety of shapes and sizes. They are attached to the head with a comb, headband or barrette clip. In their simplest form, they can just be a artful arrangement of features, beads and veiling. At their most elaborate, well:

how not to wear a fascinator

A hatinator, as you might have guessed, is a combination of them both: it is large and may have a brim like a hat, but doesn't encase the head and needs a comb, headband or grip to fix it to your hair.

Why is this important? Well, some dress codes can be awfully fussy about this sort of thing. At Royal Ascot, for instance, fascinators have been banned; attendees must wear hats. If you find yourself facing a dress code that excludes fascinators or hatinators, you now know what they are talking about.

Choosing your Hat or Fascinator

Size is the first thing to consider

If you are new to wearing headwear and the dress code is vague, go small. A cute ensemble of mesh and feathers or flowers, or a small pillbox hat in a complimentary colour to your outfit is a winner every time.

Size should also be determined by how you plan to style your hair: a slick updo suits a small hat or fascinator, while a long, loose, voluminous style looks best with a larger headpiece. 

The time of the day that you plan your wear your hat also should dictate the size. Generally, hat size decreases as the day goes on. Large brims in the early morning or evening are considered vulgar and unnecessary.

However, it's a myth that you can't wear a hat or fascinator at night: after dark they are more often referred to as cocktail hats, and are often beaded and feathered. The Dior Hat is a great example of a night-time fascinator:

Hat wearing at weddings can be a bit complicated. If it's a church or seated indoor wedding, consider keeping your hat or fascinator size down, so as not to impede the view. (And yes, you can wear hats in church).

Also, there is an old rule that you should never wear a hat that is larger than the Mother of the Bride's. Most Mother of the Brides' are a bit more relaxed these days, but you could always check with her first to make sure.

The shape should suit your face shape

As with choosing a hairstyle to suit your face shape, the same rules apply to finding the perfect hat or fascinator. The aim is to balance out any disproportionate parts of your face. So if your face is quite round, go with a longer or taller headpiece; if your face is long, go for a disc-shaped piece. 

Colours should compliment your look

The golden rule: just match it to your outfit. Remember, hat and fascinator wearing dates back to a more conservative time of ladies' dressing, a time when matching your accessories to your outfit was an art form and rules were meant to be followed. (Unless, of course, you are Cara Delevingne, in which case, go for broke).

If your outfit has more than one colour in it, pick one and stick with it for all of your other accessories. Or, if you're feeling brave, try a contrasting color from your dress. But again, it's good to match all your other accessories to it, so you have a cohesive look. 

If you're still struggling, your hair colour can help. Red or auburn hair tones look good with earthy shades like browns or dark greens. Blondes suit neutral, light tones like taupe or soft pink. Dark or black hair looks great with a burst of bright colour.

If you wear glasses, keep it simple

To avoid 'over-complicating' your face, keep your hat or fascinator simple and try to compliment the colour to your frames. Also, avoid headband style fascinators as they will get in the way of your glasses.

Styling your headpiece

If you are getting your hair professionally styled, let your stylist know you are planning on wearing a hat or fascinator and ask if they can secure it for you.

But if you're on your own, there are a few tricks to make it easier to style it yourself. 

Start with hair that's a bit dirty - it will make it much easier for your headpiece to grip to. Backcombing your hair will add extra texture to hold it in place. Hairspray is definitely your friend here.

If your fascinator or hatinator has a comb, press it close to your scalp and angle it towards the back of your head.

As for how to place your headpiece, there are a few guidelines to follow.

A piece like the Bleu Hat should sit up on the crown of your head, so don't jam in down onto your head. When it comes to hats, the maker's label usually goes the the back of the piece. Also, try tilting the hat a little - many hats look good on a slight angle.

Fascinators and hatinators seem to cause people the most angst. Our advice - just pick a side of your head, right or left, and go with it. You can wear the smaller ones further to the back of your head, over an ear. If it has veiling or netting, you can angle it forward over one eye. If you have a deep part in your hair, aim it to sit right over your part.

If you have a hatinator, bring them down onto your forehead, over one eye.

One final (and crucial) piece of advice: if your hat or fascinator has any spiking up out of it, like our Ziggy Fascinator:

always make sure that it points straight up and over your head. And be extremely vigilant getting in and out of cars!

Don't be scared of these bizarre and beautiful creations - when you wear them well, you will definitely turn heads. Life's too short to wear a boring headpiece.