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The fascinating world of hats in fantasy, fact and faddism

May 2012

Our Princess Catherine, the duchess of Cambridge, has brought the word “fascinator” into our lexicon. A fascinator is a headpiece, often a bit frivolous or delicate, that you can wear instead of a hat.

It is often constructed with feathers, flowers or beads. You attach one to your hair by a comb, headband or a clip, since they are often worn at a steep angle or vertically—kind of a sideways hat.

Though you may want to wear one to a wedding or with fairly formal attire, it might just be fun to dress up and make your mom a tea party for Mother’s Day. Brides may wear them as an alternative to a veil. You’ll need one if you attend the N.Y. Easter Parade. In England, headgear is popular at premium horseracing events.

You can find a hat for all tastes, since they run the gamut from elegant to modern or vintage, at Ophelie Hats, sometimes all at the same time. The hats are sold in Europe and North America, including at Urban Outfitters in the U.S. and Topshop in London. Here in Montreal, you can find them at Simons, Ogilvy and Espace Pepin or at their warehouse. Hours by appointment. 4800 Jean Talon O. #415. 514-341-8624.

Miss Mercia Doran and Mrs J. Dean were intent on picking winners at a horse- racing event in Brisbane, Australia, in 1933. Hats are not optional at the races. Photo: John Oxley Library, Queensland

Lucie Gregoire is one of the few milliners in the city who can create made-to-measure hats. You can select from some ready-to-wear creations at her studio, then add a personal touch, such as jewelry, ribbons, feathers or buttons. You’ll find hats for special occasions like weddings, but also for the beach, travel and some fantasy ones, too. She offers courses for students, professionals, amateurs and hat enthusiasts. Some of the collection of hats, turbans and scarves meet the needs of women who have experienced hair loss following chemotherapy treatments. Hours by appointment. 307 Parthenais. 514-279-8856.

If you want to buy them for less, Nicole & Co. has been in the hat field for 26 years. They have kept up with fashion and offer thousands of fascinators. You can shop wholesale for mostly dressy-style hats (gray flannel cloche, gavroche, peau de soie, organza and silk, velvet, lace, mink) or bring in your own fabric so they can make one to match an outfit. Some casual berets, straw foldables, scarves, cashmere caps, dressy headbands and shawls are also around. Hours by appointment. 9200 Park, #407. 514-383-5599.



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