What are the rules of teaming a hat with your outfit?
Getting the right hat can really top off your outfit. A tailored suit or dress should be paired with something formal and have a structure. Summer dresses are best suited to lightweight materials such as straw or cotton rather than thicker winter fabrics such as velvet. For a flowing dress, a large hat with a soft brim works perfectly. Experiment with colours. There's no hard fast rule that says the colour of your outfit should match the hat. While this is true in theory, contrasting colours sometimes work wonders.
What do you need to look for when trying on hats?
You want your hat to fit so measure your head. Take the outfit that you will wear with the hat when shopping in case you can't exchange them. Bring the other accessories too. This will help you choose the right style and colour for your features. If the hat doesn't complement the look, toss it. Get the balance right and don't let the hat overpower you.
Should your age determine your choice of style?
I salute the avant-garde and the rule breaker, like Stephen Jones millinery. Look at history and you'll find hats have been an integral facet of fashion, from old-fashioned Victorian hats to berets and Philip Treacy designs (for his modern architectural shapes). The trick is to diversify. While age is a factor, the driving force for choosing a hat should ultimately be to enhance your look. Do you want classic, casual or are you simply trying to make a statement? Determine what your influences are; mine are hats displayed in high-end/couture fashion.
Are there rules on choosing a hat to suit your face shape?
Certain hats look better on certain people as a result of their face shape. While there are basic rules to follow, don't get hung up on studying "the style that's meant for you". The key to wearing a hat is confidence and accentuation; don't let it detract from those special features. Here's a guide:
Round Select a high crown with a wide brim to elongate the face.
Long Again, a wide brim as this will balance the length of your face. However, no wide crown for you.
Hearts and diamonds Think medium. Medium crown and a medium brims are best. Avoid wide brims as these will make your face look narrower.
Square Regardless of the hat, ensure it sits high on your forehead like a rounded bowler hat or a soft beret.
Oval Lucky you. Just about any hat on the shelf will do wonders for your outfit.
Do you also need to consider body shape and height? And colouring?
Shorter people benefit with a high crown hat to add to the illusion of an extra inch or two. If you're blessed with long legs, medium crowns are the better option.
Versatile basics will go a long way. If you have cool colouring, opt for neutrals such as black, navy blue, sand, grey and soft / pure white. If you have warm colouring you'll look better in brown, beige, camel and olive- green. Avoid hats that are too close to your skin tone. When fitting, use a full-length mirror and see if it's in proportion to your body shape and height. Make sure it flatters from all angles. Small, petite women should avoid large hats with a large brim as they can consume the wearer. Never buy a hat with a brim that is wider than your shoulders, to avoid an uneven balance.
How should you wear your hair when wearing a hat?
Depending on the hat you choose, keep unruly hair out of the face as it creates a distraction.
For those with long or medium-length hair, a low ponytail looks best. If you have a fringe, tuck it underneath the hat so it doesn't draw attention away from the hat or cover your face. As with long hair, short hair should all be neatly tucked back behind the ears and the fringe concealed.
Any tips on avoiding 'hat hair'?
After several hours of hat wearing, in most cases, helmet hair is unavoidable. However, if you suffer from flyaway hair and frizz, use a setting serum to smooth it down and keep it in place. Add extra body while styling to avoid the flat look. Do this by brushing and blow drying your hair in the wrong direction (tilt your head down and blow dry upside down) then smooth into the desired style. For a quick fix, a bit of hairspray will help hold your hair in place.
How should one store and clean a hat?
Before leaving the store make sure you ask for a hat box. This will not only protect the hat from being crushed but will make your wardrobe look a whole lot neater. If the hat doesn't come with a box (most expensive hats should), it's worth investing in buying a box for it. While in storage, stuff the crown with tissue or crêpe paper and place it in the box. Remember that environmental factors can ruin your hat. When going on a long holiday, especially here in the Middle East, be sure to leave your AC on as high humidity can ruin your hat. Cleaning a hat depends largely on the type of material it is. If in doubt, it's best to take it to a careful drycleaner or expert cleaning professional.
Where to buy
Eve Michelle Boutique in the Magrudy Shopping Mall on Beach Road in Jumeirah, Dubai is where I love to shop. You can often see what's in store, such as forthcoming sales, by viewing her Facebook page. Alternatively, let your individualism shine with a custom-made hat to match your outfit by visiting Louise Harrison Couture in Souk Madinat Jumeirah (shop 112 near Costa Coffee).
For something really special, in the run-up to the Dubai World Cup, BurJuman Mall is hosting the leading millinery designers, providing the platform to add some international hat designs to your wardrobe. Watch out for Australian Kim Fletcher who will be showcasing her new styles.