Fascinator 101: Everything You Need to Know Before the Royal Wedding

There will be plenty of headwear on display

Updated 03/01/18
1:23

Best Fascinators From Past Royal Weddings

There’s still so much to do before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal wedding! Between predictions and preparations, we are especially looking forward to the wedding guest fashion extravaganza (we're looking at you Spice Girls). And when it comes to royal wedding guest attire, fascinators are de rigeuer.

Hats and fascinators are a high-society staple across the pond, but with an American as our bride, and many American wedding guests, will the accessory still reign supreme? We spoke with Marie Galvin of Marie Galvin Fine Millinery, an Irish-born, Boston-based milliner, to find out everything you need to know about the royal (and derby) accessory. From the history of the fascinator to what we can expect from Prince Harry and Meghan's guests, Galvin helps us deconstruct it all before May 19th.

Why does one wear a fascinator? What does it symbolize?

For some women it represents a status symbol or honoring tradition, for others it's pure fun. Depending on the event, there’s often an unspoken competition for best fascinator or headpiece, and that’s where the fun ensues. Some of my customers wear them as a form of self expression, especially the more elaborate and artistic pieces. A great headpiece is like a fab pair of Louboutins. It completes an ensemble and adds a sexy-chic sophistication to the overall look.

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What differentiates a fascinator from other types of headwear?

Americans became obsessed with the word fascinator during and after Kate & William’s royal wedding. It was mentioned in every report from the extravagant day that was as much about fashion as the new royal couple themselves. Viewers worldwide were given a window into how people dress for weddings in England and the world became enamored with fascinators. However, the concept is a hotly debated one in the millinery world. Not everything that is worn on the side of one’s head is considered to be a fascinator.

Usually it's created with some feathers, veiling, crib, and a wide array of embellishments that have mass appeal.

Are there certain fascinator styles that are more appropriate for a wedding?

It all depends on the requirements set forth by the couple on their invitation. If you’re invited to a wedding in the British Isles, it will be specified in the dress code. Often the word “encouraged” is used. It has, however, become a tradition to at least embellish your head with something chic and classic, and that’s why fascinators have become so popular for weddings. For wedding season I work mostly with sinamay straws, parisisal straw-like structures that are beautifully elegant and impeccably adorned.

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What is typically worn with a fascinator? How would you suggest styling it?

It depends on the intricacy, embellishments, and overall design of the headpiece. They look great with a dress or a sophisticated well-fitted pant suit. I like to assist my clients with the final details. I always take a photo of my clients wearing the fascinator correctly for their reference later. One should have a cohesive look head to toe—there is nothing worse than a fascinator as an afterthought.

When in doubt, get inspiration from the royal family, especially Kate Middleton’s personal style. She always looks perfect for every occasion and she never misses the mark on her headwear selection.

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Are you seeing any headwear trends emerge for Harry and Meghan’s wedding?

Anything from perchers to bold and unusual architectural shapes will be in demand for the wedding. Head-to-toe monochromatic color palettes are always on trend for royal weddings. Of course there will be the many variations of classic disc-like structures from wide to upswept shapes with twists and turns.

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How will styles this year vary from those made for the guests at William and Kate’s wedding?

Since the [2011 royal] wedding, there are many new and innovative millinery materials and techniques available. We will still see many creative couture headpieces designed in interesting and modern fabrications. Truly, the sky’s the limit.

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Will American guests be wearing fascinators or hats to the wedding? What can they wear to respect the tradition and British culture?

I forecast they will be wearing both. Many Americans often [feel like they] need an excuse to wear a hat or fascinator and what better occasion than a royal wedding? I encourage invited guests to visit a couture milliner like myself to procure their headwear selection.

If Americans learned anything from Kate and William’s wedding, they will know that 99 percent of the guests wore hats. Go to a milliner who is experienced with special occasion headwear. Most importantly, find your comfort zone and don’t go out on a limb.

READ MORE: [All the British Wedding Traditions You Need to Know](https://www.brides.com/gallery/british-royal-wedding-traditions)

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