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How to find the perfect wedding guest hat according to an expert

Whether you're a wedding guest or going to the races, here are all the formal hat do's and don'ts according to a top milliner...

The Victoria beret is part of Awon Golding's SS23 couture collection for Lock & Co.
Orin Carlin
Orin CarlinContent Writer
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When it comes to finding the ideal hat to suit a formal occasion, there's not a lot that Awon Golding doesn't know. 

The creator of  handmade hats and bridal headpieces "that inspire and empower women," she is Head Millinery designer at the esteemed British heritage brand Lock & Co., the world’s oldest hat shop. A favourite of the royals her hats have graced the heads of the Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Sussex, Dita Von Teese, Kylie Minogue, and Lady Gaga to name but a few.

READ: 6 statement designer headbands and how to wear them this season

MORE: 5 Hat trends for races and weddings that you need to know about before Ascot 2023

ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 15: Milliner, Awon Golding attends Royal Ascot 2022 at Ascot Racecourse on June 15, 2022 in Ascot, England. (Photo by Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images for Royal Ascot)© Kirstin Sinclair
Awon Golding attending Royal Ascot on June 15, 2022

Finding your perfect hat according to Awon Golding:

Do consider your height 

"If you’re on the shorter side go with a hat or headpiece that angles upwards and creates visual lift. Steer clear of large brims that will create a visual barrier and accentuate your petite stature," Awon advises. "Taller women can carry a wide brim well. When trying on wide brims try and match your brim width to your shoulders. Stay away from hats with brims wider than your shoulders as they create a squat silhouette."

Couture Collection SS23 - Awon Golding x Lock & Co.
Couture Collection SS23 - Awon Golding x Lock & Co.

Don't shy away from a matching colour moment 

"I’d love to say choose the hat first, but it really is easier to start with the outfit. You’ll be able to find a matching colour hat if you’ve started with the outfit rather than the other way around."

Prince Louis stole the show in his cobalt blue shorts© Getty
Princess Kate wore a Lock & Co. pillbox hat to attend the royal family's Easter service

Do try on plenty of styles

"The best bit of advice I can give is really to try on as many hats as possible as comfort and confidence are the key to wearing a hat well. Once you’ve settled on your perfect hat ask your milliner how you should be wearing it properly. Take a photo so that you can refer back to it when you’re putting it yourself at home or show it to your hairdresser so they can fit it perfectly."

Don't forget the fastening 

"The elastic is always at the nape of the neck, not under the chin! This isn’t a children’s birthday party."

Woman wearing a pillbox hat © Awon Golding Millinery
Couture Collection SS23 - Awon Golding x Lock & Co.

Do think about what size will flatter you the most 

"Small head or face? Wear a small hat like a button base or headband. Large head or face? Wear a larger hat with a larger brim or base. Angles are always more flattering, wear your hat cocked slightly to one side."

What is the difference between a hat and a fascinator?

"The dreaded 'fascinator'. I personally hate the word as it conjures an off-the-shelf tuft of sad feathers and poorly glued sinamay," Awon says. "I opt for the term 'headpiece' instead, which gives a more substantial and crafted feel. The difference between a hat and a fascinator is really size. Fascinators (or headpieces) are usually of a smaller size and worn with a headband."

Couture Collection SS23 - Awon Golding x Lock & Co.
Couture Collection SS23 - Awon Golding x Lock & Co.

Which hat is best to wear to a wedding as a guest?

"Number one rule of thumb? Don’t upstage the bride!" Awon says. "A large show-off hat is fine if you’re the mother-of-the-bride or groom, but something a little more subtle such as a headband, veil or button base is better for a guest. Even a boater or a picture hat would work well, but keep in mind it’s her day not yours."

awon golding
Couture Collection SS23 - Awon Golding x Lock & Co.

Which hats are appropriate for Ascot or other race day events?

"Depending on which area you’re in, you’ll have to choose your millinery accordingly. In the Royal Enclosure your hat must have a base of 10cm or more, for Queen Anne and Village enclosures any form of hat, headpiece or headband is allowed, and if you’re in the Windsor Enclosure anything goes, but keep it classy. If in doubt, best to refer to the strict dress codes of the different Ascot tiers." Awon advises, "With these dress code rules in mind Royal Ascot is really a great opportunity to showcase the fun side of fashion, with many opting for bright summery tones and fun whimsical millinery."

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