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The History of Fascinator Hats

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From the Kentucky Derby to royal weddings and other high-society events, fascinator hats top the heads of women everywhere. They have become a fashion staple that almost every woman has in her wardrobe.

But the fascinators we know and love today looked entirely different when they first adorned women’s heads back in the 17th century. Let’s take a quick trip to the past and dive into the history of fascinator hats.

From Scarves Adding a Veil of Mystery to Vogue Headpieces Worn by Royals

When women first started wearing fascinators, they used scarves or veils that they wrapped around their heads. They were knitted, crocheted, or made of silk, net, or lace. Their purpose wasn’t to make a fashion statement like today, but rather to add a bit of mystery to their appearance.

In the 18th century, Marie Antoinette started adorning her hair with feathers, flowers, jewels, and even miniature waxen figures, such as battleships. A new trend was born, sparking creativity among upper-class women who wanted to look bold and extravagant.

From the 1920s all the way to the ‘60s, fashion designers brought different tiny hats, often embellished with various trinkets, such as pearls, ribbons, feathers, sequins, and other decorations. They called them doll hats, clip-hats, or half-hats.

It wasn’t until the late ‘60s that fascinators started becoming the head-turning pieces we know today. Stephen Jones, one of the leading British milliners, started making them out of veiling that women wore on top of their “beehive” hair.

In the ‘70s, he reimagined them entirely and created a boom in the fashion industry that has been growing ever since. Jones and award-winning milliner Philip Treacy have popularized fascinator hats in the ‘80s, inspiring even royals to use them to top their outfits.

Who Coined the Term “Fascinator”?

Stephen Jones gave fascinators their unique name. In part, the term comes from the way fascinators are attached to the head, that is, fastened by a ribbon or a clip.

But that wasn’t all that Jones had in mind when coming up with the name for his new hats. He was thinking about calling these headpieces something whimsical that would describe their uniqueness and extravagance.

The fastening part played a role, as it reminded him of the word “fascinating.” Hence, a fascinator.

Fascinators rarely have a functional purpose, but they can complement various outfits and even elongate one’s silhouette. They have become works of art that women worldwide seek to own to adorn their hair and express their personality.

And why wouldn’t they? These stylish headpieces trace back through the centuries and have always been worthy of royals. They are fascinating conversation-starters that exude glamour and elegance, and every single woman deserves to have one in her wardrobe.