Skip to main content

Fascinated by Fascinators

Have you ever worn a fascinator? It’s similar to a hat, minus the traditional crown or brim. It's usually worn at a rakish angle, and it can feature a small attached veil and/or feathers, ribbons, jewels or other types of trim. I think of it as a hat's less-inhibited, cheeky cousin - lighter and more fun. 

Although currently popular, fascinators in some form have existed for centuries. During the Regency and even earlier, women often wore jeweled headbands in their coiffures and added ornaments such as ostrich plumes or flowers.  

1799 Caricature by Isaac Cruikshank, satirizing the fashions worn by high-society Parisian women. 

Similar hat-alternatives are worn today, and they are nowhere more in evidence than at the annual Royal Ascot races in Berkshire, England. In fact, hats for women are part of the dress code for this event, which dates back to 1711. The tradition of wearing flamboyant hats to the Ascot races was highlighted in the Ascot Gavotte scene in the 1964 movie My Fair Lady. The hats designed by Cecil Beaton were so large it was hard to see who was under them!

Today's attendees at the races wear similar outrageous headgear, both as fascinators or as oversize hats:
A race watcher in the Royal Enclosure at the 2009 Ascot races. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

The younger British royals favor fascinators, too. Here's a photo of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, wearing a fascinator to the 2011 Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa:

Photo by Pat Pilon (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Likewise, Princess Beatrice of York has several fascinators in her closet, including this one that she wore in April of 2012 to a Maundy Thursday service:

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Princess Beatrice is also famous for wearing this fascinator, designed by Philip Treacy, to the royal wedding of her cousin Prince William to Kate Middleton: 

Photo courtesy of

To me, Princess Beatrice's fascinator and the others on this page look like direct descendants of the type of headgear Marie Antoinette perched on her head.

A portrait of Marie Antoinette, painted circa 1779 by Charles Emmanuel Patas 

What do you think? 


Popular posts from this blog

The end of the Holy Roman Empire, or what happens when the Empire doesn't strike back

This is the way the world ends Not with a bang  but a whimper T.S. Eliot wasn't actually describing the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire when he wrote those words in his poem, “The Hollow Men.” Nonetheless, his words are an extremely apt way to describe the end of the Holy Roman Empire, which ended quietly with a stroke of a pen exactly 212 years ago in August of 1806. That’s when the last emperor decided it was his duty to abdicate, letting the ancient dominion under his protection dissolve rather than allow Napoleon to usurp the role of Holy Roman Emperor and everything that came with it. Francis II, the last Holy Roman Emperor By that August the end of the empire had become inevitable. Napoleon’s victory over Russia and Austria at the Battle of Austerlitz in December of 1805 and his formation of the Confederation of the Rhine the following July (after he convinced 16 German princes to renounce their allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire and join him)

Macaroni Men and Yankee Doodles

The Spirit of '76  (original title Yankee Doodle ) by Archibald Willard, painted in the late 1800s November is a month that here in the United States is defined by food, culminating in a huge Thanksgiving Day feast. It's also the month we honor our military veterans. So I'm going to focus on both food and patriotism - especially an Italian pasta product that became synonymous with a controversial English fashion and developed uniquely American associations. "The Macaroni"- 1773 During the 18th century, it was all the rage for young men of the English nobility to take a trip through Europe to soak up its art and culture. It was called the Grand Tour. In Italy, these privileged lads discovered a pasta dish far removed from their usual British fare. It was called maccaroni , and they raved about it when they got back home. The travelers became known as the Macaroni Club, though there is no evidence an actual club ever existed. But it

The Cato Street Conspiracy

The Cato Street conspirators getting arrested Conspiracy and treason go hand in hand. Throughout history, conspirators have huddled in back rooms and dark corners in secret, concocting schemes that are both dangerous and illegal. So it’s no surprise that their plans often spiral out of control and end in disaster.  A good example of a conspiracy plot gone wrong happened during the Regency. It’s been dubbed the Cato Street Conspiracy because of where the conspirators were caught. This is a tale that, according to historian J.B. Priestley (author of The Prince of Pleasure and his Regency) “begins in absurdity and ends in horror.” The year was 1820. Though the Napoleonic Wars were over, Britain had paid a heavy price for its victory against the French. The costs of the war had strained the country’s economy. The working classes were hit hard by periods of famine, rising food prices due to the Corn Laws, and high unemployment, the latter driven by soldiers returning from th