Mad hatters

By Laura Trask

Laura’s Fashion File

Zara Phillips

When it comes to hats, which the British  aristocrats have always favored, all bets are off, and the competition is on. So when Kate Middleton (a commoner) managed  to snag one of the few remaining princes in the world, she gave hope to single girls everywhere that they too could  find their prince. There was no doubt that the lucky invitees to this once-in-a-lifetime royal event would lose their heads over what to put on them, since a third of the world’s population would be watching.

No doubt that hats were originally created with utilitarian purposes, but soon became symbols of authority and status for the rich and powerful. A hat can be a magical devise which can change one’s  appearance, flattering (or hiding)  the features of the face. Wearing a hat actually draws the onlookers’ attention to the face, making a hat the most noticeable fashion item anyone can wear.

The hats that adorned the heads of the Royal Wedding guests (and there was not a woman with a bare head in all of Westminster Abbey) were certainly not meant for utilitarian functions but they were fanciful, detailed structures — modern art for the head! At the Royal Wedding, the most artistic and beautiful (Zara Phillip’s) and controversial (Princess Beatrice’s) hats were created by legendary milliner Philip Treacy.

Princess Beatrice

Treacy is the designer credited with taking the love of hat typically  seen on “women of a certain age and from a bygone era” to the forefront of fashion not only in England, but in all of Europe. Treacy, born in Ireland and one of 9 children, began to sew at age 5. His mother had chickens and ducks and a sewing machine; so, Philip felt he had all the raw materials he needed to create clothes and hats for his sisters’ dolls. After first attending the Art and Design school in Dublin, he eventually made his way to London where he attended The Royal College of Art.

London is where Treacy moved away from clothes and  began to focus solely on hats. It is also where he would meet Isabella Blow, the style editor for Tattler Magazine, who would push Treacy’s unique talent to the  top of his field in the fashion world. With Blow’s help and connections, he would establish a 10-year design relationship with the house of Chanel, which only launched him further as the world’s most well-known milliner. Treacy’s hats were so elaborate and fanciful that they earned places in numerous Art Biennales across Europe. But most importantly, he has captured the attention and the client base of the most influential people in Europe, designing 36 of the Royal Wedding hats, including that of Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Kentucky Derby Hat

We rarely see hats paraded about in America. The closest we come in this country to covering our noggins creatively is the Kentucky Derby. Horse racing has always been considered the “Sport of Kings.” We here in America patterned our racing attire after the elegant and fanciful ensembles of the Royal Ascot in England, and Derby Attendees have kept that tradition going since 1875. No doubt the American spirit was up and running at this year’s 137th Kentucky Derby, which rode in on the heels of the Royal Wedding.

So who was this year’s winner in the “hat” race? You decide!




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