Admittedly, a huge hat isn't as easy of a piece to wear as a cute clutch, or even a statement necklace. The big hat is its own statement, and it's important, when diving into this delightful adventure of feathery, flowery goodness, to achieve coordination and balance in your ensemble.
The Steps to Picking the Right Hat
1) Pick your dress. A gal can get away with a skirt/top combination, or nice linen pants, but a sundress works with a hat even better than bourbon and muddled mint leaves.
2) Pick your shoes. At the track I recommend flops, or wedges if you're feeling posh, but stilettos will sink into the grass and cramp your fun. But the point here is, if your shoes make a statement, tone down the hat.
3) Pick the right hat for your face shape (see below).
4) Pick embellishments for the hat that either pop the outfit or coordinate with it.
Race hats come in many shapes and sizes, so aside from being outrageous and fun, they must also flatter your face. Below is a guideline for picking a hat style that complements your face shape, courtesy of www.hat-a-tude.com.
- If your face is round or square, you'll want to go for a straight brim, large brim, fedora or low crown hat. Avoid deep rolled short brims, and hats too small for your head.
- If your face is narrow, you can pull off the flat crown, the gambler, the low crown, or the flat, wide brim - just about anything, except high crown hats. You'll look too long.
- If your face is oval-shaped, dive right in - you can pull off any of these looks.
Once you have picked your hat size and style, and your dress, you generally have one of two routes to choose: you either emphasize the dress, or the hat. But not both.
If your dress is patterned, unless it is very subtle and low-key, keep your hat color and decor to a minimum to avoid looking psychotic and overdone. Or, you can match the two, or stick to a black-and-white pallette. Here are a few examples of this classy combination (photos from hat-a-tude.com):
If your dress is a solid, or a very subtle pattern in a neutral or close to it (solid embroidery, seersucker, very subdued florals), feel free to let your hat do the shouting. This is the route I plan to take:
Once you have your outfit and hat style decided upon, time to decorate that thing. As you can see from the pictures, the hats' colors always coordinate with the outfit. If your dress is patterned, keep the hat solid or put in one other color from your dress, and keep flounce to a lower level. With solid dresses, the hat can incorporate just about any colors you want, but it's best if at least one of those is the shade of your frock.
And when it comes to ornamentation, this is a time to have fun. Deck it out with lillies, roses, netting, ribbon, and feathers of all kinds. This chance doesn't come around too often, so make the most of it!
A few suggestions on making your overall look ladylike, sophisticated and beautiful:
1) Scale down the jewelry. Pearl or diamond studs, a ring and a bracelet are plenty.
2) Clutches are best for staying out of the eyeline of the hat (not on your shoulder). Try wicker or leather, but keep it simple and make sure you can fit a flask in there.
3) I prefer hair down under the hat, but keep bobby pins or an elastic handy - if you get hot, whisk the hair under the hat and you still look chic.
4) Wear sunscreen! Everywhere!
5) Keep your colors in mind when you get a mani/pedi. Sounds minute, but if you're wearing sandals and dressing up, people will see your nails. A soft pink or classic red are good bets.
6) Nothing looks better under a hat besides a sundress than a huge pair of sunglasses.
Coming soon: a photo essay on my hat creation project.