How to Buy a Hat

Millinery Musings from Suzanne Gill – How to Buy a Hat for the Races

How to Buy a Hat for the races

When I wrote my last blog we were in the middle of an unseasonable heat wave. If you were like me your summer wardrobe had an airing and spring had sprung!!

Fast forward five weeks and we are back in winter. So what to wear on your head for the summer season (I know don’t laugh!!)? I think I will avoid advising on the type of hat material to wear as I will probably bring on a snowstorm so instead I will give you lovely ladies tips on how to buy a hat…

When I was young(er!!) all the department stores had fantastic Millinery departments. You could try on hats to your heart’s content – I remember fondly trying on all manner of hats with my Mother. However as hats have not been in vogue for a number of years these departments have all but vanished, and so has the advice.

Due to the Ascot ban (on fascinators for the Royal Enclosure – hats only) and runway shows, hats are big news this summer.

When most of my new clients walk thought the door, they all say “I don’t suit hats”. After some gentle persuasion from me they try on a number of designs, then they are hooked.

So here are some tips:

  • Your outfit and hat should be like the perfect marriage they should complement one another not argue!
  • If you are petite in height avoid wearing large brims or you may run the risk of looking like a mushroom!
  • Swept brims are more flattering – if your hat has a turned down brim, wear at a slightly jaunty angle for the same effect.
  • More curvaceous ladies can balance their frame by wearing a larger brim; wearing a small hat will be unflattering.
  • Perches avoid hat hair.
  • Fully upturned brims are good for ladies who wear glasses.
  • To keep a fascinator on, slightly backcomb your hair. This will give your hair more body and give the comb more hair to grip onto.

The beauty of having a consultation with an independent designer like me is we do know our product. We are more than happy to offer advice or other services such as replacing a broken feather or re-trimming your favourite hat to co-ordinate with your new outfit.

A common myth is that bespoke Millinery is expensive. Most Milliners like me are lucky enough to work from a small studio at home. As we do not have costly high street rents to pay we can pass on the reduction to our customers.

If you do choose to buy from a local Milliner or designer you will have a truly unique piece made just for you. You are also helping to support British designers. Our weather may be foul but our fashion industry is fab!


“I qualified with a distinction in HNC Millinery at the Leeds College of Art in July 2010.  I specialise in designing and hand making one-off bespoke hats and headpieces both in classic and contemporary styles, although Winter Fashion  forward pieces is where my passion really lies.

“Before graduating I was offered a commission to design and make a collection of 1940s hats for an exhibition at one of the country’s leading tourist attractions. I have also collaborated both locally and nationally with LK Bennett, one of the country’s most prestigious fashion brands.

“I have a real passion for my art, and I hope this is conveyed in each individual piece I design and produce. I believe designs that hold true to our British heritage have a strong place in today’s market where customers are seeking providence from the goods they buy.

“I live in Ampleforth on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, an area which is truly inspirational. I live at home with my two daughters. My husband is in the oil industry and travels away from home frequently. We have a soft Labrador called Harry, we enjoy a daily walk on the moors. When I do have time I love riding and make the most of the open moors for a good gallop!!

“I travel to Paris on a regular basis and again this is a huge inspiration to me. The city is so beautiful and I have always had a love of the French fashion houses of Chanel and Dior. I have a love of vintage clothes and I feel this feeds my inspiration.”


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