Fashion: Hats Off to You: Tips and Trends for Wearing Hats

We stop and stare. Who is that wearing that hat? We think it must be somebody special. Indeed, hats have been crowning us with glory for thousands of years, ever since the first Phoenician women entered competitions for their glorious headpieces.

Today, celebrities know the glamorous power of the hat and the attention it creates. Just look at the toppers of Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Demi Moore, Beyonce Knowles and Harrison Ford

— all of whom have been “hat dressed” by Ellen Colon-Lugo, the milliner for both the theatre and the couture fashion crowd. Her famous “Ellen Christine” hats have turned heads for over 30 years.

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Rebecca Romijn wears a one-of-a-kind, custom-made hat by Ellen Christine at the 136th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

But you don’t have to be a movie star to look like somebody special in a hat, admits Colon-Lugo. “Truly, the only thing you need to wear a hat is a head,” she says, “and the best hat for you is the one that makes you smile.”

However, every face is different, so the milliner has a few tips for picking out the hat that is the most flattering. Here are her tips:

— Round faces should not wear round silhouettes, such as bowler hats.

— Long, narrow faces should not “do top hats.”

— Small, petite faces should not wear a brim that “turns you into a mushroom.”

When searching for the perfect hat — for those “see and be seen” A-list events (and not just that straw sun hat that you throw on before you hit the beach) — you should put your trust in the hands of an experienced milliner, according to the Ellen Christine designer, whose hats are available exclusively at her Chelsea boutique in New York. “I have customers who can wear showgirl headpieces and feel at ease,” she says. “Others are happy with a classic, contained shape.”

She also feels like your personal style should come through when wearing a hat … after all, you are making your own individual fashion statement. “The style that compliments you is the right style,” says Colon-Lugo, “not what the magazines say, or what your girlfriends say. As with clothing, the hat should fit the wearer.”

But there are always “trends” in fashion, she admits. And this year, the most popular hat trends are the classic favorites: the 1920s cloche is “a great shape, but not for all,” she says. “The fedora, stolen from men’s wear, always is hot as a look and stays classic,” she adds, “and it can rock the fashions of the season with diversity in proportion and color.”

The special occasion hat is another winner and appears at major social events like the recent Kentucky Derby; it will surely appear at the upcoming Veuve Clicquot’s Polo Classic in New York in June. “The picture hat has long been the definitive hat for many,” says Lugo-Colon, “with its crown, the large brim and the decorative touches. It will pop any outfit.” But, she says, these large hats do have one minor drawback: “It can get in the way of kissing your beau.”

Another big fashion trend on the hat social scene is the mini-headband called a “fascinator.” Colon-Lugo describes this new accessory as a “wisp of a feather or flower, with or without a veil that allows the non-hat wearer to leap across the void.”

But whatever hat you end up choosing to wear, one thing remains the same, according to the hat designer, especially if you have the good fortune to have a custom hat made for you. “Stay a bit classic,” says Colon-Lugo, “but remember the fun and excitement of the moment.”

And always begin by picking out your outfit first, she notes. Then shape your hat around your clothes. “A custom-made hat takes a little bit of time, a fitting or two and a lot of imagination, but imagination helps to make the magic of that one-of-a-kind piece that you can wear forever.”

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