How To Find A Hat That Suits Your Face Shape For Royal Ascot And Beyond

A milliner can help you find a flattering hat, but don’t forget comfort and confidence are key. 

How to find the best face shape for your hat

by Hattie Brett |
Updated on

You can tell that the summer social season has arrived, when people start googling about how to find a hat that suits them. Most women won’t wear hats very often, but when an invite comes in for a wedding with ‘Hats please!’ on the dress-code or you find yourself baffled by the rules and regulations of an event like Royal Ascot, it’s time to seek out advice.

The good news is, there’s a hat for everyone – if you know where to start. Fashion editors and milliners usually agree that, when you’re going to an occasion that demands a hat you should actually start with the dress. Deciding what you’re going to be wearing – including the shoes and the bag – will help you narrow down the type of hat to look for.

But that doesn’t mean everything has to match perfectly, as Jess Collett – a milliner who created hats for everyone from the Princess of Wales to Akshata Murty, cautions. ‘Remember that you don’t need something too matchy-matchy, if you can’t find something that goes with your dress then try something that will tone in with your shoes and handbag.’

It's best to try on hats in person, ideally with your outfit. A department store will have a lot of options, but better still make an appointment with a milliner. Collett rents her hats, too; a savvy option if you’re only going to wear it once. It’s also worth looking on rental site Hurr for a variety of hats you can rent by the week.

What are the rules about hats for Royal Ascot?

Next, think about the event. If you’re going to Royal Ascot there are specific rules guests should abide by. ‘Hats must be worn. However, a headpiece or hatinator with a minimum base diameter of 4 inches / 10cm is acceptable,’ reads the official Ascot dress code.

Beyond that though, there are no rules. In fact, as one of the most storied racing events in the world, guests tend to really dress up and experiment with their hats – especially on Ladies Day. Jess Collett, who has helped everyone from royals to loyal customers find the perfect Ascot hat for years, says: ‘Royal Ascot is all about dressing up and shining in your favourite hat. A hat is an expression of your personality. Make sure you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing and it’s well secured - take a handful of grips in your bag.’

What about hat etiquette at weddings?

Racing aside, many of us will have to seek out a hat for a wedding at some point in our lives. For this, it’s worth thinking about what time the wedding takes place. Are you looking for something you’ll wear in the afternoon at church but take off for dinner and dancing? Or is this a hat that needs staying power all night long?

Either way, Collett says comfort is key. ‘It’s going to be a long (and fun!) day, with lots of photos taken, so you don’t want a hat that will hide your face too much!’ she cautions. ‘Personally, I like to wear something that can be worn through from the church to the dancefloor to get maximum wear and so there’s no chance of leaving it behind.’

It's worth also thinking about what role you’ll be playing at the wedding. ‘If you’re Mother of the Bride, remember that you are at the front of the church so everyone will see the back of you, so consider a style with interest points from all angles,’ she advises. ‘You’ll also be kissing a lot of people so choose a style that won’t move every time someone dives in for a peck on the cheek!’

What kind of hats suit what face shape?

For everyone else, there us some simply guidance that can help when considering what hat will suit you. ‘No matter what face shape you have, feeling comfortable and confident is the most important thing,’ reminds Collett. ‘It’s a fun opportunity to play with colour and styling in a way you might not usually go for! That being said, certain shapes suit some more than others.’

Here is her advice for different face shapes:

If you have an oval face, you are lucky and will suit most hats!

If you have a round face, go for sharper angles slanting across the face. Cocktail hats are a great option!

If you have a square face, avoid sharp angles and go for silhouettes that will soften your features. Either a floppy brim or round crowns, cloche or bucket style.

If you have an oblong face, hats that cut across the face are the most flattering. Keep the crown low and the brim wide.

If you have a heart-shaped face, go for a mid-brim with angles. The satellite dish style looks fab.

If you have a diamond-shaped face with wide cheekbones, you want to create the illusion of length with your hat. Look for styles worn further back on the head, like the halo-style headbands or shallow crowns with brims that kick up.

In general, Collett says it’s all about balancing features, so if you're small go for upturned brims - the taller you are the bigger brim you can wear. ‘But remember that these are just general guidelines, if a hat is speaking to you just try it on!’

Can you buy a hat online?

Whilst most milliners would urge you to try on a hat in person, sometimes life gets in the way and you find yourself shopping online. If that’s the case, you’ll have less chance of having to return it if you opt for a universal, suits-everyone failsafe hat. ‘A small asymmetric hat is always a winner!’ says Collett. ‘A small button style is a sure failsafe and is the perfect starter shape for those who’ve not worn a hat before. The smaller scale is easy to wear and even easier to style, sitting forward and tilted to one side, sweeping the left eyebrow.’

She also says that, given how tricky it is to measure your head, you’ll want to look carefully at how it fastens. ‘Unless you know your head size, opt for a hat that fixes with a wire headband or elastic which you can hide under your hair,’ she advises.

How should you style hair with different hats?

So you’ve got the hat, but what about the hair. Often, we fall down when trying to work out whether we need a specific hair style with a hat. Collett says not. ‘If you’re lucky enough to have thick hair, a blow dry normally does the trick if you want to wear hair down. A bob also frames the face well and looks great down with hats. For thinner hair or for those wanting to style an updo, tie it back in a low ponytail or chic chignon, leaving some tendrils at the front to soften and shape the face.’

And finally, if you’re really torn and can’t decide what hat to choose, take this advice from Collett. ‘Take pictures of yourself so you can look at the overall silhouette and styling,’ she urges. ‘Sometimes it means stepping back from the mirror to be able to make a final decision.’

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