Millions of viewers across the globe are predicted to tune in for tomorrow’s royal wedding, between American actress Meghan Markle and Prince Henry of Wales, otherwise known as Prince Harry. Some will watch for a glimpse of Markle’s much-anticipated gown; others to coo at three-year-old Princess Charlotte’s antics, or to muse at the monarchy’s extravagance.
And then, there’s the group of us who will be on the lookout for fascinators: those extravagant, baffling hats that top the heads of ladies and the occasional gentleman at many a British wedding. Remember the wildly flamboyant accessory Princess Beatrice wore
to William and Kate’s nuptials? It resembled a spiraling,
architectural detail. Beside her, her sister Princess Eugenie (who will have her own royal wedding this October) donned a blue boat-shaped hat that bursted with a giant purple rose and a spray of feathers. Both pieces were designed by Philip Treacy, the Irish milliner who is a favorite among the royals and socialites alike.
Fascinators, as we know them today, came onto the sartorial scene in the 1960s thanks to an American milliner named John P. John, who decorated his clients’ beehive updos with bits of fabric and other frippery. The style drew from miniature hats of decades past, like European doll hats from the 1940s, which perched jauntily on various parts of the head and were donned
as a means of resisting the period of austerity that resulted from Nazi occupation.
Through the ages, hats have held countless functions, whether for protection or decoration. They’ve also been used to signify status, resistance, cultural identity, and celebration—all of which have been documented throughout art history. Below, we bring you 12 hats found in paintings and photographs from the Renaissance to the 1960s that represent both daily life and jubilant occasions. And, in our opinion, they are all fit for a royal wedding.