Holiday Fascinator: a spoonful of fun

Mademoiselle Colette

Thrilling things often come in small packages – that has never been more true than this autumn at Polly Singer Couture Hats and Veils. Just in time for the holiday party season, we’re unveiling a collection of hats so petite and precious they should be measured in carats.

The seven bewitching new fascinators run the gamut from unabashedly romantic to sophisicated and mysterious. The common characteristic is that each little headpiece packs a head turning punch. In some of the designs, Moulin Rouge and Domino for instance, much of the dazzle is created by the exhuberant interplay of long feathers and lush silk flowers.

Moulin Rouge
With several of the designs, veiling sets the mood —and the moods do vary. In the case of Frappé an ivory bird cage veil whispers innocently of romance. Frappé is popular with brides as a less formal wedding veil, or as a reception headpiece. It also works fabulously well with winter white wool. On quite the opposite end of the spectrum is Kir Royal. A mysterious dark veil, shot with white velvet floats beneath rich black trims and violet velvet. Tutti Frutti owes it’s whimsical appeal to an amusing chin length veil across which candy colored dots play giving the illusion of a constant shower of confetti.

Kir Royale
Tutti Frutti

All of these designs play well with a little black dress. Moulin Rouge and Grenadine Fizz take advantage of crimson’s affinity for black and white. Moulin Rouge brings the glamor of a casino to basic black. More playful, yet every bit as eye catching is Grenadine Fizz with its wisp of a veil and sassy scarlet and white trim.

Grenadine Fizz

Crème de Menthe is a study in movement and vivid color. Among the dancing black feathers iridescent peacock spires glimmer, working their timeless magic.

Creme de Menthe

These charming little hats range in price from $190. to $250. and are brilliant at breathing new life into last year’s party dress. The right fascinator can transform an otherwise conservative ensemble into a stunning holiday look. This Thanksgiving, I refuse to go over the river and through the woods dressed like a pilgrim. This sweet whimsey in Cocoa guarantees that I won’t be upstaged by a turkey. Whether you want to be the girl in the limelight or the mysterious siren of the shadows I encourage you to consider a fascinator. In fact, you might as well take two —remember, they’re small.

photo by Elaine Shay
By Jan Masters Yon

Note: We enjoy hearing from readers and invite your comments. My email address is Polly may be reached at We both look forward to your input.

What are you wearing?

In the last post we explored the challenge of picking the head piece or veil that best suits the bride’s features. Today I’d like to continue with another important consideration; finding a head piece that best suits the bride’s frock. I love the sleek, elegant gowns that are so in vogue. They are often strapless or a simple tank style bodice. In terms of accessorizing, these gowns are easy to get along with. Almost anything from a simple Half Circle Veil to a more elaborate headpiece works well. Mademoiselle Colette in Ivory or the Sequins veil adds texture and movement without sacrificing the contemporary mood.

Many brides adopt the charming tradition of wearing their mother’s gown.Stepping back a generation puts us in the era of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s royal wedding and the elaborate frocks that were in fashion. These extravagant creations can be up dated with a more simple veil such as a Flyaway Veil or Soutache Edged Single Layer Veil rather than one of the complicated head pieces of the time.

Many second time or older brides who choose an elegant suit or street length dress instead of the traditional gown have any number of options. A veiled head piece, Sophia’s Veil for instance looks extremely well with these ensembles. A fascinator with a touch of veiling is particularly becoming to the more mature bride. Ladies over 40, the veil is your friend! A smart hat such as Summer Wedding or Churchhill Mist is a very chic yet romantic finish to a non traditional dress.

Whether the bride’s vision of her wedding ensemble is a contemporary gown or suit or a romantic wedding dress of her mother’s era, the trick is to choose a head piece that complements but doesn’t upstage the frock; just as the gown should never upstage the bride. In the next post we’ll consider how the location of the wedding affects choice of a hat or veil.

More on Top Hats

Nothing now could take the wind out of my sails.
Because I’m invited to step out this evening
With top hat and white tie and tails.
Irving Berlin

Royal Ascot, Fred Astaire, riding to hounds, Cabaret, impressarios, John Singer Sargent’s incomparable portrait of Lord Ribbesdale, Willy Wonka, opening night at the opera, Alice’s mad teaparty – countless things whimsical and romantic have a common icon. One happy day I was given the task of choosing a name for my first field hunter, a compact, glossy black gentleman of a horse; it was after very little hesitation that I knew. Such a once in a lifetime animal must be called Top Hat.

For one thing, the top hat is associated with gentlemen. In 1890, the St. James Gazette writes “When we are told, ‘He’s a fellow who wears a top hat and a frock coat,’ we know sufficiently well what sort of fellow he is”.

Originally, the top hat was modeled after the tall hats made of beaver in the early 1800’s. During the early part of the twentieth century which, by the way, is known as The Century of the Top Hat, animal fur was replaced by “hatter’s plush” or silk fabric. This made the hat more accessible to the rising middle class and must have been greeted with enthusiasm by the North American Beaver population.

The popularity of the top hat, or “high hats” as they were called in the 1920’s fell off when men began to wear bowlers and fedoras for day wear. One of the factors in the decline of the top hat is that they were not suitable for mass production. A top hat must be hand made by a skilled hatter. Sadly, few young people were willing to take up the trade.

Those of us who are reluctant to consign the top hat to extinction are in luck. Polly Singer Hats Couture Hats and Veils has added several new top hat designs to the line. For a distinguished, distinctly equestrian look Polly has taken the classic equestrian style top hat and experimented with various trims.

Lady Salisbury, named for the first woman to ever hold the position of Master of Foxhounds, has the flattering proportions of the style hat that is still required attire in upper level dressage competition. Lady Salisbury, available in black or navy sports a feminine swath of black veiling.

Miss Skittles, inspired by Catherine Walters, a nineteenth century beauty who made a name for herself as a horsewoman and lady cavalier is distinguished by a lush hand band fashioned from pheasant feathers in autumn colors which is a perfect complement with earth-toned fashions.

Celia, is the most whimsical of this line, again, well bred equestrian lines ornamented with black satin ribbon, several iridescent feathers secured by tiny seed pearls. Appropriately named, this most unorthodox tophat in the collection honors Celia Fiennes whose diary entitled Through England on a Side Saddle records Celia’s extraordinary horseback journey through 17th Century England.The design Celia is as lively and bold as it’s namesake.

All three of the aforementioned top hats are perfect with suits, and pants suits and complement all styles of outerwear from dressiest coats to your beloved knock-about-jacket. For the evening however, Polly has taken the top hat down a more fanciful path. Minaturized and unrestainedly decorative her mini top hats are a spoonfuls of fun!

In the spirit of Madmoiselle Magnifique, the new design, Cabaret is a delightfully droll headpiece with a lot going on– a flume of airy crinoline, irridescent peacock feathers and stripped coque in black and fuchsia make this hat a stunner. Nothing more than a simple black dress is needed to create a sensation.

During the holiday season one sure fire way to stand out among the ubiquitous black is by wearing winter white. Polly has designed a tiny white top hat for this contrarian’s choice. White Mischief is a crisp little sinamay top hat banked in white veiling and tufts of white feathers. The look is both ethereal and witty. The hat can be customized by touches of color or done in all white as a sophisticated bridal look with today’s sleek strapless gowns.

My dear horse Top Hat is living out his retirement in a vast field of Kentucky bluegrass having during his career carried me on breathless chases and my child over even more nerve-wracking 4-H jump courses. He has on occasion submitted with great humor to wearing a Dracula cape or butterfly wings in costume classes. Everything ever asked of him, he’s performed with impeccable manners, courage and great wit– a gentleman to the tips of his ears, ever mindful of living up to the name “Top Hat”.

by Jan Masters Yon