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Old Hat, New Hat.

What's ahead for millinery in 2021?

[Scene from My Fair Lady film, 1964]

There's still a lot of 2020 left. But rather than returning to events with a bang, as many hoped would happen after the first crisis of COVID-19 hit, instead we are settling into to a longer, drawn-out scenario worldwide, and with no certainty about what lies ahead.

This has affected fashion, and the rule books have been set aside as people work out new ways to adapt and enjoy fashion within the restrictions set by governments, illness, economic circumstances and social considerations. Events are sporadic: some continue with fewer crowds, some have gone virtual, some have been postponed.

But even though fashion seems like a guilty pleasure right now, it is okay to enjoy looking at beautiful outfits and wondering about what creative looks we will be seeing in the future. After all, art in its various forms is often at the forefront of recovery (economic and social), so enjoy this creative diversion while I look at the millinery trends which have been peeping out from the sidelines of corona-craziness.

These are some of the styles I expect we'll be seeing more of, from those who will continue to find excuses to dress up regardless of the challenges thrown at them.....

  • Mops (Note: not an official term!!)

[Hats by ~ Alexandra Harper; Philip Treacy; Siana Yewdall; William Chambers]

Mops is my affectionate term for the feathered creations which have become popular again recently especially in the UK and Ireland over summer. While many of them are big glorious balls of ostrich feathers, there have been some interesting and quirky variations utilising a variety of feathers and shapes which fall into this category.

It takes a bit of spirit to wear one of these headpieces well, but in the current climate, the 'don't care/have fun' attitude of a headful of feathers waving in the wind is the perfect antidote. They are also (ironically) a great option for windy days as the movement of the feathers is part of the appeal. You'll love them or hate them, but you can't ignore them!

Feathered bob headpiece by Michelle Kearns Designs, worn by Alex Butler recently for the Galway Virtual Ladies Day.

Part hat, part wig ~ this unique and modern structural piece was made from hundreds of hand-cut feathers on a wire frame, made to flow with the lines of the jumpsuit.

Peach headpiece by Montgomery Millinery, worn by Rebecca Rose in Ireland recently.

A pretty and feminine look, suitable for all ages.

Earlier this year, Peta Bell wore this Miss Haidee Millinery headpiece for the Millicent Racing Club fashions competition.

An example of contrasts - contrasting colours, and also contrasting textures/structures (the simple and stiff lines of the dress are balanced against the fluffy and loose look of the hat).

  • 'Man-style' hats. The larger the better.

Trilbies. Fedoras. Homburgs. Stetsons/Cowboys/Gambler hats. Even Panama hats.

[Hats by Julian Garner; Philip Treacy; Philip Treacy; Lock & Co. Hatters]

It shouldn't be a surprise that traditionally 'male' style hats are popular (yet again). Aside from being practical (especially in summer weather), there continues to be an increase in popularity of mixing gendered clothing in different and interesting ways, especially as gendered norms continue to flux. A large, bold hat can go equally as well with a nicely-shaped dress, a tailored suit, or a variety of mix and match outfits.

Aneka Truman wore this outstanding hat made by Peacock Millinery to the Darwin Cup. It was the finishing touch on a simple but striking self-made outfit in a clever colour combination.

Caroline Moore, daughter of trainer John Moore, at Hong Kong in a paribuntal straw Trilby by Ewina Ibbotson. She had the hat dyed to match her father's racing silks.

Zimmerman outfit - all florals and frills - paired with a masculine-style hat. The contrast works well. Don't be afraid to experiment.

  • Turbans, Wraps and Bandeaus

[Turban by Rona Turbans; Sarah Cant Millinery; Lock & Co.Hatters bandeau]

With the rise of casual workwear, we are also seeing a rise in 'casual-look' occasion headwear. The benefit of pretty but less structured headwear pieces are that they can be worn for many different occasions, and dressed up or down depending on the outfit. Given the current uncertainty in the world, turbans and wraps in particular make for a good and cost-effective headwear option.

Rosie Tapner in Sarah Cant Millinery, paired with a printed shirt dress. One of the many beautiful outfits shared online after the changes in the UK and Irish summer racing seasons.

Francesca Cumani keeping things simple, wearing a headpiece by Juliette Millinery.

Wraps and bandeaus especially are useful if you don't have time for the hairdresser. They can look equally good with upstyles, or leaving your hair out - as can be seen from these two examples.

  • Turban and bandeau from Lock & Co. Hatters' current range

  • Large, flamboyant brims

[Millinery by Edwina Ibbotson; Sarah Sokol; Jess Collett; Justine Bradley-Hill]

The opposite of the casual turbans and bandeaus, large brimmed hats are a symbol of confidence, defiance, celebration.....or social distancing.

In a world where we need positive moments or images to fire our imaginations, there will be those who champion the cause. Just as Dior's New Look, with its volumes and volumes of fabric heralded a step away from the austerity of war in the 1940s, large brims can also signify a step away from the mundanity of social isolation and comfort wear - even if only for a day. If you're needing a break from the everyday and a chance to make a visual impact, go for a big, flamboyant brim and make the most of the opportunity!

Danielle Gingell won the recent Her Best Dressed virtual competition at the Galway races in this hat by Arturo Rios.

Stacey Roberts in a simple but stunning yellow large-brimmed hat she made herself.

Another virtual fashions winner - Linda Vittone-Malone, who won the Punchestown races fashions with her statement hat by Carol Kennelly.

And finally.....

  • Nostalgia ~ hats from, or inspired by, previous decades

With so much time sitting at home for many people, there is plenty of time for nostalgia, imagination and creativity. With vintage looks trending strongly even before the COVID-19 restrictions set in, expect to see even more inspiration from the 20th Century as people use or re-use fashion from their favourite bygone eras.

The 1960s will continue to be a popular decade, but also expect to see millinery and outfits ranging from the 1940s to the 1980s especially. The rule books are out now that corona-crastination is in: expect to see many influences grace the catwalks, with modern twists on old ideas. But don't just plonk an 80s-style sailor hat or 50s tea hat on your head - think about how you can utilise whatever resources you have to hand to create a wonderful and cohesive homage to times gone by :)


What millinery influences do YOU think we'll see as the year ends and 2021 arrives? Add your thoughts or go to the Facebook page.

[Maddi the dog, who entered the Ascot Racecourse #styledwiththanks Fashion event. Photo courtesy of @renewconsigncafe]

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