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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge wearing a red fascinator during her visit to Canada in 2011

A fascinator is a headpiece, a style of millinery. The word originally referred to a fine, lacy head covering akin to a shawl and made from wool or lace, but mostly feathers. In the modern usage, it refers to a woman's alternative to hat for formal attire; it is usually a large hair decoration on a band or clip with elaborate trimmings and decoration like a formal hat and it can incorporate a base to make it a miniature hat.


Today, a fascinator may be worn instead of a hat on occasions where hats were traditionally worn—such as weddings—or as an evening accessory, when it may be called a cocktail hat. It is generally worn with fairly formal attire.

Drawing of Princess Beatrice's fascinator by Philip Treacy
Drawing of Princess Beatrice's fascinator

A substantial fascinator is a fascinator of some size or bulk. Bigger than a barrette, modern fascinators are commonly made with feathers, flowers or beads.[1] They need to be attached to the hair by a comb, headband or clip. The fun, fanciful decoration is often embellished with crystals, beads, or loops of ribbon, and attaches via a comb or headband; some have a small, stiff, flat base that can be secured with bobby pins. They are particularly popular at premium horse-racing events, such as the Grand National, Kentucky Derby and the Melbourne Cup. Brides may choose to wear them as an alternative to a bridal veil or hat, particularly if their gowns are non-traditional.

At the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in April 2011, various female guests arrived wearing fascinators. Among them was Princess Beatrice of York, who wore a piece designed by the Irish milliner Philip Treacy. The unusual shape and colour caused quite a media stir and went on to become an internet phenomenon with its own Facebook page.[2][3][4] Princess Beatrice used the publicity to auction it off on eBay, where it garnered 99,000 Euros for charity.[5][6]

In 2012 Royal Ascot announced that women will have to wear hats, not fascinators, as part of a tightening of the dress code in Royal Ascot's Royal Enclosure.[7] In previous years female racegoers were simply advised that "many ladies wear hats."[8]


A hatinator combines features of a hat and a fascinator.[9]


  1. ^ "Millinery Madness: Hat Makers With Attitude". New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Princess Beatrice's ridiculous Royal Wedding hat". Facebook. Retrieved 2012-09-17. 
  3. ^ Emmrich, Stuart (2011-12-28). "The 75 Things New Yorkers Talked About in 2011". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Nick Carbone (2011-12-07). "Princess Beatrice's Fascinator" (in German). Time. Retrieved 2012-04-05. 
  5. ^ Considine, Austin (2011-05-06). "Perched, Frothy, Headpieces Fascinate: Noticed". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ "The Top 10 Everything Of 2011". Time. 2011-12-07. 
  7. ^ Royal Enclosure page of official Ascot website. URL accessed 25 January 2008
  8. ^ BBC Website: Fascinators in ban at Royal Ascot's Royal Enclosure URL accessed 21 January 2012
  9. ^ Cuthbertson, Kathleen (2009-09-04). "'Hatinator' to rule at the races". Herald Sun (Melbourne: The Herald and Weekly Times). Retrieved 2012-01-29. "The term 'hatinator' emerged last year to describe the trend for smaller hats worn the same way as fascinators." 

For the origin of the fascinator - http://www.justfascinators.co.uk/about.asp

External links[edit]

Media related to Fascinators at Wikimedia Commons