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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.


The history of the fascinator goes back to Queen Marie Antoinette, who made is fashionable to decorate the head with ostrich feathers and jewels. Although the use fell out of favour, it made a return during the Edwardian era in the early 1900s. The fascinators made way to hats until they were made popular again through Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.


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

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

Further reading[edit]

  • François Boucher . 20000 Years of Fashion. (1987)
  • Marian Campbell. Medieval Jewellery: In Europe 1100-1500. (2009)
  • Kathryn McKelvey. Fashion Source Book. (2006) Blackwell Science
  • Bronwyn Cosgrave. The Complete History of Costume & Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. (2000) New York: Checkmark Books

External links[edit]

Media related to Fascinators at Wikimedia Commons