I was fascinated by the concept of a fascinator.


I'm not so much fascinated by the concept of fascinators, rather beguiled by their thrall. I'm captivated by fronds of feathers, enraptured by swirls of sinamay, allured by wraps of ribbon, and mesmerised by the brilliance of bijou.

No, that wasn't an overly florid sentence. Really. Have you ever seen a fascinator?

They are ornamental constructions for the hair, laden with frippery, which sit on an Alice band, a small base secured with hat elastic, or a comb. They are less formal than a hat and less opulent than a tiara but provide the requisite sense of completion for a day or evening outfit. They are the sorts of things to be worn to weddings, balls, and race-meetings. They are all about dressing up.

Fascinators' origins lie in eighteenth century British upper class society. Women would adorn their powdered, towering wigs with flocks of butterflies, arrays of feathers, treasure chests of jewels, and small gardens of flowers. Steadily, these towers of Babel began to descend in height, but there was no less desire to decorate their hair. So the feathers and quills and gems and flowers and ribbons were fastened to bands, bases, or combs, and thus came about the fascinator.

Buying a fascinator in the UK is far from difficult; walk into any department store, head to the hats section, and you will be confronted with an array of accessories ranging from a simple assembly of a flower and a few quills to far more elaborate confections with prices to match. I've tried on fascinators ranging in price from £20 to £150 (US$30-230; AU$35-250). If you can't face the prospect of having to deal with real people in a real shop, scour an intergoogles near you. Or, with a little patience, a little dexterity, and a little creativity, you could make one yourself.

Making your own will take time, you will prick your fingers, and you will make a mess, but you'll have something unique that complements your outfit perfectly. If, like me, you choose to wear a tangerine-coloured silk dress to a wedding and can't afford something from a specialist milliner it is the ideal solution. Department stores and haberdashers will stock everything that you need, from the base to straw stiffener, from stripped ostrich feather quills to gem-encrusted netting. After then, it's all in your imagination.




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