Say “I Do” to the Hat!

by Miranda Hilderbrand

It’s that time of year when wedding bells are ringing – for many brides, June is the perfect month for a wedding.  Historically, mid-April to mid-October is wedding season for many American couples, with the height being in June.  With the popularity of last year’s Royal Wedding, more and more brides and wedding attendees are setting their sights on hats to accentuate their wedding day attire.

The traditions of wedding hats started with the veil.  In ancient times, warriors would steal their brides and carry them away from her family. In an attempt to hide the woman’s identity, her face would remain covered by heavily layered wool or muslin veils until the couple had their first child and hopefully the blessed arrival would wash away any bad feelings. Talk about sweeping a girl off her feet! Oddly, the veil did become a symbol of transferring a bride from her family home to her husband’s home as well as being a symbol of the bride’s purity.

By the 1500s, veils became more fashionable in design and were shorter with a lot less layering. These veils were more transparent and shimmery and actually allowed the groom to see his bride.  This step forward led to veils being replaced by elaborate hats in the 1700s and beyond. Feather-trimmed, beaded and jeweled bridal head coverings became a visual symbol of family wealth.

One question that tends to pop up during wedding season is in regards to wedding etiquette. What are proper manners, which styles of hats are appropriate and so on. One thing to keep in mind in terms of hat and wedding etiquette is that many are based on old traditions.  You know the bride and groom far better than we do and are a much better judge on which traditions you should uphold and which styles you should chose. The main rule of thumb that we strongly believe should always be upheld by all guests is to never upstage the bride and groom – it is their day, let them be the shining stars.

There are some basic tips you may want to consider in regards to hat wearing at a wedding.  For men the main thing to keep in mind is when to wear your hat. If the wedding or reception takes place indoors, it is proper to remove your hat while in a building. However if the groom and the bridal party are wearing their hats at all times, take the cue from them.

For the ladies we have a few more tips, but as mentioned, many of these are based on old tradition. For many years in the UK, it was custom that ladies are not to remove their hats unless the mother of the bride does so, doing so would be considered disrespectful. Luckily today’s etiquette is a bit more flexible.  For instance, if you are wearing a specifically “daytime hat”, you may want to remove it as the sun sets. Also, when picking your hat for the event, try to find a style that will not obstruct anyone’s view.

With wedding season approaching it is the perfect opportunity to don a hat that is a bit more formal, take a chance on something you would not normally wear and add an aire of sophistication to your wedding day attire. As a side note: in America we tend to be more conservative than the Brits on formal occasions regarding hat styles. They have a tradition that allows more flamboyance than is the norm on this side of the pond.

By today’s standards, a bride can go all out with elaborate headwear or keep it simple with a lovely, sheer veil.  At Hatbox, we can meet all of your wedding hat needs – we will be offering custom work for brides, wedding party, mother of the bride and anyone else who would like a special piece for the big day. We will build your headwear from the ground up with care taken to incorporate your personal wedding fabric, colors, embellishments or anything that will complete your vision. We do recommend that you give us at least 3 months advance to complete your custom pieces.  Also, Hatbox is very honored to offer the beautiful work of Vivien Sheriff – a favourite milliner to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge formerly Kate Middleton along with Austin’s own Laura Del Villaggio of Milli Starr.

Caring for Your Hat

by Miranda Hilderbrand

Congratulations! You just bought your first hat, you’ve worn it around town and the romance has begun. Now you need to think of the future of your relationship with your new headgear and, lucky for you, we have a few tips to keep your hat in stellar condition.

First things first, if you want to keep your hat in great shape, always make sure you are handling it by the brim instead of pinching the crown.  It is something we have all seen in the old Hollywood movies but take it from the professionals – grabbing the crown of your hat will ruin the shape of your hat over time, leave dark fingerprints, break down the material and, in some cases, damage the hat permanently.  The brim, however, is a single plane of material, so the pressure of grabbing it will not crease the material or damage the shape of your hat.

Now that you have properly picked up your hat and put it on, there are a few tips to keep your hat looking great from everyday wear. Make sure you are protecting your hat from the elements, unless it is a genuine rain hat, never wear your hat in a rainstorm. If your hat is completely soaked it can lose its shape and can become irreparable unless it is 100% rabbit or beaver hair. If you do get caught in a rainstorm set your hat upside down on a flat surface with the interior hatband opened and let it dry naturally. On the flip side, never leave your hat in a hot car – the heat and humidity will warp the shape of your hat and shrink the size.

One thing that will inevitably happen is your hat will get dirty and will need to be cleaned up. The cleaner you keep your hat, the longer it will last and the better it will look.  For your felt hats it is always wise to brush them regularly. We recommend having a dark bristled hat bush for your darker hats and a light bristled brush for your lighter hats. This will help remove dust, dirt and even some stains.  Industry standard is to start brushing on the left side of your hat and move around the hat counter-clockwise. Be sure to brush the crevice where the crown meets the brim and the underside too.

If you have a straw hat that gets a bit dirty, we recommend a frequent light brushing to remove dirt and dust. If there are slight stains, we suggest using a slightly damp piece of cloth and lightly rubbing it over the dirty spots in small, circular motions. If you have a smooth leather hat, it can be treated in a similar way as you would treat soft leather shoes or handbags. However, when in doubt, it is always wisest to take your hat a hat professional to have them cleaned and shaped.

When it is time to retire your hat for the season, there are a few tips for proper storage as your hat goes into hibernation for a few months. Most importantly, make sure your hat is in good condition before you store it – do not store a dirty hat! This can cause stains and dirt to set in which could make it very difficult to clean. Also make sure you are storing your hat somewhere that it is not too hot or humid, we recommend storing your hats in a hatbox and to perforate the box so the hat can “breathe” and not get musty.  Make sure you store your hats on their crown, if you store your hat on its brim, gravity will take its toll and can damage the hat’s shape. This is also a great tip for any time you take off your hat in general, plus it will prompt you to pick up your hat by the brim, so it’s a win-win!

Just a couple more tips and you will be completely knowledgeable on basic hat care. Occasionally flip down the sweat band so it can dry and air out, this will keep your hat nice and fresh. Also be mindful of where you are setting your hat down. Our biggest no-no is setting your hat in a chair as people sit in chairs and well … I think you know where this is going! Other than that, the final piece of advice is to wear your hat proudly and with style. Hats are most definitely making a comeback, so do your part by wearing yours well and in good shape!