Fascinated with Fascinators

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>The month of September is known for a few things— cooler temperatures, shorter days, and, of course, Fashion Week!!! With the London Fashion Week beginning today and running through the 17th of September 2014, I thought I’d pay a little homage on the blog to a quintessentially English tradition in fashion—the fascinator!

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The history of the fascinator goes back to Marie Antoinette who made it fashionable to decorate ones head with ostrich feathers and jewels.  Essentially, a fascinator is a small ornamental headpiece worn by ladies that fits on the head via a headband or small comb.  Typically garnished with feathers, beads, lace or other lightweight trimming, the purpose of the fascinator is not to shield one from the sun (like a hat would) but rather to compliment the hairdo as an ornamental accessory.

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Fascinators really came on my radar while watching the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.  You’ll recall Princess Beatrice of York caused a sensation with her fascinator!  (Incidentally she then used that publicity to auction her fascinator for charity, selling it for 99,000 Euros!!)

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I’ve a penchant for extravagant hats so ever since fascinators have came on my radar I’ve been hooked, seeing them the perfect accessory for glamming up a special fete! I’d buy Beatrice’s butterfly fascinator in a heart beat!  (By the way, the photo above of me mid-giggle was taken at a friend’s casual New Years Eve party in their home!)

In London, these lovely hair pieces really entered into the millinery scene in force during the 1970’s but the term ‘fascinator’ has been around for centuries.  In the 17th century, a fascinator was simply a lacy veil, but as fashions evolved in the upper class, their head pieces began to become taller and more elaborate. By the 18th century, British women were dressing their hair with all sorts of frills such as feathers, ribbons and jewels. Clearly I was born in the wrong era… I look good in feathers!!  Headdresses were meant to reflect one’s mood by strategically placing various items on your hat or attached to your hair-piece. Anything from feathers to fruit could be used. Even elaborate miniature gardens could be placed on the head to show status and wealth.

During the 19th century, hair accessories become simpler, as the lower classes were able to afford different fashion accessories. Less expensive items are used to adorn the head such as shells and ribbons.

In the mid 1800’s we began to see a fashion for miniature hats being placed on top of women’s heads. A return to unique style and more embellishments begins during the Edwardian era with entire stuffed birds being affixed to the hair! Of course when WWI  broke out, fashions became much simpler.  But in the 1930’s simple cocktail hats became in vogue. It is during this time period that we see the influence of the modern day fascinator—small hats or pieces of lace with feathers and beads attached.

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By the 1980’s we see the likes of Princess Diana wearing fascinators which put them back into fashion. About a decade later, Sarah Jessica Parker dons these chic accessories on the hit show “Sex in the City.”

Throughout the centuries, fashions come and go but certain elements always remain if only popping up again with a slight twist. A fascinator is one of those classic pieces that I don’t see disappearing any time soon! Why not try one out in honor of London Fashion Week?!

Cheers,
The Antiques Diva®