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Woman wearing a large fascinator at the Melbourne Cup, 2013

A fascinator is a headpiece, a style of millinery. Fascinators were originally a type of lightweight knitted head-covering. Since the 1990s the term refers to a form of formal headwear worn as an alternative to the hat; it is usually a large decorative design attached to a band or clip, sometimes incorporating a base to resemble a miniature hat, in which case it may be called a hatinator.


1885 crochet fascinator

In the 19th century, a fascinator was a lightweight hood or scarf worn about the head and tied under the chin, typically knitted or crocheted.[1] It was made from soft, lightweight yarns and may originally have been called a "cloud."[2] The "cloud" is described in 1870 as being "a light scarf of fine knitting over the head and round the neck, [worn] instead of an opera hood when going out at night."[3] The fascinator went out of fashion in the 1930s, by which time it described a lacy hood similar to a "fussy balaclava."[4]

The use of the term "fascinator" to describe a particular form of late 20th- and early 21st-century millinery emerged towards the end of the late 20th century, possibly as a term for 1990s designs inspired by the small 1960s cocktail hats designed to perch upon the highly coiffed hairstyles of the period.[4] Although they did not give the style its name, the milliners Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy are credited with having popularised and established fascinators.[4]


Drawing of Princess Beatrice's fascinator by Philip Treacy

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.

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.[5] They need to be attached to the hair by a comb, headband or clip. 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.[6][7][8] Princess Beatrice used the publicity to auction it off on eBay, where it garnered 99,000 Euros for charity.[9][10]

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.[11] In previous years female racegoers were simply advised that "many ladies wear hats."[12]


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

The term hatinator, which emerged in the early 2010s, is used to describe headgear that combines the features of a hat and a fascinator.[13] The particular style of headgear favoured by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is sometimes described as a hatinator.[14]

See also


  1. Gordon, Beverley (1982). Shaker Textile Arts. UPINE. pp. 249–250. ISBN 9780874512427.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Severa, Joan L. (1995). Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900. Kent State University Press. p. 544. ISBN 9780873385121.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Kemp Philip, Robert (1870). Best of everything, by the author of 'Enquire within'. London: W. Kent & Co. p. 235.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Mancoff, Debra (17 May 2011). "Fascinating Fascinators: What's in a Name?". Enyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 14 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Millinery Madness: Hat Makers With Attitude". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Princess Beatrice's ridiculous Royal Wedding hat". Facebook. Retrieved 2012-09-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Emmrich, Stuart (2011-12-28). "The 75 Things New Yorkers Talked About in 2011". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Nick Carbone (2011-12-07). "Princess Beatrice's Fascinator" (in German). Time. Retrieved 2012-04-05. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Considine, Austin (2011-05-06). "Perched, Frothy, Headpieces Fascinate: Noticed". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "The Top 10 Everything Of 2011". Time. 2011-12-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Royal Enclosure page of official Ascot website. URL accessed 25 January 2008
  12. BBC Website: Fascinators in ban at Royal Ascot's Royal Enclosure URL accessed 21 January 2012
  13. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Tomshinsky, Ida (2013). The Chronicle of Hats in Enjoyable Quotes: History of Fashion Accessories Series. Xlibris Corporation. p. 32. ISBN 9781479799091.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Media related to Fascinators at Wikimedia Commons