Kate Middleton made hats cool again – so how can YOU copy her style?

Kate's made hats cool again – so how can YOU copy her style



13:13 GMT, 11 June 2012

Never mind the dresses, which were restrained, and the shoes, which were often out of sight or in a puddle. Over the Jubilee weekend, it was the hats that stood out, refusing to wilt in the rain or be carted off by a gust of wind.

There were no hat disasters, such as the much-mocked Philip Treacy ‘pretzel’ worn by Princess Beatrice at the Royal Wedding last year. We are definitely having a bit of a hat moment.

My favourite was the nude, beaded cocktail one with silk tulle and organza discs finished with smoked quartz and veiling worn by the Duchess of Cambridge for the service at St Paul’s on Tuesday.

Duchess of Cambridge in red

Duchess of Cambridge

Ahead in fashion: The Duchess of Cambridge dazzles in cocktails hats at the River Pageant (left) and St Paul’s

It was made by 30-year-old Jane Taylor, who designs and makes all her creations — bespoke are around 600, ready-to-wear 120 — in her Fulham studio.

She trained under former milliner to the Queen, Marie O’Regan, and is inspired by ‘taxidermy, antique prints, anything dramatic and theatrical’.
As soon as the Duchess appeared in that hat, Jane was bombarded with emails and orders from around the world. ‘Kate’s hat took about eight hours to make,’ she tells me.

‘Kate chose a cocktail hat because it’s a happy medium between a fascinator — which are banned from Royal Ascot later this month: hats must now be the width of a handspan (10cm in diameter) — and a more formal, bigger hat that covers the head.

‘Cocktail hats and pillboxes are making a comeback,’ says Jane, who also made the hats worn for the celebrations by the Countess of Wessex, ‘as they are much younger but still elegant.’

Kate’s red hat for the procession on the Thames was made by Sylvia Fletcher, who works out of a studio at James Lock on St James’s Street in London. In a fine-quality felt (the traditional fabric for spring hats), it was ‘a beautiful red’, the milliner tells me from her atelier. ‘It was a cocktail hat, which befits a younger woman.’

Blue-blooded fashion: Whiteleys Thirties hat, 39, John Lewis

Jasper Conran ivory twist, 60, Debenhams

Debut red saucer, 30, Debenhams

From left to right, Whiteleys Thirties hat, 39, John Lewis; Jasper Conran ivory twist, 60, Debenhams; Debut red saucer, 30, Debenhams

Sylvia has a team of 12, but she oversaw the making of Kate’s hat for the procession. She likes to keep a low profile, but she is, in her heady world, as revered as a Karl Lagerfeld.

Now in her 60s, she started her two-year apprenticeship in millinery aged 16, and then joined legendary hatter Herbert Johnson on Bond Street. She has been at James Lock ever since.

She makes hats for royals here and abroad, and is most proud of the one she created for the Duchess of Cambridge for her tour in Canada: ‘Again, it was a red hat, with maple leaves.’

What was the mood in the studio when Kate appeared on the royal barge in her hat ‘We were all very proud and excited; it was such good news for us. It was pretty blowy, but the hat was secured very firmly. There was no room for error.’

The biggest surprise was the restrained headwear worn by Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. Their hats for the procession and the thanksgiving service were by Stephen Jones, who has been a milliner for more than 30 years.

He was training to be a fashion designer, making hats as a hobby, but so many women (and men — these were the late Seventies, when new romanticism was all the rage) asked him to make them a hat, he abandoned dressmaking entirely.

Why were the Princesses so, well, tasteful ‘They love their grandmother, so for the Jubilee weekend they wanted to be well turned out for her. It wasn’t about them.’

Gina Bacconi nude with veil, 120, John Lewis

Vivian Sherif orchard disc, 275, John Lewis

Debut gold organza, 18, Debenhams

Pale and elegant: Gina Bacconi nude with veil, 120, John Lewis; Vivian Sherif orchard disc, 275, John Lewis; Debut gold organza, 18, Debenhams

Each hat was made specially for the Princesses, and for inspiration Jones looked at photographs of the Queen and what she wore at their age.
The Princesses’ hats, being quite small, ‘demanded a substantial fabric. A bigger hat, such as the Philip Treacy worn by the Duchess of Cornwall on the royal barge, demands a lighter fabric: hers was almost sheer.

Otherwise, a big hat can be overpowering.’ Is there rivalry between the milliners Do they tot up who has dressed the most royals ‘Not really.

I organise Headonism, which takes place during London Fashion Week, and brings on new, young milliners, so that keeps me on my toes,’ says Stephen.

Another triumph was the fact Samantha Cameron covered her head for the thanksgiving service. ‘Ah, Hatgate!’ says Stephen, referring to the criticism Samantha attracted after going hatless to the Royal Wedding last year. He made the monochrome, Schiaparelli-inspired style for her to wear at St Paul’s Cathedral.

As well as collaborating with John Galliano throughout his career — Stephen is making the hats for Dior’s couture collection in July — he has long been associated with Vivienne Westwood.

‘She said something rather wonderful about my hats. That when a lady walks into a room in one of my designs, everyone says how amazing she looks. It’s not all about the hat.’

He, too, thinks a smaller hat is best if you’re in your 20s or 30s. ‘I used to make hats for Princess Diana. She did so enjoy her hats, and she liked a smaller design. She had very different hair to Kate and, of course, the fashion then was so different.’

A bespoke Stephen Jones can cost from 1,500, depending on the size, fabric and embellishment on it; an off-the-peg creation from 390. So is it too late to place an order for Ladies Day at Royal Ascot on June 21 The short answer is yes.

‘You really should have come to me in April,’ says Stephen. ‘I have three fittings for a bespoke. The first is for the toile, the second is to work out the trimming and the third is the fitting of the finished item.’

All hats are made in his studio in Covent Garden by a team of 20. Who says British manufacturing is dead

‘Shoe designers get all the Press: look at the fuss over the fact Kate wore LK Bennett.’ says Jones.

‘But a hat is so much more important, so much more visible. It frames the face, sets the mood. I was looking at all the hats worn by people in the crowds. It made it all so much more festive.’


Kate’s milliner, Jane Taylor, shares her style advice.

1. You must feel comfortable in your hat, and it must reflect your personality, making you feel special. It must fit the crown of the head and be pinned in place.

2. Wear your hair up or back as loose strands can be distracting and too fussy.

3. Cocktail (smaller, disc-shaped hats as seen on Kate Middleton at St Paul’s) and wide-brimmed hats should always be worn at a jaunty angle, as this is more flattering.

4. Don’t be too matchy-matchy, as this can be ageing. More tonal colours for bags and shoes are best. For example, a yellow hat with brown shoes and bag.

5. The colour of the hat must work with your complexion.

6. Long faces work best with an asymmetrical brim; a round face works best with a smaller cocktail hat.