- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2007


When you walk into a store on your first hat-buying expedition, check any hesitation you might have at the door.

That’s the advice from Brooke Jaffe, InStyle’s accessories editor. “You have to get over that hump,” she says. “It’s sort of like shopping for sunglasses. The shopping experience could be intimidating because it’s not the first accessory you run to when you go shopping. You have to learn how to shop for it.”

Check out your hat while looking in a full-length mirror because you need to see how the hat works in proportion to your entire body, not just the head. Hatmaker Patricia Underwood suggested to Miss Jaffe that a woman should try to picture herself walking out the front door in the hat — it’ll help put it in context.

Also, don’t put the hat straight up and down on your head. The face is asymmetrical, Miss Jaffe notes, and you have to tilt a hat to the side to make it work. That’s how Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie wear their hats.

For the hat novice, Miss Jaffe says a dark- or neutral-colored fedora or bucket hat is a good starting point. “A floppy hat will draw more attention,” she says.

Consider your own size when thinking about brim size. Width often corresponds to the wearer’s height: shorter women in fitted hats that are closer to the head and taller women in big brims.

“You have to have balance,” says Bunn, a hatmaker in Harlem who goes by one name. “A short lady with a 5-inch brim would look like an umbrella. I would give her 2 inches.”

You also need to think about the outfit with which you’ll be wearing the hat. Though designer Marc Jacobs created a full-on, dressed-up retro look on the runway for his fall collection with models in hats matched to the 1920s-inspired garments, it might be easier to go for a more casual look.

“Fashion and every other aspect of pop culture right now has a sense of irony,” says hat designer Eugenia Kim. “There’s a juxtaposition of casual and dressy. For the twentysomething who wants to wear a cloche, don’t wear it with a dress, wear it with jeans.”

Miss Kim, who has built up a considerable wardrobe of hats in different colors and fabrics, says hats have unique personalities. “I wear the same thing every day. I have two pairs of jeans, and I change my hat every day to make my outfit look different.”

The other thing to wear with hats is harder to quantify: You need to wear confidence.

“You need an attitude to pull off a fancy hat,” Bunn says. “The hat has to match the person who is wearing it.”

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