How to Decide? Jess Collett Milliner's Guide to Choosing a Hat for Ascot

How to Decide? Jess Collett Milliner's Guide to Choosing a Hat for Ascot 

In the weeks leading up to Royal Ascot you will usually find milliners buried under a pile of pins.  On ladies day especially it is all about the hat and it’s our job to make you look and feel fantastic in whatever outstanding creation you care to choose. 

 There are some important things that I always consider - the silhouette, how the hat balances the outfit, and how it frames your face. A great hat will highlight your best features and give you an air of sophistication and confidence.

 There are some general rules of thumb when choosing a hat - but of course everyone is different and rules are there to be broken! 

*Be careful not to drown small features with large brims. Small hats and headpieces may be more flattering. A useful guide is don’t go bigger than the width of your shoulders.

 *If your feeling your age, a hat with an upturned brim is almost - though not quite - a face lift, as the face is lit up as well as creating the impression of  lift! 

* Saucer hats are wonderful for giving height  and should always be worn forward just sweeping the eye brow at an angle. 

*Some ladies prefer symmetrical hats, but you might try tipping the hat at a jaunty angle for a more avant-garde look.

* Hair is also an important consideration, and unless you have ‘good hair’, its better to tie it up in a chignon or pony tail. 

*And, If it’s a touch of glamour your after  then you cant beat red lip stick! 


I am often asked whether the hat or the outfit comes first, and 95 per cent of the time it’s the outfit. Only a handful of women choose a hat and then work their entire look around the flamboyant creation. Some ladies come in with a picture of a hat they fancy, but until you actually try the style on you don’t know how it will look and feel.

Having a bespoke hat made is a creative and collaborative process between designer and client. We start from an idea, dye fabrics and feathers, block materials to shape, trim brims to size , and sew to create a hat that reflects your personality and compliments your look. I have clients who have invested in a flattering shape in a neutral colour and come back to have it re-trimmed year after year.  

Some people come to milliners because they are not confident about what hat suits them and are looking for an expert eye to help them finish their look. Coming to a milliner is like coming to the dressing up sweetie shop. You get to try on shapes, rummage through boxes of feathers and flowers and leave with a beautiful hat that’s designed especially for you. It’s the ultimate bespoke experience. 

There is hat fashion, like the current hairband craze, but if you find a hat, which ever era it is from and it makes you feel fabulous, then wear it! 

You might be lucky enough to find the perfect hat in a charity shop, or ask your granny or aunt if she has any hats stored away in a box. Sculptural hats from the 40’s and 50’s are full of character and with a little TLC can be revived. 

A blast of steam from the kettle can breathe life back into sad looking feathers.

 Aside from the neutral and soft pastel pallet which suit most people, I have been asked to make a lot of white hats this year, with some inspiration coming from Melania Trump's boater on her recent visit to London and Kate Middleton at Ascot a few years ago. 

Floral prints are big this year and if you're looking for ideas, there's nothing like a fresh flower on a large hat (secured with a hat pin) to freshen it up. 

Jumpsuits are a favourite and now accepted in the Royal enclosure as are suits (with matching top and bottom) which have come through my studio in every shade of the rainbow. 

My top 3 hats for this year’s summer season are: boaters of all shapes and sizes which go with almost every look, headbands, which are a half way house to a hat, and look stunning with a pair of eye catching earrings, and the ever popular button/beret hat which can be the base for a sculptural masterpiece or covered in colourful feathers which move with the wind. 

What ever head wear you choose , make sure you feel like a million dollars in it and enjoy the hat parade! 

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