The style guide for the UK’s Qatar Goodwood Festival – a five-day horse-racing event better-known as “Glorious Goodwood” – doesn’t mention anything about mandatory hats.
But as all seasoned racegoers know, there is no better excuse for wearing elaborate headwear than a day at the races. There are no brides to upstage and few views to block – and you might even win some money to offset the cost.
“If you’re going to a race meeting, you’ll want to look spectacular,” master milliner Stephen Jones told CNN at his studio in London’s Covent Garden.
Of course, the races aren’t the only place you’ll find Jones’ creations. For decades, he has been the hat designer of choice for celebrities including Beyoncé, Mick Jagger and Madonna. On the runway, meanwhile, he has collaborated with Rei Kawakubo, Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs.
He approaches his designs with a sense of fun, taking inspiration from the everyday and melding styles and fabrics to create mini pieces of wearable art.
“Remember, fashion is about a fantastic lie, not the truth,” he says. “So hats can make you the person you want to be not the person that you are.”
With Goodwood’s Ladies Day getting underway Thursday, here are some of Jones’ rules for selecting the right hat.
1. Do your homework
Before you start fantasizing about a bold creation, start with the occasion, says Jones. “Where is it going to be? Is it in the town, city or countryside? Is it by a swimming pool? Is there a risk you’ll upstage the bride?” You want to be fabulous, but still have friends.
2. Go shopping by yourself
“Don’t go with your mother, don’t go with your girlfriends,” Jones says, “because they’ll choose the hat that they imagine you should be wearing, not the one that you imagine you should be wearing.” Decision-making can be confusing, Jones adds, so don’t let other people cloud your vision.
3. Plan in advance
Leave plenty of time for your hat to take shape. If you’re having one made, it could take months to research and source materials. “Maybe we’re going to be dying fabrics, to match the fabrics of your dress,” Jones suggests. “Maybe we’re going to try to research that feather from Latin America.”
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The British milliner says the rules apply to all, whoever you are: “Hats are so much about confidence, and picking the right hat is feeling comfortable in the hat.
“So whether I’m making a hat for someone who has just walked in from the street or Madonna, for example, or Beyoncé, it’s about them feeling confident – as though they can wear the hat, and the hat is not wearing them.”
For more of Jones’ tips, watch the video above.