Fascinator or a Hat? What’s the Difference?

Someone asked Miss Meredith Sweetpea this week what was the difference between a fascinator and a hat, and whether someone should remove their fascinator when indoors.

royal family hats

Queen Elizabeth II wears a hat, the Duchess of Cambridge wears a hatinator, and Princess Eugenie wears a fascinator.

What is a Fascinator?

black fascinator

A fascinator is created to be a decoration for the head, and is intended to be part of your entire outfit. It might feature feathers, bows, and structures. Its function is to “fascinate” you and anyone within your viewing range rather than serve as a head covering for warmth or protection.

Since they are small, fascinators are generally attached to the head using combs, clips or headbands. Therefore, they can be worn indoors as well as outdoors and need not be removed.


What is a Hat?

white hat

A hat is a larger head covering, meant mainly to cover the head from the elements or as a fashion accessory or part of a uniform. Typically, a hat fits snugly on the head. It is fitted using a hat size matched to the circumference of a person’s head taken about a half inch above the ears. Less expensive hats come in sizes ranging from small to extra large. Hats often feature a brim and are not attached in any way to the head. There are innumerable styles of hats.

Women should remove fashion hats when indoors at work or if it should block anyone’s view, such as at the theatre, wedding or event.

Related: Hats Off! Hat Etiquette for Everyone.

A Third Style: Hatinators

hatinatorA third category is called the hatinator, which combines features of both a fascinator and a hat. It looks like a hat, but is much smaller and is fastened to the head. Its brim normally does not reach beyond the head.

History of the Fascinator

Throughout history, Christian women throughout Europe wore head coverings. Many of them were very richly appointed, and donned with expensive trimmings and feathers. According to Wikipedia, “In the 19th century, a fascinator was also a lightweight hood or scarf worn around the head and tied under the chin, typically knitted or crocheted.” This type went out of fashion in the 1930s.

Hats became smaller, and by the 1960s, were often “perched” upon the head. Remember Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hats?

Today, fascinators are worn during occasions when hats are customary. You often see them at horsey events like the Kentucky Derby or Grand National. And they are noted accessories to any royal event.



  • Do you have a fascinator? Browse over a thousand darling Fascinators! You might just find one that’s perfect for your look.

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