Hats On!

The party season is gaining pace and chances are that sometime soon you too will be treading the boards at some festive soiree. It could be a dainty drinks do with mince pies and mini puddings, lots of egg nog and sparkling bubbles. Or it might be a bash for the office, with people perched around the photocopier, sipping cocktails from plastic cups. Or you could be headed to a debonair dinner, all starched silver service and cranberry sauce.

Whatever the caliber of your evening’s celebrations, it’s important to address the issue of dress. According to the super-milliner Stephen Jones, when it comes to seasonal sartorial selections, nothing tops the importance of a decent hat. “Festive!” says he about hoisting into place some handsome headgear: “For a girl, something smallish if you’re dancing and for a man, a trilby (great for passing around the floor).” Some of Jones’s suggestions are far too out-there, even for a fashion-forward such as myself (hat with rhinestones worn with glasses also rimmed with rhinestones, anyone?) but I like the attitude of adding something dazzling up top at this time of year. So in the spirit of inspiration for the shindigs we’re all attending, let’s lay on a little hat show at the NGA…

The Dutch have got headwear down it seems: either austere and sleek, as in Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Gentleman with a Tall Hat and Gloves (c. 1660), or fawny and floppy as in this Young Man in a Large Hat (c. 1626) by Frans Hals.

Ladies should dare to do drama in December: perhaps plump for a splash of holly-berry-red and a long tilting brim like our Girl with the Red Hat (c. 1665) by Johannes Vermeer…

… or make a more mystical entrance with a Venetian tricorn hat, tucking your cape up over your chin for added allure (hand-fan and glove are optional extras). Giambattista Tiepolo (c. 1755).

French pictures of course offer fruitful foraging-ground for haute-couture inclinations: here’s a nod to country chic from Berthe Morisot, whose Young Woman with a Straw Hat (1884) sets out a summery sort of vibe.

Or go more wild and wriggly like Maurice de Vlaminck’s Woman with a Hat (1905) who sets this stunning scoop-shaped thing fast forward on her forehead.

But for me it’s Matisse who offers most charm and charisma, whether with Plumed Hat from 1919…

… or the utterly lovely Lorette with Turban, Yellow Jacket (1917). Cool, casual and totally on top.