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Tip of the hat: Toppers for the royal wedding

As long as there is royalty, there will be a fascination with hats.

Fashionable toppers have long been associated with the royal family and British wedding parties. We'll see plenty of remarkable headwear at the April 29 nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

"A variety of ladies' hats will be worn to the royal wedding, ranging from wide brims to smaller shapes embellished with feathers or flowers," says Sue Simpson, retail director for James Lock & Co. in London, via e-mail. "For such a formal occasion, a hat will complete and enhance an outfit as long as it is chosen with care."

Irish-born milliner Philip Treacy of London has been selected to create hats for members of the royal family. Milliner Jennifer Copeland of Squirrel Hill and owner of www.copelandmillinery.com believes Treacy might design fascinators and smaller cocktail hats with feathers or flowers or possibly some mid-brim hats.

"You wouldn't want anything too big, or you will be whacking the person next to you," Copeland says. "I think we also might see some crowns and tiaras. Most milliners are hoping that, because Kate wears hats, that will create more interest in the United States for hats. Hats are big among the royal family and part of daily life."

Head wear might become more popular here because of the wedding, says Peggy McKnight, co-chairwoman of the 13th annual PNC Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Spring Hat Luncheon, planned for May 7 at Riverview Park.

"I believe the royal wedding will create interest in hats," says McKnight. "It will elevate the status of wearing a hat. In London, an outfit and a hat go hand in hand. I think younger women here are getting into hats. Some women might be a little insecure about wearing a hat, but they need to have confidence and be willing to try to wear one."

Milliners such as Copeland and Amy Hamilton, who owns www.granvillemillinerycompany.com in Granville, Ohio, will custom design a hat for you, one that works with the shape of your face, length of your neck and hair style.

Finding the right hat takes time and knowledge of what looks good on you, Hamilton says. She begins a masterpiece in her imagination. Then, she chooses a basic design, wool or natural straw from a wide selection of weaves and textures, dyed it in a spectrum of colors. She chooses one that best suits the design. Details include silk leaves with hand-wrapped stems, satin ribbon, feathers and bows.

"A hat completes an outfit and requires some confidence to wear one," Hamilton says. "Women look beautiful in hats. A hat is the detail that can make all the difference. It can change an outfit, attitude, even an ordinary day into something extraordinary."

Hats can create an aura of mystique and intrigue, McKnight says. Tilting them to the side enhances the mystery.

"Women love to look for the perfect hat," McKnight says. "They secretly want something that makes them stand out in a crowd. We will see some beautiful hats at the royal wedding, and I think you will see designers here copying those hats. ...

"I love the hat luncheon because you see a sea of color. If you stood above it all, you would look down and not be able to see many faces, but you would see gorgeous hats. You have to be confident and feel confident when you are wearing a hat."

McKnight believes hats are making a comeback.

"Women used to wear hats to church all the time," she says. "There are ladies who spend months making their hats for the luncheon. Some use fresh flowers. It is a way to show off your personality."

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