Hat's off: How to choose the perfect hat

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Katie Wright asks millinery guru Mr Tony for his advice on choosing a formal hat.

He may be small of stature and softly spoken, but the man who goes by the name Mr Tony is a giant in the world of millinery.

As Fenwick Bond Street's resident hat expert, Mr Tony has been doling out expert advice at the luxury department store for 17 years, ensuring his clientele are fabulously attired for wedding season, garden parties or a day at the races.

Here, designer hats and fascinators retail at up to €2,700, but you don't have to spend a fortune on your crowning glory, Mr Tony believes.

"For me, price is not important," he says. "Feeling confident and beautiful, and having the perfect fit of hat for your dress and for your occasion is more important."

So how can you find your perfect hat? You need to think about your outfit, colouring and proportions, among other things.

Here, Mr Tony offers his seven top tips...

1. Plan your clothes first
Mr Tony says that whatever the occasion, it's best to decide on your dress or outfit first before looking at hats.

"Once I've got the dress it's much easier for me to start fitting the hat. The shoes and the handbag are secondary," he says. "But the dress, for me, is the most important thing."

2. Bring a photo of your outfit
Taking a photo of your dress, or preferably one of you wearing it, to the shop for your fitting will make it easier to find the right hat, Mr Tony says: "Then I can see the colour and the shape of the dress and how fitted it is or how flared it is, how long, then we can get the appropriate hat for you."

3. Don't go wild for a wedding
Just as you wouldn't wear a white dress as a wedding guest, you don't want to outshine the bride with an extravagant hat.

"A wedding is a little bit more classic and demure and also we have to respect the bride because it's their day," Mr Tony advises.

"But with Ascot it's fun and funky, it's your time, and everybody wants to be the most beautiful!"

4. Remember there's a hat for everyone
Think you're not a 'hat person'? There's no such thing, according to Mr Tony.

"Don't think, 'There isn't a hat that fits me' or, 'I've got a big head' or, 'I've got a small head'.

"There is a hat for everybody - as long as you get the right hat for the right outfit," he says.

5. Size matters
"If you're petite or small we're not going to give you a hat with a great big brim, with the wingspan wider than your shoulders!" Mr Tony says, advising that your hat should balance your proportions.

"It depends. If you're going wear to shift dress, nice and fitted, then we'll fit you something that's small on the top.

"If you're going to wear something a little bit flared at the bottom, and then we'll give you a medium-sized hat.

"And if you're five foot 10 and you can carry it, we'll give you a big brim hat. A big hat with a big personality is beautiful!"

6. Choose a complementary colour
"Colour is very important," says Mr Tony. "Obviously, the colour of the hat has to go with the dress. If the dress is beautifully floral then you're best to do one single colour on the top, a colour that complements the dress."

And your own colouring is important, too.

"If somebody is really pale and blonde then we'll try not to go for blush, because it's just too pale for you.

"Contrast is wonderful. But if you have a navy dress don't try to go for something like a fluorescent or pastel colour hat. Go for something a little bit earthy, like pink or deep red, so the colours all complement each other."

7. Don't forget your accessories
Already chosen your accessories for the occasion? Then they will inform your hat selection too.

"Once we've got the dress sorted then it depends on what shoes you're going to wear and what handbag you've got," Mr Tony says.

"If you're going for a contrasting hat you need to make sure that you follow through with your shoes and your handbag, otherwise you're just going to be multicoloured.

"They do play a part - it's like a perfect marriage."

Woman's Way