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In a moment of whimsy, I have just bought a fascinator to go with an outfit I plan to wear as guest at a wedding in the U.K. in August. Now, is the thing meant to be worn in the evening as well as at the wedding in the afternoon?

A fascinator is a women's head decoration that isn't quite a hat. It may include feathers, jewels or a small veil - it's closer to a piece of jewellery than to any functional covering. And it may substitute for a hat in situations where heads are meant to be covered: In the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, for example, women must wear hats or "substantial" fascinators. The essential difference between women's and men's headpieces generally is this: Men take theirs off whenever they are inside, women do not.

Women may wear them at lunch and in church (actually, some churches require them) - just like gloves, which they may wear even as they shake your hand. (They may remove them as they sit down to eat.) Fascinators are indeed preferable to large hats as evening wear; after dark, they are sometimes called cocktail hats, but they are essentially the same thing - as well as a sexy embellishment for a black dress.

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