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Life How to wear a fascinator (those fetching British headpieces)

Kate Middleton

DYLAN MARTINEZ/REUTERS

Perching something that resembles an artful bird's nest atop one's head may be common fashionable practice on the other side of the pond, but here in Canada, wearing a fascinator (those fetching British head ornaments that fall somewhere between barrette and pillbox hat) is still a bold sartorial move. With royal wedding fever in full swing, we offer some tips on how to make like Kate.

Assume the position

Fascinators should be worn on the side of your head, toward the front and on an angle. "Never in the centre," says Karyn Gingras, owner and designer at Lilliput Hats in Toronto's Little Italy. Ms. Gingras, whose handiwork will adorn heads in Westminster Abbey this Friday, says fascinators should generally perch slightly above the brow, though when netting is involved, it's okay to let it drape seductively over one eye.

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Feel free to loosen your locks

"I used to think that fascinators were better suited to more formal up-dos," says Ms. Gingras, but that was before Kate and her lustrous locks breathed new life into a limey mainstay. The look is more casual and accessible, though we'd have to devote a whole other column to how to achieve Ms. Middleton's enviable brunette mane.

Choose a statement with staying power

Unlike men's hats or wider-brimmed women's headwear, fascinators should stay on your head until the end of the night, regardless of where you are - church, or even a formal dining room. So choose a look that will last. "And make sure it's securely fastened to your head," cautions Jeanne Beker, who will be rocking a fascinator by Vivien Sheriff (who has designed hats for Ms. Middleton) when she covers the wedding for CTV.

When in doubt, go basic

Ms. Gingras's collection of custom-made fascinators employs everything from peacock feathers to precious gems, but for beginners she recommends a basic black number that goes with multiple outfits and can be worn more than once - something in a cheetah print may prove slightly less versatile. "We try to stay away from Cirque du Soleil territory," says Ms. Gingras. Ms. Beker also advises against overdoing it, "especially at a wedding." No bride wants her gown to be overshadowed by your headdress.

Size matters (especially to the person behind you)

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Remember that your right to fabulous fashion extends only as far as your neighbour's line of vision: Leave the fascinator at home when going to the symphony, the cinema or any other destination with stadium-style seating. And Ms. Gingras warns against wearing anything too towering if you're taller than your date.

At last, a trend that's all ages

Ms. Gingras has designed fascinators for pretty young things such as Rachel McAdams, but a large number of her clients are over 50. Unlike skinny jeans, this trend befits women of all ages. Just ask the Queen. She turned 85 last week, and she still sports a fascinator now and then.

* And don't do this: Feathers and animal prints are part of the aesthetic, but remember that a little "into the wild" goes a long way

Special to The Globe and Mail

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