Headwear popularized by royal wedding finds fans in county

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Starting with Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement announcement in November and ratcheting up with the royal wedding and tour to North America, photos of Brits and other Europeans in elaborate head adornments have captivated audiences worldwide, including here in Clark County.

On this side of the pond, people are fascinated by fascinators, those close cousins of cocktail hats that range from the relatively subdued Lock & Co. red maple-leaf topper Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, wore on Canada Day to the outlandish Philip Treacy creation Princess Beatrice wore to the wedding of Prince William and his new bride (formerly Kate Middleton).

Fascinators are adornments that sit perched on one’s head with no visible means of support. They’re held in place by combs, clips or headbands carefully concealed by hair.

Although fascinators are nothing new, their profile stateside has increased sharply in recent months.

“I think they’ve been talked about a lot more,” said Yacolt historical costumer Rebecca Morrison-Peck. “They’re a hoot.”

Morrison-Peck has been making fascinators for about six years. She sells them on her Etsy shop, Ravennas Steam Trunk (http://www.etsy.com/shop/RavennasSteamTrunk).

Among her current offerings is a black tulle and metallic gold fabric fascinator with a removable sequined paisley eye patch that’s listed for $42. Along with many of the other hats and accessories on her site, it is geared toward devotees of the steampunk movement, sometimes describes as neo-Victorianism.

Fascinators’ popularity extends far beyond the steampunk subculture, though. The headpieces worn by guests to the April wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton — now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — drew worldwide attention.

Morrison-Peck lived in England for 13 years, and eagerly watched the royal wedding on television to study the fashion.

She was most impressed by Princess Beatrice’s pink fascinator, though the controversial topper was likened in the media to a pretzel.

“That was really awesome. From a hatmaker’s point of view, that was staggering,” Morrison-Peck said. “I’m not sure I would have had the nerve to wear that myself.”

After the wedding, Princess Beatrice’s fascinator was auctioned for charity on eBay and sold for almost $132,000.

The royal wedding certainly sparked an interest in fascinators, but Portland’s Sherry Kraus first noticed the uptick late last year.

Kraus sells fascinators on her Etsy shop (http://www.etsy.com/shop/accessoriesbysherry), and at events such as the annual Christmas bazaar at the Portland Expo Center.

They proved especially popular at last year’s bazaar, which was shortly after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced their engagement. Kraus thinks the boom was largely related to the “Kate Middleton effect,” and observed that teenage girls were especially interested in trying on fascinators.

Kraus actually started making fascinators several years ago. At the time, she was the queen, or leader, of a Red Hat Society chapter in Portland. Hatters, as members are called, wear red hats and purple attire when out as a group (though during their birthday month, they wear purple hats and red attire. Members younger than 50 wear pink and lavender).

Hatters often will go to movies or performances together, and large hats that block other patrons’ views can pose a problem. Fascinators proved to be a good solution for Kraus.

“It’s like a miniature hat,” she said.

Dayna Pinkham, owner of Pinkham Millinery in Portland (http://www.pinkhammillinery.com), also has seen increased interest in fascinators since the royal wedding. She currently is working on about half a dozen custom fascinators for brides, mothers of the bride and people attending weddings or galas. Some clients have even brought in photos of fascinators from the royal wedding to give Pinkham an idea of what they’re looking for.

Pinkham, a milliner for 29 years, defines fascinators as “not quite hats. (They’re) fluffs and things.” She views their rise in prominence as positive, and thinks they could be a gateway hat.

“It’s just good to see people start accessorizing their hair,” she said. “It’s a good starting point toward hats.”

Vancouver’s Debra Derrick tried fascinators after becoming frustrated by hats that didn’t fit her head properly.

Derrick is a member of the Vancouver Belles (http://www.vancouverbelles.com), a local chapter of the Red Hat Society. She has several fascinators and cocktail hats in pink, red and purple. She bought them from the chapter’s queen, Vancouver’s Gretchen Moats-Gross, who sells them online (http://www.ladydressup.com).

Derrick favors fascinators that are smaller and more subdued than many seen at the royal wedding. Princess Beatrice’s choice, for example, is not her taste.

“I think that they’re interesting, but I don’t think I’d wear one,” she said.

Mary Ann Albright: http://www.twitter.com/col_malbright; http://www.facebook.com/MaryAnnAlbright1; maryann.albright@columbian.com; 360-735-4507.