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Hats off to royal wedding

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Hats off to royal wedding

Kate Middleton is shown here at the official launch of the new RNLI's lifeboat 'Hereford Endeavour' in February, wearing a "fascinator", a “new word for a cocktail hat” and is defined as an object on your head that fascinates, explains David Dunkley of KC's Hats in Toronto. (WENN.COM)

From a playful feathered fascinator to a black wool fedora, Kate Middleton is a huge fan of distinctive toppers and is helping inspire a whole new generation of women rediscover hats, says an award-winning Canadian milliner with royal ties.

"We're making more fascinators than ever before and a lot of that is because Kate wears a lot of fascinators," says David Dunkley of KC's Hats in Toronto. "That's one of the ways she's influencing fashion right now."

A fascinator is the "new word for a cocktail hat" and is defined as an object on your head that fascinates, Dunkley explains. He's also seeing increased demand for hats for weddings both in Canada and in England, where hats never fell out of fashion as they did in North America.

"I'm having the time of my life. This wedding is a milliner's dream," says Dunkley. Recipient of the prestigious Hatty Award from Hat Life magazine, he has trained with theatrical milliner Barbara Hobbs in Toronto and Rose Cory, former milliner to the late Queen Mum, in England.

He studied with Cory in mid-March for the third time. She accepts just a handful of milliners from around the world for each one-week session. "You tell her what you would like to learn and she teaches you that skill," says Dunkley. "I always go with a very challenging project."

KC's Hats recently unveiled its royal wedding collection, featuring hats that can be worn to a wedding. Its royal bridal collection is made up of bridal millinery named after members of the Royal Family. 'Princess Catherine' was designed with Middleton in mind. "It's a floating veil with a few flowers; it's not huge and fussy," says Dunkley. "She likes very clean lines."

Dunkley, a member of the New York City Milliners Guild, specializes in event wear and does a lot of freeform sculpture. "People who wear hats are generally confident people. A hat is crown - whether it's a tuque or true grand millinery piece," he says.

Dunkley offers this piece of advice for those wanting to follow in Middleton's fashion footsteps: "Have fun. A hat is just a hat. People often say they don't think they can wear a hat, but a well-made hat is like a well-made garment. If you've hired a milliner, the proportions will be right" - and the end result will complement your face and personality.

With each commission, Dunkley considers what a client will wear and the statement she'd like to make. "When designing my royal wedding collection, for example, I thought about the statement someone would like to make as they're walking into Westminster Abbey. Clearly you don't want a statement that is larger than the bride's but you want something that speaks to the grandness of the event."

Dunkley is most anxious to see what Middleton will wear atop her head on her wedding day. "Younger brides are already wearing millinery pieces for their walk down the aisle," he says. "What Kate wears will influence brides everywhere."

Men are also embracing the resurgence of hats. "Men are the biggest growing market in our industry at the moment," says Dunkley. Bowlers are back in vogue thanks to Colin Firth in The King's Speech and are worn as a casual hat, as are pork pies. Top hats are the choice for formal events.

"Our grandmothers were raised to wear hats because it was proper," says Dunkley. "Today, there's no stigma attached to hats. It's just a fun accessory."

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