Tales Told in Tulle: The Fascinating Tale of Fascinators

by Ryan Biddix

Nov. 13, 2022. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff


Once upon a time, in a realm of fashion and fantasy, a magnificent embellishment known as the fascinator appeared in the kingdom of style. Its arrival was no ordinary occurrence, for its origins were as ancient as the secrets etched into the Egyptian pyramids. The history of the fascinator reached as far as the majestic wide-brimmed hats that graced the heads of noble lords and elegant ladies, telling a timeless tale of beauty, grace, and the enduring enchantment of fashion through the ages.


File:King's Head with Egyptian Headdress but Greek Hair and Features MET DP165471.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

King’s Head with Egyptian Headdress. Wikimedia Commons.


In ancient civilizations, the concept of embellishing one’s head with intricate accessories had already taken root. From ancient Egypt, where pharaohs and noblewomen adorned their crowns with jewels and precious metals, to the medieval times, when damsel and knights donned elaborate headdresses, head adornments have been a part of human expression for centuries.


File:France, Rapilly, 18th Century Print showing Headdresses Engraving, hand-tinted gouache 11 5-8 in. X 9 3-8 in. (29.5 x 23.8 cm.) LACMA M.83.194.7.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

France, Rapilly, 18th Century Print showing Headdresses Engraving. Wikimedia Commons.


As history progressed, fascinators evolved into the distinctive headpieces we recognize today. The Renaissance period saw the use of feathers, flowers, and delicate fabrics, becoming a symbol of grace and elegance among the elite. Throughout the 18th century and the Rococo era, fascinators embraced a more whimsical style, featuring ribbons, bows, and feathers in a delicate dance of beauty.

File:France, 18th century - Headdress - 1919.846 - Cleveland Museum of Art.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

France, 18th century Headdress – Cleveland Museum of Art. Wikimedia Commons.

The Victorian era introduced bonnets and small hats as popular fascinator choices, often adorned with feathers and silk flowers, combining fashion with practicality. In the 20th century, fascinators experienced a resurgence, gracing the heads of Hollywood starlets and socialites during the glamorous era.

Advertisement for women's felt hats from Finneys' department store, 1941 (6834723646) - PICRYL - Public Domain Media Search Engine Public Domain Image

Advertisement for women’s felt hats from Finneys’ department store. Creative Commons.

However, it was during the 1950s in the heart of the United Kingdom that the modern fascinator truly found its place in history. British women embraced the accessory as a way to add flair and individuality to their outfits while adhering to more conservative fashion trends. The renowned milliner, Stephen Jones, played a significant role in revitalizing the trend, creating fascinating headpieces worn by royalty and celebrities.

Today, the story of fascinators continues, bewitching fashion enthusiasts with their versatility and charm. From lavish designs to chic and minimalist styles, fascinators have become a staple at weddings, horse racing events, and other special occasions, adding a touch of elegance to every moment.

In the loom of our narrative, the threads of fascinators have been spun into a tale that showcases the artistry of fashion’s craftsmanship. With every stitch, the allure of these adornments has interlaced history and modernity, creating a fabric of style that remains timeless, a true testament to the creativity of fashion’s artisans.

Keep a keen eye, for amidst the gallant horses and noble riders, the elusive fascinators shall surely weave their magic, bestowing a touch of wonder upon the Steeplechase of Charleston.