Fascinated by fascinators

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A staple of women's fashion at the races, the fascinator has adorned the heads of countless royals, celebrities and fashionistas. So what exactly is so fascinating about the fascinator?

Spring has arrived and so have the races, which means that it's time to show off those springtime frocks and fascinators. Whether you're headed to Flemington Racecourse for the Melbourne Cup or to the Spring Carnival at Royal Randwick, you can't be seen at the racetracks without a fabulous fascinator!

Modern fascinators are fashion statements in themselves. They can be fanciful, flamboyant, or outright bizarre, but at the end of the day, they always add that little extra to an outfit. At the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, they breathe new life into hair design and fashion as either a complementary item to an ensemble, or simply as a stand-alone fashion statement. Plus, they're usually easier to wear than hats because they're lighter and smaller, and clip onto your hair. This gives you freedom of move without having to worry about your fascinator falling off.

There are plenty of ready-to-order and design-your-own fascinator boutiques to be found online, offering a wide selection of stand-out pieces at affordable prices. If you've got a knack for creativity, you can even try your hand at making your own fascinator. That way, it's guaranteed that your fascinator won't be replicated on the turf.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, uploaded by user: russavia. The races are the time to show off your most elegant and stylish hats or fascinators.

From the French to the fascinator

Hats, headpieces and fascinators are synonymous with refined ladies at the racetrack, but the fine art of hair decorating is not a recent one. Women throughout the ages, dating back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, have decorated their hair with all types of accessories, such as flowers, clips, beads, ornamental combs and pins and even luxurious metals like gold and silver - all of which can be seen in fascinator trends today.

Perhaps the most famous head of hair belonged to French queen Marie-Antoinette, who had a fondness for extravagant hair decoration. She flaunted many a look, exhibiting the most stylish and ostentatious hairdos complete with flowers, feathers, lace, jewels and even a model of a victorious battleship, La Belle-Poule, at one pointi. At the time, her innovative hairdos influenced aristocratic women all over Europe, helping flamboyant hair decoration and styles gain popularity.

Marie-Antoinette's penchant for fabulous hair decoration has carried on today, with European milliners and fashion houses creating hair pieces for members of the British Royal family. Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton is renowned for her fascinators, often sporting them at royal visits and celebrationsii. The infamous fascinator, which Princess Beatrice of York sported at the wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William, was sold at a charity auction, raising 81,100.01 for UNICEF and Children in Crisisiii.

While your fascinator might not be made by famous British milliners or be photographed by the international press, it's a unique accessory that adds ceremony to any occasion - so wear it loud and wear it proud this spring racing season.

Storage tips

When you're not sporting your newest fascinator at the racetrack, make sure to keep it stowed away safely in a clean, dry spot. A spacious box is your safest bet for keeping your fascinator in tip-top shape when it's not on your headiv. Another way to keep your fascinator in good condition is to avoid moisture: don't get it wet in the rain or wash it. If your fascinator becomes exposed to water or other liquids, it might lose its shape or colouriii.

If you're headed down to Flemington Racecourse for the Melbourne Cup, remember to take your fascinator out of its box a day or so before the first Tuesday of November to air it out and allow the beads, feathers or other embellishments to regain their shape.

How to wear a fascinator

A fascinator is usually worn on the side of the head, with the veil, if there is one, falling just below the eye. Straight hair generally looks better with a small or dainty fascinator, while curly, frizzy or wavy hair types suit larger fascinators. Remember not to wash your hair on the day of the race as it's easier to style hair when it isn't freshly washed; hair spray and extra bobby pins can also help to secure your fascinator in place.

iBashor, W. 2013, 'Marie-Antoinette's Craziest, Most Epic Hairstyles', Huffington Post, 16 October, viewed 27 August 2014,

iiPeople 2011, Kate Middleton's Top 10 Toppers, viewed 27 August 2014,

iiiLefort, R. 2011, ' Bidding for Princess Beatrice's hat hits 80,000', The Telegraph, viewed 15 September 2014,

ivForever Fascinators 2013, How to care for your fascinator, viewed 27 August 2014,