It’s wedding season, which also means it’s hat season. But choosing the right one can be fraught with drama. Many women yearn to look like Kate Middleton, but let’s be honest: Not everyone can pull off a fascinator.
Milliner Marie Galvin provides haute hat help. The longtime couture headpiece designer recently took over a ground-floor studio on Harrison Avenue after operating from a subterranean space in the same building. Now she’s known for elaborate window displays (murals, Kentucky Derby-themed mannequins).
“It looks like someplace in Paris or New York City!” Galvin says with a laugh.
Last week, her shop was flooded with clients preparing for the mayor’s Rose Garden Party. Other trans-Atlantic clients (she has several) are preparing for the Royal Ascot this week; still others need headpieces for outdoor weddings.
Many shoppers arrive asking for fascinators. However, Galvin — who grew up in northwest Ireland — wants to be clear. Not every elaborate headpiece is a fascinator.
“Fascinator became the word after the royal wedding, and Americans use it for everything. If you go to England, people balk! ‘That’s not a fascinator!’ But, really, whatever you want to call it. I won’t correct anyone,” she says. (In actuality, most legitimate fascinators involve a feather.)
While she lets people play fast and loose with style terms, she’s stricter with sartorial etiquette.
“For the Royal Ascot, for instance, people might show up with a feather stuck in a headband, and they’re done. But the headpiece needs to be at least four inches in diameter, so your head is somewhat covered. When in doubt, look at the royals,” she says.
Of course, she also caters to hoi polloi who might simply need an accessory for a summer wedding. So she custom-designs hats made with silk orchids, peacock feathers, and even a 31-inch-tall creation modeled after a botanical garden.
“Clients say, ‘I don’t want to outshine the bride.’ But did you watch the royal wedding? They were all outdoing each other,” she says.
Customers typically arrive at her shop with two or three outfits, and Galvin steers them to the proper hat combination. The experience lures out the inner fashionista in even the most buttoned-up women, she says.
“People tell me, ‘I’m not a hat person!’ But they start trying hats on, and then the diva comes out. Their whole body and posture changes. Trying on a hat is like getting a shot of Botox from head to toe.”Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.