WINTHROP — On the grounds of a 17th-century home that once belonged to the scion of an early English settler, a group of women gathered Saturday for an afternoon of traditions imported from the British Isles: drinking tea and making fascinators by hand.
Their timing was spot on. The royal wedding — a de facto global summit of fascinators — is set for next Saturday when Prince Harry plans to wed American actress Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle in England.
“A hat to me is a really important piece of clothing,” said Sandra Joneck-Schiff, president of the Winthrop Improvement and Historical Association, which hosted the event with the Seaside Women’s Network, a business group. “It’s underestimated.”
The fascinator and tea party took place in a barn next to the historic Deane Winthrop House on Shirley Street.
Many at the gathering had never worn a fascinator, a term for lightweight head coverings that usually secure onto the head with a clip, but their creations belied their inexperience with millinery.
“I’ve never made a fascinator before. It sounded like a really fun thing to do,” said Ellen Goldstick, a retired accountant who lives in Winthrop. “Who doesn’t love a tea party?”
Goldstick piled green tulle and a yellow fabric flower onto a circle-shaped base and secured the embellishments with glue.
The event raised money for the nonprofit historical association, said Diana Aliberti, co-founder of the Seaside Women’s Network. Women sipped tea in cups decorated with floral patterns and ate meringues, red velvet cookies, and chocolate pirouettes. They used a full-length mirror to model their hats and make adjustments.
Later, the group toured the Deane Winthrop House, which was constructed in 1637 and holds the distinction of being the country’s oldest, continually lived-in, wood-frame residence, according to David Hubbard, a Winthrop historian who led the women through the property. Deane Winthrop’s father, John Winthrop, was an early governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Aliberti layered her fascinator with pink and lime green tulle, a white feather, and purple and pink fabric flowers.
“It’s a way for an adult woman to have a dress up, but look good,” said Aliberti, who sells cosmetics for Mary Kay. “You see regular, everyday folk who want to make a hat, get dressed up, and go out.”
Amy Bucher, who runs a photography studio in Marblehead, chose a fabric, orange poppy as the centerpiece for her fascinator.
“I think I’m going to make more of these now. I keep getting compliments so I think that I’m good at it,” she said. “It draws attention that’s for sure. You can’t be shy and wear this.”
Alicia Stoddard said she may wear her fascinator the next time she goes to Belmont Park or Saratoga Race Course in New York to watch thoroughbred horse racing.
Her fascinator included a pink fabric rose, a stargazer lily, a white feather, and shimmery white tulle.
“I love wearing hats,” said Stoddard, who lives in Winthrop. “It makes me happy.”
Dawn Sullivan, a health and nutrition coach, combined a pair of fabric poppies with black and lime green tulle, and a red feather.
“I think I’m going to add more,” she said as she admired her creation. “It’s hard to know when to stop. You don’t want to overdo do it but I think the whole idea is to overdo it.”
Her 12-year-old daughter, Lillian, glued fabric flowers to a circular fascinator base. Dawn Sullivan said she might wear her fascinator to a Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday.
“It would dress up any occasion,” she said.
Phyllis Poor, a fiber artist from Winthrop, said her British daughter-in-law dons fascinators to formal events like weddings.
Poor made a fascinator with black tulle, but declined to put it on her head. She said she plans to wear it as a broach instead.
She credited her fellow hat makers for making stylish creations even though almost everyone in the room was a novice.
“I don’t see any that I don’t like and there’s so much variety,” said Poor.
Cheryle McCashion said the event was her first tea party. She made a blue and white fascinator to match her dress.
“This is something that I wanted to try with the royal wedding coming up,” said McCashion, an East Boston resident who sells jewelry for Paparazzi Accessories. “I would wear this if I go out to a wedding.”
Aliberti isn’t waiting for the royal wedding to wear her fascinator. She said she plans to wear it at one of Boston’s sacred venues: Fenway Park.
“I’m actually going to the Red Sox Monday night,” she said. “I think I’m going to wear my hat just for giggles.”Laura Crimaldi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.