Where to buy an occasion hat in London: millinery hotspots for Royal Ascot and wedding attire

 (Ocassion Hats)
(Ocassion Hats)

On the third floor of Jessica McCormack’s extraordinary, luxury jewellery townhouse on Mayfair’s Carlos Place, Mr Tony, Fenwick’s occasion hat specialist for 22 years, is squeaking, “Just beautiful, darling!”

My mother is trying a hat for Royal Ascot, and while once the hot spot would have been Fenwick’s sprawling hat department in its Bond Street department store, its closure in February has seen it morph into a purple-walled, trunk-show-style pop-up to meet the continued demand. While event-goers might be happy to pick their dress online, “trying on your hat in-store, with your dress or at the very least a picture of it, is essential,” Mr Tony says. It’s for this reason it has found “a small space, but home”, joining a number of other temporary millinery hotspots which have cropped up in central London for May and June.

The Chapeau! pop up on Mount Street (Chapeau!)
The Chapeau! pop up on Mount Street (Chapeau!)

Along the road, at 9 Mount Street, Chapeau! sits in the former Roksanda flagship, and offers a collection of 12 milliners. Success has meant its stay was recently extended from the end of May to June 15. “Every day, you’ll find at least one milliner working in-store, offering personalised styling advice that can only be provided through years of millinery experience,” says Martha Lynn, with key milliners including Lisa Tan, Victoria Grant and Edwina Ibbotson.

At the nearby 37 Brook Street, Emily-London has a temporary boutique for her hats, who explains “finding the perfect hat is such a personal thing, and at our pop-up, the in-store team can assist with the whole experience of hat-buying and outfit-styling”. Meanwhile milliner Jess Collett’s wares can be found in Samantha Cameron’s Cefinn flagship shop on Elizabeth Street, following their recent collaboration. These join a host of mainstay millinery outposts including Stephen Jones, 36 Great Queen St, WC2B 5AA; Philip Treacy, 69 Elizabeth St, SW1W 9PJ; and Lock and Co, 6 St James’s St, SW1A 1EF, among others.

The Vanillia Lilac hat from Lock and Co. (Lock and Co.)
The Vanillia Lilac hat from Lock and Co. (Lock and Co.)

“It’s sad to say but as hats have lost their ubiquity, we’ve in turn lost our knowledge of hat sizing and styling,” says Awon Golding, a hat maker and creative director of Lock and Co. “I always encourage clients to come in store and try on as many hats as possible. Not only is it fun but after trying on different shapes, colours and styles you’ll be able to discern what suits you best.”

As for what works this year, Mr Tony is talking through the classic options everyone should consider. “The really classic style we call the The Audrey Hepburn,” he says, gesturing towards a wide brim, full crown, Stephen Jones creation. “You need a bit of height to wear it, but it’s quite sexy and mysterious because once on, they can’t see your eyes.” Then there is “the Upturn”, flat and which peels off the face, “which is better for wedding photos”, as well as a selection of “neat hats” which range from typical pillbox styles to flatter, acorn-like designs. “These are popular because they are always neat, comfortable, and no trouble in the wind.”

The Royal Ascot Lookbook 2024 (James Robjant)
The Royal Ascot Lookbook 2024 (James Robjant)

For something braver, James Pink Studio, which makes more affordable styles that Central Saint Martins students love, offers: “A bicorn or sailor hat is a handsome style for anybody. It has an androgynous, cool, easiness that doesn’t rely on having an up-do like traditional hats. Other alternative shapes to try; skippers, flat- caps, berets, or even the most expensive looking bucket hat could work. When in doubt, just add a matching colour veil — but not white unless you’re a bride.”

Then, there’s what Mr Tony calls something “crazy”. “That’s when the feathers, and brighter colours come into play.” Do not rule out taking a page from Zendaya’s book; the actress wore a Philip Treacy bouquet on her head for this year’s Met Gala and looked sensational. There’s no doubt anything with similar pedigree would set lips in the Royal Enclosure on fire.

The hats to know

The Audrey Hepburn

 (Stephen Jones)
(Stephen Jones)

Stephen Jones, Moire, £1,260, Fenwick pop-up 7 Carlos Place, W1. Book an appointment, fenwick.co.uk

The Upturn

 (Hobbs)
(Hobbs)

Hobbs, Chloe, £79, hobbs.com

The Pillbox

 (Emily London)
(Emily London)

Collonges pillbox, £850, Emily-London pop-up 37 Brook Street W1

The Bicorn

 (James Pink Studio)
(James Pink Studio)

James Pink Studio, Bicorn, £255, jamespinkstudio.com

The Crazy Hat

 (Rachel Trevor Morgan)
(Rachel Trevor Morgan)

Rachel Trevor-Morgan, Ostrich feather, £2,045, harrods.com