Milliner loved by royalty on how to pick the perfect hat for the races

Heading to Cheltenham? Milliner loved by royals including Kate Middleton and Princess Eugenie reveals how to pick the perfect hat according to your height, face shape and hair (and the on-trend styles this racing season)

  • Couture milliner Vivien Sheriff is the founder of Wiltshire-based Vixen Millinery
  • Vivien designed Duchess of Cambridge’s fascinator for first official engagement
  • Shares top tips for buying right hat to suit your look and style this racing season 

Racing fans are gearing up for the first big event in the calendar next week, with Cheltenham getting underway on Tuesday.

For fashion-conscious revellers, a statement hat is a key element of their race day outfit – but those who are new to millinery may not have a clue where to start.

Thankfully couture milliner Vivien Sheriff, founder of Wiltshire-based Vixen Millinery, has offered some words of wisdom for picking stylish headwear.  

And she certainly knows what she’s talking about – Vivien dressed more guests at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding than any other designer and created the fascinator worn by the Duchess of Cambridge at her first official engagement.

Vivien’s designs, which are typically very detailed with layers of feathers, quills and even handwoven crystals, remain a firm favourite among high society – with Princess Eugenie sporting one of her eye-catching designs at Trooping the Colour in 2016 – and are always on prominent display at Royal Ascot.

Here she shares her top tips with FEMAIL on how to pick the best hat to suit your look this racing season – and offers her expert opinion on popular trends to look out for.

Vivien Sheriff dressed more guests at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding than any other designer and created the fascinator worn by the Duchess of Cambridge at her first official engagement – launching the new RNLI’s lifeboat ‘Hereford Endeavour’ at Trearddur Bay, Anglesey on February 24 in 2011 (pictured)

Face shape 

‘Finding a hat that flatters both your face and silhouette is really important,’ Vivien said.

‘As a rule of thumb, if you have a square or round face, then an angular disc worn to the side of the face asymmetrically looks great. 

‘Long faces tend to look good in berets or sweeping brims. However, if your face is oval then you’re one of the lucky ones who can wear any hat style!’

Hair style 

Vivien recommends wearing long hair up with a hat, ensuring it is pulled back away from the face.

‘A simple sweeping bun or sleek pony tail look amazing,’ she said. 

Princess Eugenie sported one of Vivien’s eye-catching designs at Trooping the Colour in 2016

‘What looks particularly sophisticated is when you have it tied into a low bun and off to one side; this really accentuates the style of the hat.

‘If you have shorter hair then check that any elastic or Alice band is properly secured with pins to avoid the hat slipping throughout the day.’


According to Vivien, taller women tend to be able to carry off wider brims.

‘If you are petite, then go for height over width for a really elegant look,’ she added.

Take your outfit shopping with you  

Vivien said: ‘We always recommend taking your outfit and accessories with you when selecting millinery. 

Check your hat is suitable for the event 

It’s important to always ensure sure your hat is suitable for the event you are attending.

If it’s the races, you need to understand if there are any rules or established etiquette. 

‘Cheltenham prefers smart attire, so ladies often wear hats – and because the racing is largely in the cooler months, it’s important to dress accordingly,’ Vivien said.

‘Feathered pieces work particularly well for Cheltenham.

‘Royal Ascot, on the other hand, has very strict dress codes and they differ depending on which enclosure you might be in. 

‘With the exception of our headbands, all of our occasion wear pieces are designed to conform with Royal Ascot’s dress code.’

‘At Vixen Millinery we offer a colour-matching service so we can ensure an exact match to you outfit in your chosen colour.’

If you’ve not managed to shop for your dress yet then that’s OK – Vivien suggested planning your outfit with your millinery selection to ensure a coherent, stylish look. 

‘Find a hat in a shape, style and colour that you love and then choose a dress and accessories to work with it,’ she advised. 

‘More often than not, a plain coloured, simple dress can actually be the most effective, especially if you are wearing a fabulous headpiece.’

Make sure it’s on the right way! 

If you’re a first-time hate wearer, it can sometimes be tricky to work out which way around it goes.

To avoid any potentially embarrassing scenarios, Vivien explained: ‘Traditionally hats sit on the right-hand side of the head, so check how your hat is positioned in the first instance. 

‘Look for showcase embellishment or trim, such as feathers or quills, as these are usually at the front of the hat. 

‘We always add our swing tags at the back of the hat to help clients understand front from back when they are trying on their piece for the first time.’

The five hottest hat styles for this year’s racing and wedding season

Veiling continues to be a popular choice this season. Pictured: The Vixen VX2015 design (£215)


Veiling continues to be a popular choice, and Vivien predicts we’ll see it incorporated in a number of different ways, as a trim as well as full face and birdcage styles. 


Elegant, sophisticated and understated designs dominate the new Vixen Millinery Spring Summer 2020 collection.

‘Dramatic eye-catching floral trims create a striking but feminine look,’ said Vivien.

‘It’s all about standing out this summer, and I predict we’ll see hats that have plenty of floral wow factor at Ascot and other summer events.’

Wear the look: The Vixen VX2014 is a small beret with a big personality. Its satin flower and feather stem is surrounded by a circular veiling. Perfect to wear to a wedding or the races this piece is priced at £175.00.  


‘Colour most certainly is king, and it’s also very much in this season,’ Vivien said.

Colour clash is in this season. Pictured: The VX2018 (£150) which suits all face shapes

‘From vibrant pop to wonderful contrasting shades, we’re looking forward to seeing lots of vibrant hats at the races.’ 


Kate Middleton rocked a headband on her official visit to Ireland this week – and the accessory is definitely back in vogue.

‘The headband is still a popular choice for the races, wedding and all summer events,’ Vivien said.  


According to Vivien: ‘Large but beautiful brims will always be a firm fixture on the racing and wedding circuit – and 2020 will be no exception.’  

For more information visit 

Source: Read Full Article