What is a fascinator and why are young royals so fascinated with them?

WATCH: Fascinators: A look at the headwear accessory ahead of the royal wedding

There’s a lot to look forward to as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s wedding approaches, although little holds more anticipation than the fashions.

Undoubtedly, all eyes will be on the wedding dress, but once that has made its appearance chances are everyone’s gaze will be fixed a little higher — at the fascinator perched atop guests’ heads.

READ MORE: Meghan Markle will have to follow these 5 fashion rules after she marries Prince Harry

An often detailed and sculptural accessory, the fascinator is like the hat’s little sister. It’s smaller — no more than four inches in diameter, as decreed by Buckingham Palace — and allows the wearer to add a dash of whimsy to her outfit.

A fascinator has a base that fastens onto the head with either clips, a headband or a comb, and is adorned with anything from flowers, feathers and pearls to more structural, avant-garde designs (the one Princess Beatrice wore to Prince William‘s wedding in 2011 made headlines). It can either be worn in the centre of the head or on an angle.

“The fascinator came into fashion around the 1960s when women were still expected to wear hats to formal occasions, especially one that involved entering a Catholic church,” says Jonathan Walford, director and curator of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ont.

The fascinator Princess Beatrice wore to her cousin Prince William's wedding in 2011 made headlines and sparked countless memes.

The fascinator Princess Beatrice wore to her cousin Prince William's wedding in 2011 made headlines and sparked countless memes.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

“By wearing a comb in their hair and attaching something to it, like a lace veil, it allowed them to sidestep the rules that forced them to wear a hat.”

He says it was most popular with bridesmaids, but once the church eased up on its requirements that women cover their heads, the fascinator fell out of fashion.

That is, until Kate Middleton came on the scene.

“The Duchess of Cambridge started wearing them all the time and suddenly they became a huge deal again,” Walford says.

It’s unclear if the duchess prefers them over hats because she doesn’t want to cover up her glossy locks or if she equates hats with the elderly — after all, the Queen is rarely seen without a brilliantly hued chapeau — but the fact remains, she has brought them back into the fashion fore. It points to the very distinct possibility that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding will be full of fascinators.

READ MORE: Prince Charles to walk Meghan Markle down aisle at royal wedding

Maybe even some of the most inventive we’ve seen. As Walford points out, the upcoming nuptials are likely to offer more relaxed and contemporary looks, since Prince Harry is a very distant heir, leaving a lot more wiggle room to buck tradition and have some fun with fashion.

“Meghan Markle is American, which is already a big deal, and we’re seeing some more modernization coming out of the royal family.”

Here’s hoping Princess Beatrice delivers once again.


On Saturday, May 19 at 4:30 a.m. ET/ 1:30 a.m. PT, Global’s coverage kicks into high gear with special Harry & Meghan: Their Love Story, hosted by Cheryl Hickey and Dawna Friesen. The one-hour show takes a closer look at the couple’s whirlwind romance. From their secret rendezvous in Toronto to Markle taking a leap of faith by hopping the pond, the special features interviews with royal and celebrity insiders Andrew Morton, Katie Nicholl and Shinan Govani.

Global’s wedding day coverage continues live at 5:30 a.m. ET/ 2:30 a.m. PT with Harry & Meghan: The Royal Wedding, broadcasting live from Windsor, U.K. with hosts Cheryl Hickey, Sangita Patel and Dawna Friesen, who are joined by special guest Ross Mathews (Celebrity Big Brother). With expert celebrity knowledge, comedic flair and a love of all things pop culture, Mathews is the perfect complement to co-host the five-and-a-half hour program.

Along with drop-in guests including royal expert and author Phil Dampier and powerhouse celebrity publicist Simon Jones, the broadcast will chronicle all the details of the royal wedding, including the procession to St George’s Chapel and Markle walking down the aisle.

Coverage of the event continues into the evening with the final U.K. edition of Global National recapping the day at 6:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT. Then, the highly anticipated movie Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance airs at 8 p.m. ET/PT on W Network, kicking off the specialty network’s Always & Forever event of four weekends filled with back-to-back wedding-themed movies celebrating the newlyweds.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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