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Hats are definitely top news this summer, with eager fashionistas brimming with excitement over straw fedoras with grosgrain ribbon bands, floppy straw beach lids and frivolous fascinator headpieces of the sort streaming from CNN during live coverage of Will and Kate's royal wedding. And while hats have never really gone out of style, millinery -- the art of making hats -- is definitely at its most creative this season. The hottest styles evoke everything from vintage 1920s cloches (little bell-shaped hats that fit snugly on the crown) to small-brimmed hats that harken back to the 1940s World War II generation to petite '50s and '60s pillboxes made famous by Jackie Kennedy when she was in the White House. With so many hats on trend this summer, and in a plenitude of shapes, colors and sizes, whatever topper you choose to cap off your pulled-together look will help you make serious headway in the fashionista department.
It doesn't matter as much whether you have a squared-jaw face or a heart-shaped face or a round face. Someone who wears a hat with confidence and poise can actually pull off almost anything.
- Lawrence Green, co-owner, Louise Green Millinery
The No. 1 trick to finding the right hat for you? It's all about attitude.
"The biggest thing that determines what type of beautiful hat a woman can wear is attitude," said Lawrence Green, co-owner, along with his award-winning milliner wife Louise Green, of Louise Green Millinery, a Los Angeles-based design house that has made hats since 1987. (Celebrity clients of the storied company include Eva Longoria, Paris Hilton and Victoria's Secret supermodel Marisa Miller, who rocked one of the label's custom-made cloches to the 2011 Kentucky Derby.)
"It doesn't matter as much whether you have a squared-jaw face or a heart-shaped face or a round face. Someone who wears a hat with confidence and poise can actually pull off almost anything," Green continued.
One hat experiencing a major surge in popularity is the stingy-brim fedora, Green noted.
"The mannish look for women has always been popular," he said. "The stingy brim, which is a small brim around the hat as opposed to a wide brim, is especially trendy."
"The fedora is never out of fashion and never inappropriate," added hat designer Louise Green.
Whether you splurge on a $200 fedora or pluck a $10 version off a cart in a New York City subway station, the style looks great on anybody, said Sally Kellman, co-founder, along with Stefan Schinzinger, of San Francisco Hat Company.
"The fedora is easy to wear, and it looks good with everything, from jeans and a T-shirt to a country club-ish garden party dress," she said. "They're so easy to wear, they've come to replace the baseball cap."
Kellman's favorite looks of the moment include a straw-plaited Panama-style fedora (soft and roll-able, they're perfect for the beach), a wide-brim fedora inspired by the 1890s Wild West ("They're very 'True Grit,'" she said.) and a soft felt "slouchy" hat of the sort Diane Keaton wore in Woody Allen's 1978 Oscar-winning film "Annie Hall."
"Wide-brim hats are definitely au courant," said Kellman, who suggested a soft, big hat for outdoor weddings, high tea and if you're off to a day at the races. "Look for one with a little wire on the edge to keep it pinched up at the front and off your face. A little shape and restraint always has a little more style to it."
For a more fanciful and romantic look, Lawrence Green favors fascinators and headbands (feather, flowers and plumage abound) and sculptural pieces that sit perched atop the head (think: Victoria Beckham's little navy blue doll hat worn at Westminster Abbey).
"They are oftentimes a little more fun and playful than traditional fedoras," he said. "They're wearable works of art, and art lifts the spirit through beauty and creativity."
"People of all different sizes and shapes can get away with the fascinators because they sit up high on the head," Louise Green added. "A lot of ladies these days are buying fancier hats."
Of course, if you haven't fielded an invite to the next royal family function, you can always wear your doll hat -- especially the 1920s schoolboy-inspired styles -- out to dinner or on date night with your sweetie.
"They look really cute with a summer dress," said Green, who's added little whimsical accents, such as striped and polka-dot ribbon and grosgrain trim, to her 2011 spring-summer collection. Straw textures and Groucho Marx-type bowler hats worn at the back of the head are also very big this summer.
Don't be afraid to mix and match different hats with different outfits -- a big floppy hat with shorts or a fedora with a bathing suit and sarong -- for a look that's unexpected, fresh and individual.
"It's all about having fun," Green said. "Carrying off your hat with a laugh and a smile and a good heart is equally important to how one is dressed as anything else."