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Hat TricksNorth American fashionistas feast upon the season's must-have handbags. But across the pond, the accessory du jour remains the hat. When Kate Middleton attended her first official royal engagement—a lifeboat christening in Wales—the world press paid little attention to her posh purse. No, the focus literally rested upon her head: a feathery confection blowing in the Welsh wind. To British women, chic chapeaux are old hat. But we North Americans often forget to "use our heads." That's why 2 sat down with master milliner Suzanne Newman to find out when, where and how to properly wear a hat.

Master milliner Suzanne Newman poses with 'Will & Kate' in her NYC shop.

Though raised in South Africa, Newman cut her fashion teeth in London, later settling in New York City. It was there that she apprenticed with Old World milliner Josephine Tripoli. After mastering the art of hat-making, Newman opened her Madison Avenue shop, Suzanne Couture Millinery. It's since become the go-to boutique for hat-loving celebs, socialites and fashion designers.

But why does the average North American woman shy away from hats? "American women are much more conservative than their European counterparts," explains Newman. "And they do not have the same tradition for wearing hats to special occasions." Those occasions generally include weddings, christenings, funerals (black, of course), afternoon sporting events, such as horse races and polo matches, and luncheons. Formal, black-tie affairs should never take a hat. Make like a princess and stick to your tiara for such soirees!

For weddings, Newman recommends a modern saucer-shaped hat on a small frame, with plumage and flowers or just a single quill for a minimalist look. When it comes to color, follow the same rules as your other accessories. It looks dated to perfectly match your shoe, bag and dress; the same rule applies to dresses and hats. As Newman advises, "don't match the color necessarily, but have some reason for that hat to go with that particular outfit."

And when you're not in the mood for a full-brimmed topper? Meet the fascinator! "A fascinator is a new term created for a headpiece that, in some instances, will suffice for a hat," says Newman. "It is usually small and feathery, and is secured on a headband, comb or elastic."

Hairstyle also plays a part in your hat selection. "A hat always looks better with hair swept back and tied into a knot, twist or ponytail, thus exposing the neck, jaw-line and earrings," advises Newman. "Though long hair hanging straight down works well with a fascinator," she adds.

Once you've chosen your chapeau or fascinator, it's important to keep in mind some rules of hat etiquette. Unlike men, a lady does not remove her hat indoors, for anthems or in restaurants. "For one, there would be no place for her to put it!" laughs Newman. Though if you happen to be at the theater, do be mindful of those sitting behind you, especially if you're sporting a sky-high, triple-tiered topper. Be a lady and set it in your lap until intermission.

When it comes to hats, size matters. Newman explains, "A hat that exceeds the width of one's shoulders should not be worn to a lunch or dinner. It inhibits the serving of a meal and may encumber guests seated near you. At one luncheon I attended, the lady sitting next to me had huge feathers projecting from her hat. Every time she turned her head, those plumes fluttered in my face." Above all, always be considerate and mind the hat!