Lady Gaga's otherworldly headgear - a bejeweled lobster, a telephone hat, an enormous black rose headdress - doesn't exactly scream wedding. But she's always a trendsetter and her outrageous accessories trumpet the return of the statement-making headpiece. Fashionable brides are following suit.
While a veil is still the traditional choice for the walk down the aisle, headpieces are becoming popular for a bride looking to make more of an impact. Haute headgear, often one-of-a-kind with delicate detailing done in satin and silk with touches of taffeta and jewels, can be classic, quirky or even avant-garde. Indeed, as anyone who's ever swooned over the movie "Four Weddings and a Funeral" knows, weddings across the pond have long been showcases for fantastical bridal hats and fancy fascinators (what the Brits call extravagant hair accessories), but the idea is becoming more mainstream on our shores.
Whether it's a 1950s-inspired cap with veiling or a more modern piece with handmade silk flowers and colorful plumage, there's now a millinery masterpiece for every bride. Take Leah C. Couture Millinery's artistic creations of French tulle and ostrich feathers. Until recently, they were available exclusively through the designer's New York City atelier; now, she's begun collaborating with J. Crew's readily available wedding collection. At the other extreme, a search on Etsy.com, a popular destination for crafty handmade goods, reveals hundreds of headpieces from oversized peacock crystal hair brooches to showy headbands adorned with ivory lace and pearls.
But finding the perfect headwear is a bit trickier than choosing a bracelet or purse. "It's really the one part of the whole ensemble where you can incorporate a bit of personality," says San Francisco-based milliner Katie Burley, whose handiwork is available on Etsy. But most important, it should be wearable. Follow what the experts - the milliners themselves - have to say about wearing a gorgeous, graceful piece.
Know Yourself: If you typically do not wear statement accessories, your wedding day is probably not the best time to experiment, says New York designer Christine A. Moore. However, if you are confident in your fashion choices, a headpiece may add just the right flair to your gown.
Strike a Balance: A statement headpiece looks great with a simple dress - so if your gown is more elaborate, consider something plainer. Rather than overpowering the woman who wears it, headgear should be "remembered for its artistic beauty as well as emphasizing the beauty of the bride with her dress," says Australian milliner Marilena Romeo.
Suit Yourself :Think of yourself as a portrait, with your face as the focal point. Look for a headpiece that flows well with the silhouette and neckline of your dress, and frames your features and hairstyle. A milliner, who, by training, specializes in determining what looks best for each bride, is an essential guide.
Don't Overdo: According to Ban.do designers Jen Gotch and Jamie Coulter, the biggest mistake is trying to make too much of a statement. Go bold with a burst of color or touches of texture, but stop short of over the top. And please, avoid "sparkle overkill," says designer Leah Chalfen of Leah C. That means no diamond-encrusted lobsters.