Tip of the hat to ‘fascinators’

Since the Middle Ages, hats have held a variety of purposes in culture. They have been worn for religious reasons, protection against the elements, safety, as fashion accessories and to denote social status.

In Florida, the majority of hats we see are used for sun protection. They range from baseball hats and visors to dramatically large beach hats made for lounging poolside.

Fishing hats, which include those dreadfully efficient flaps that can connect to cover your neck, ears and face, are also popular in the Keys. These fishing hats are like the fanny pack — useful but not a fashion statement you’d want to make in public once off your boat.

The hats made by Key West artist Judi Bradford are in a class all their own. These one-of-a-kind creations range from $50 to $185 and are reminiscent of the fascinator-styles more popular in the United Kingdom and famously worn for the royal wedding a few years ago.

In fashion, hats can inspire an entire outfit, influencing the color scheme worn and the way you wear your hair.

These beautiful pieces created by Bradford are referred to as fascinators due to their charming size and intricate use of rich textiles, curious buttons, distinctive ribbons and luxurious feathers.

The feathers she uses are predominantly from Key West roosters. They are gathered locally, gently washed, air dried, trimmed and curled. She sells her hats at parties, trunk-show events and sometimes right off the top of her head when she’s out and about.

You can view her creations on her website, www.judibradford.com or at her studio at the Studios of Key West, 600 White St.

This summer, she will travel to New York for the prestigious and competitive American Craft Festival at Lincoln Center and to England to study with three British milliners: Bailey Tomlin, Judy Bentinck and Bobbi Heath. Their couture hats have been featured in Vogue magazine and are worn to the Europe’s most famous horse races.

In the fall, Bradford says, she’ll create a new series of hats from all she learns while abroad.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to wear a beautiful hat like Bradford’s, get your friends together for a viewing party of the Kentucky Derby on May 4.

Enjoy the best two minutes in sports while wearing fabulous hats and sipping the infamous mint julep. For those in the Upper Keys, I’ll host a Kentucky Derby party at the Green Turtle Inn in Islamorada starting at 4 p.m. It’s open to the public and will include a discounted themed menu, specialty drinks and prizes for the best dressed and most fabulous hat.

For more information, send me an e-mail, leah@leahsfabulousfinds.com.

Leah Maki is a fashion-obsessed style blogger. More of her fashion advice can be found on her blog, LeahsFabulousFinds.com.

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