Pillbox Placement Part 1: 21st Century

There was an interesting discussion in the comments last week about the ‘correct’ placement of a pillbox hat (brimless hat with a flat top and straight sides that resembles a round cake tin). This threw me into the photo archives over the weekend to do some research. While ‘correct’ is subjective, there appear to be five distinct royal positions for a pillbox hat as we have seen this design worn so far this century:
Position 1: “Over The Forehead” The least common position, unless you’re Princess Beatrix or the pillbox has a cocktail hat vibe.


Position 2: “At The Hairline” Here, the front rim of the hat follows just behind the wearer’s hairline, leaving a sliver of visible hair. Princess Kiko and other Imperial royals seem to favour this position. If the pillbox is tall, this placement works well (keeping the piece away from the back of the neck).

Position 3: “Just Back” One of the two most common placements for pillboxes these days, this position leaves an inch or two of hair in front of the hat to frame the face. The centre of the hat generally sits over the crown of the head.


Position 4: “Off The Top” Perhaps the most common pillbox placement today, the front rim of the hat sits near the middle of the top of the head, leaving several inches of visible hair in front. The back rim of the hat roughly follows the occiptal bone around the back of the head – the center of the hat falls just below the crown of the wearer’s head.


Position 5: “Off The Back” The front hat rim is placed near the crown of the head leaving the hat to sit nearly (or completely!) vertical down the back of the head. Unless the hat is very large, the hair on the top of the wearer’s head will remain mostly uncovered.


This exercise left me with a few questions. Have royal pillbox hats always been worn primarily off the face? Has royal pillbox placement changed much since the 1980s? The 1960s? Stay tuned tomorrow when we break down pillbox placement during the last century (1950s through 1990s) and look for ways past fashion might influence how this classic hat shape is worn today.

For now, I’m curious about which one of these pillbox placements you think works best. What factors influence this? Does one position work better with shorter or longer hair? Does face shape matter? What about size of the pillbox?

One Straw Hat, Three Coats

Royal Hats At the April 5 Service of Hope at Westminster Abbey (held in memory of those who lost their lives in the Westminster terror attack March 22, 2017), the Duchess of Cambridge wore a black straw percher hat that many of you admired. The hat, from Lock & Co., is a bespoke version of the “Salsa” design from the Summer 2013 collection. Since 2013, Kate has paired this hat with three coats and I’m curious- which pairing do you like best?

Look 1: With a black and white dalmatian print Hobbs maternity coat, worn June 13, 2013 to christen a cruise ship

One Coat, Two Hats

Royal HatsAt the unveiling of the Afgahnistan and Iraq memorial earlier this month, the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out in a beautiful Michael Kors navy coat dress. We’ve seen Kate in this coat dress twice, the first time in Australia where it was paired with an Australian designed cocktail hat and the second, with the mushroom brimmed hat we saw a few weeks ago. The hats lend a very different feel to the ensemble, despite both being in dark blue felt (and both appearing at memorial events), proving that shape and scale have significant impact when it comes to a hat. Which hat do you think pairs better with this coat?


Marking ANZAC Day in Canberra, April 25, 2014 in a percher design by Australian brand Hatmaker by Jonathan Howard

Inventory: Princess Charlene’s Black Hats

Since we have not yet completed any hat inventories for the Princess of Monaco, I thought it would be a good idea to peek into her closet for our next review of black hats. Since becoming a princess in 2011, Charlene has worn three black hats.  Here they are, in the order they were introduced:

1.Princess Charlene, November 19, 2012 | Royal Hats   2.Princess Charlene, November 19, 2014 | Royal Hats          

Designers: unknown
Introduced: Nov 19, 2012; Nov 19, 2014

3.Princess Charlene, Nov 13, 2016 | Royal Hats Princess Charlene, Nov 13, 2016 | Royal Hats 

Designer: Rachel Trevor Morgan
Introduced: Nov 13, 2016

Charlene also wore a black knit hat back in 2013 for a Six Nations rugby match between England and France – a casual hat that’s worth noting but not formally including in this inventory.

2013-02-23 Twickenham

Charlene does not wear hats often (usually just once a year for Monaco’s National Day) so I was surprised to find three pieces in her rather meagre millinery closet. #1 and #3 are braver designs (something I’ll always applaud) while #2 is as quintessentially French as as it gets. Do any of these pieces strike your fancy?

Photos from Mark Cuthbert and Pascale Le Segretain via Getty; Timothy Horgan; Palais Princier de Monaco;  Newscom

Inventory: Queen Elizabeth’s Black Hats

After our look yesterday at her fourteen hats that feature black and another colour, you might be very surprised to find that since 2000, Queen Elizabeth has worn just ten solid black hats:

1.Queen Elizabeth, Sep 14, 2001 | Royal Hats  2.Queen Elizabeth, Nov 10, 2005 | Royal Hats  3.Queen Elizabeth, April 4, 2002 | Royal Hats

Designer: likely Philip Somerville;  unknown; unknown
Introduced: all prior to 2000 (these photos taken Sep 14, 2001; Nov 10, 2005; Apr 4, 2002)

4.Queen Elizabeth, Oct 17, 2000 in Frederick Fox | Royal Hats  5.Queen Elizabeth, Feb 12, 2002 | Royal Hats  6.Queen Elizabeth, April 5, 2002 | Royal Hats  

Designer: Frederick Fox; Philip Somerville; unknown
Introduced: Oct 17, 2000; Feb 12, 2002; April 5, 2002; 

7.Queen Elizabeth, November 9, 2008 in Angela Kelly | Royal Hats  8.Queen Elizabeth, November 11, 2011 in Angela Kelly | Royal Hats  9.Queen Elizabeth, November 8, 2015 in Angela Kelly design made by Stella McLaren | Royal Hats

Designer: Angela Kelly; Angela Kelly; Angela Kelly made by Stella McLaren
Introduced: Nov 9, 2008; Nov 11, 2011; Nov 9, 2015

10.Queen Elizabeth, Nov 13, 2016 in Angela Kelly | Royal Hats

Designer: Angela Kelly
Introduced: Nov 13, 2016

When you think about how many memorial and Remembrance events the Queen has attended over the past 17 years, one might think she would have more than 10 hats to accommodate all of these events. Interestingly, hats #1 through #4 have all been retired for about the past decade, leaving the remaining six designs to do the job whenever a black hat is required. While other royals repeat their black designs for regular daytime engagements, Queen Elizabeth does not. The hat shapes here are also fairly similar (most are an Angela Kelly design), making me think that this group is all about practical functionality rather than fashion. After seeing Queen Maxima’s 25 black hats, this collection seems rather streamlined!

What hats here stand out to you most? If you were to add a new black hat into this collection, what style would you choose?

Photos from Tim GrahamAntony JonesTim Graham, AFPTim GrahamTim Graham, Pool/Tim Graham, Chris Jackson, Chris Jackson, Carl Court and Karwai Tang via Getty


Inventory: Queen Elizabeth’s ‘Black And’ Hats

Some of you have been eagerly awaiting a review of the black hats in Queen Elizabeth’s millinery closet. In preparing this inventory, I came a across an interesting subgroup of hats that I’m calling the “Black Ands”- hats that are partially black and partially another colour. Since 2000, Queen Elizabeth has worn fourteen designs that fit this classification and I thought a peek at them today would be a great prelude to our look at her black hats tomorrow. Here are all the “Black Ands” we have seen Queen Elizabeth wear this millennium, in general order of introduction:

1.Queen Elizabeth, Oct 24, 2000 | Royal Hats  2.Queen Elizabeth, Nov 29, 2001  3.2002-02-24-new-zealand

Designer: unconfirmed. Likely either Frederick Fox or Philip Somerville 
Introduced: all prior to 2000 (these outings were photographed  Oct 24, 2000; Nov 29, 2001 and Feb 24, 2002)

4.Queen Elizabeth, Oct 10, 2003 in Philip Somerville | Royal Hats  5.Queen Elizabeth, April 20, 2012 | Royal Hats  6.Queen Elizabeth, Dec 25, 2002 | Royal Hats

Designer: Philip Somerville; unknown; unknown
Introduced: Dec 31, 1999; Oct 6, 2002; Oct 13, 2002 

7.Queen Elizabeth, March 27, 2007 in Philip Somerville | Royal Hats  8.Queen Elizabeth, May 7, 2007 in Rachel Trevor Morgan | Royal Hats  9.2008-05-02 Scouts centennary

Designer: Philip Somerville; Rachel Trevor Morgan; unknown 
Introduced: Nov 24, 2005; May 7, 2007; May 2, 2008

10.Queen Elizabeth, May 13, 2008 | Royal Hats  11.Queen Elizabeth, April 25, 2015 in Philip Somerville | Royal Hats

Designer: unknown; Philip Somerville
Introduced: Oct 23, 2008; May 7, 2009

12.Queen Elizabeth Oct 9, 2009 in Angela Kelly | Royal Hats 13.Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, June 1, 2013 in Angela Kelly | Royal Hats 14.Queen Elizabeth, March 3, 2011 in Angela Kelly | Royal Hats  

Designer: all are Angela Kelly
Introduced:  May 7, 2009; Oct 27; 2009; Mar 3, 2011

Some of these pieces will no doubt be familiar as they have seen high profile events or frequent wear (#5, #11, #14) while others might seem new. I have long admired the punchy high contrast of #8 and delicacy of #10 and haven’t lost hope that we’ll see them trotted out again.

Now over to you, dearest readers- what pieces stand out most to you? What makes one partially black hat work while another does not?

Photos from  Pool/Tim Graham, Adrian Dennis, Ian Jones, Kirsty WigglesworthMax Mumby/Indigo, Tim Graham via Getty; Corbis; Saul Loeb via Getty; Press Association; Getty ImagesMark Cuthbert, Max Mumby/Indigo, Nick HarveyWPA Pool, via Getty