Looking for something to top off that hot new outfit you just bought for fall?
"There really is nothing quite so glamorous or elegant as a hat," says Patricia Underwood, perhaps the premiere hat designer of the past decade. "A woman in a hat gets noticed."
Ms. Underwood's styles closely follow clothing trends, because she believes "hats should go with clothes, and people will choose clothes first. A hat that is interesting in and of itself is fine, but if it has no relevance to a woman's wardrobe, it won't be worn."
Ms. Underwood feels so strongly about the connection between hats and ready-to-wear that she recommends a woman always try on a hat with the outfit it will be a part of, and always in front of a full-length mirror.
Ms. Underwood frequently is asked to create hats for designer runway showings. For this fall, her hats topped outfits from lines by such fashion notables as Bill Blass, Michael Kors, Patricia Clyne and Isaac Mizrahi.
Though Ms. Underwood's style tends toward the tailored, her hats can be as conservative or funky as the wearer wants.
Of course, all this fashion savvy doesn't come cheap. Retail prices range from about $30 for a Patricia Underwood headband head wrap to $1,500 for some of the most elaborate, fur-trimmed styles; the average price is about $150. A secondary line introduced this year, Patricia Underwood Too, cuts prices by about a third and offers much of the same styling.
But even if you can't afford an authentic Underwood, her styles
are a great resource for fashion re
search. Less expensive knock-offs can be found once you know what you're looking for.
For fall, that might mean the Ridged Fedora with velvet trim ("Man-tailored but in gold or rich brown; they look great with Armani," Ms. Underwood suggests) or the Tall Mushroom, a high hat with a square crown ("Pure elegance," Ms. Underwood insists). The Tall Toque is another glamorous option, especially in an earth-toned tapestry weave.
For evening, Ms. Underwood likes to see long hair swept into an antique gold crocheted snood. Fall's sportier styles -- parkas and such -- call for Ms. Underwood's signature hat, the Dandy, a sort of square-crowned bowler with a small brim to be flipped up for added insouciance.
Another Underwood classic, the Karen, a round-crowned hat with a softly rolled-up brim, works with just about anything going this fall, especially in soft pastels such as pink, pea green and pearl gray.
"Color is the big movement in hats because that's what we're seeing in ready-to-wear," Ms. Underwood says. "We're selling the pastels and also red, orange and yellow, especially for early fall."