Style watchers are looking across the pond to see the latest trends sparked by Kate Middleton.
Last week, Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Western world's most influential trend-setter, made headlines with an Alexander McQueen black gown she wore to a black-tie charity event in London. It was her "biggest fashion moment since the royal wedding," according to the website graziadaily.co.uk.
Middleton has been credited with renewing interest in pantyhose, nude shoes and military-inspired clothing, as well. Her most glamorous style, however, might be the fascinator, a delicate headpiece. CNN reported last April that because of Middleton, Google searches for fascinators had increased more than 50 percent.
Lookout Mountain resident Lynn Alsobrook, a designer of fascinators, said that though the duchess has thrust the fascinator into the limelight, it has a rich history. The hat dates to the 18th century, she said, noting that history shows the hats were heavily adorned with feathers, lace, flowers and jeweled pins.
"Fashion mavens picked up on the trend, and fascinators have become a whimsical headpiece, not only in England but in the United States," Alsobrook said.
"I began making fascinators last summer after scouring Chattanooga and Atlanta for one to wear to a special wedding," Alsobrook said. "With my background in clothing design, I decided that I would create my own. I had so much fun putting the piece together that another followed and another. I soon realized that I had a produced a collection."
Alsobrook said she uses moire, raw silk, beaten satin and wool felt as the raw materials for her creations. The price range is $60 to $75, depending on the design intricacy and the materials used, she said.
Alsobrook's hats are sold privately through her company, Happy Hatters (email email@example.com).
The fascinator, though popular as a wedding accessory, is more versatile today, thanks to Middleton.
Dunlap resident Victoria Meek Underwood, formerly of South Wales, said she loves fascinators.
"I love the colorful ones," she said. "I've seen them for sale at Belk in the form of a headband. I love the whole idea of wearing headpieces to weddings. My grandmother always wore hats to weddings and she wore one to my wedding 10 years ago.
"In Wales, the ladies always wear a headpiece of some sort to weddings. Hats/fascinators have come out because of the royal wedding, even though it has always been in the United Kingdom."
Though the trend has been slow to catch on locally, Alsobrook said there is a definite market and it's growing.
"I have always loved hats and have purchased many over the years, but until recently, have not had the courage to wear them in Chattanooga," Alsobrook said. "My mother and grandmother wore hats as I was growing up. My grandmother felt that the more flowers on the hat, the better the hat."
In the 1950s, ladies wore hats to most every social gathering, she said.
"They were simply part of their complete wardrobe," she said. "All the major stores -- Miller Brothers, Loveman's and Pickett's -- had hat departments in those days."
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...