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Byline: By David Emanuel

Now that spring has finally arrived, and with summer just around the corner - it's time to think about hats. My regular STYLE readers will already know lA bag was hot in 2004 and that I predict the hat to be the must have accessory for 2005!

Hats have personality. Hats make a statement. Hats give you attitude. Hats add zing to a tired wardrobe.

On a practical note, with the social whirl of so many summer events, hats can not only shade you from the hard glare of sunshine but can usefully hide a bag hair day, should you be caught short!

In days of old, ladies thought of hats mostly for weddings, christenings, luncheons, Royal garden parties and investitures, funerals, Royal Ascot and other racing events - but I am delighted to report today's young are wearing them more than ever and for any occasion.

Traditionally, large structured picture hats were kept for grander occasions with small pill-box hats were worn mostly for cocktails etc. Well, the good news is the so-called old school fashion rules have finally been broken - as almost anything goes.

Whether buying off-the-peg or ordering couture, is worth considering the following:

Hair: both hair colour and style

Occasion: whatever occasion

Colour: to match skin colouring or your outfit

Weight: how long will it be worn, and will it be comfortable?

For those not into hats, the good news alternative is 'little confections' on hair combs, slides or hair bands are very much back in vogue and are much in demand for those who don't like the feeling of wearing a classic hat.

To illustrate my point, I've chosen the work of hat designer and milliner Alison Tod. I first saw Alison's work back in 1996 when, as Chairman of the judges for the Welsh Designer of the Year Awards, I was part of the panel that awarded her both the accessory category and the main title. Then, the hats she showed were super-sized.

Today, based in her studio in Abergavenny - the only workhouse in Gwent - she has a three-tier business. Her couture can be ordered privately, bought at Madame shops and available at large stores across the country - from prices ranging from pounds 60 to just under pounds 1000.

I managed to catch up with her as she was gearing up to dress private clients for weddings, garden parties and polo etc, with most arriving with their designer frocks wanting to find something special to go with it. This season her mood forecast is texture - with seersucker, pleating, anything crushed or ombrA dyed as her hat/fashion direction.

For those of you who have never been down the couture route, once the price is established, Alison requires three visits and - et voila! - you leave with something unique and special to suit both your style, personality and occasion - all tissued up in a smart hat box.

Before I left, she took a call from Kylie Minogue's stylist, wanting some hats for Miss M's Show Girl Tour!

Ladies, I suggest you call pronto - to get in line.

Until then - keep stylish!

* Alison Tod can be contacted on 01873 855 923. Other milliners: Philip Treacy 0207 730 3992, Cozmo Jenks 0207 823 9758, Philip Somerville 0207 487 4924

Eternally stylish black and white dyed duck and burnt peacock feathers pounds 250

Fun miniature 'leopard' printed straw topper lavishly trimmed with pheasant feathers, whale nett and camellia pounds 350

Funky frayed navy sinnamay Stetson with turquoise hackle, glitter and rhinestones pounds 120

Elegant Ivory sinnamay hat trimmed with marabou, ostrich and cocq feathers. All dipped and sprinkled with mother of pearl glitter pounds 600

Extravagant confection of burnt ostrich feathers with cocq and hackle and dyed duck feathers in magenta pounds 750
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 5, 2005
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