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Hats are on top, filling fashion to the brim

By Jen Wood Cunningham
Jen Wood Cunningham
Go with a neutral classic. These big-brimmed sun hats by Ralph Lauren are available at TJ Maxx for $19.99.
Jen Wood Cunningham
More neutrals can be found at Elder-Beerman. These two hats with an brim accented in orange or seafoam could be paired with a colorful scarf for a perfect Derby look.
Jen Wood Cunningham
Colorful options found at Elder-Beerman. These would be perfect canvases for DIY projects. The Elder-Beerman hats are all under $20, after the 50 percent sale discount.
Jen Wood Cunningham
A pink big-brimmed hat paired with a floral scarf in tangerine and magenta. This look is under $40 at Elder-Beerman. (Items would be sold separately).
Jen Wood Cunningham
This reversible-fabric hat with black and white polka dots and solid pink from Target ($7.48) is a fun look and very versatile. Tack up one side with a brooch or pin for a look that showcases both sides of this beautiful and budget-friendly hat.
Jen Wood Cunningham
This beautiful sky-blue hat with black ribbon and rosettes is less than $10 at Gabriel Brothers. No DIY needed. It's completely ready to wear!
Jen Wood Cunningham
This black-and-white-striped hat is classic and very inexpensive. $10 from Gabriel Brothers.
Jen Wood Cunningham
Looking for something with a little less brim, but still want to make a statement? Try these vintage-inspired straw hats with colorful ribbon bands in yellow, pink or orange. At Elder-Beerman, under $20.
Jen Wood Cunningham
This orange-and-white-striped large-brimmed hat would be great on a summer day, just like a Dreamsicle.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Whether it's a fascinator, a fedora or hats of the large-brim variety, one thing's for sure: Hats are all that. It's not just a cure for a bad hair day, it's an extension of your look and another element with which you can experiment.With Derby parties, outdoor summer events and hanging out at the pool, it's a great time of year to try out your favorite hat looks, not to mention a great way to protect your hair, scalp and face from the sun's rays. Sunblock, hats and shades -- and sun protection in general -- make good fashion and common sense.To find out how best to decorate a hat for a fun party or spring event like the Kentucky Derby, or parties planned with that theme, here are some give a variety of looks on varying budgets, including some DIY options.Design a Derby hatTarget and Gabriel Brothers have great selections of hats ready for some added decor, and most are less than $10. Elder-Beerman have an amazing selection of hats on sale for 50 percent off, and TJ Maxx have several hats, even some Ralph Lauren designs, for less than $20.Add a bright patterned or floral scarf for some added color and dimension for an easy Derby hat look! For even more flair, grab some ribbon, tulle, feathers, fabric glitter spray, silk flowers or artificial butterflies or birds.If Carrie Bradshaw can pull off a bird on her head, so can you! Don't be afraid of a glue gun or hat pins. Go easy on the glue or use hat pins so you can remove the "extras" later and reuse the hat for another event.Fashion confession: I purchased a black sun hat last year for my bridal shower and sprayed it with black fabric glitter, just to give a bit of flair and then added magenta ribbon (pink is my signature color, after all). I tacked the ribbon on in only a couple places. I will be repurposing this hat with different add-ons, maybe butterflies and flowers, for a Derby party May 4.Check out my hat transformation photos at of the hat from a proTo help you (and me) create haute hats, I enlisted some inspiration and support from local hat designer and fashionista Penny Fioravante. In addition to her day job as executive director of the West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association, Fioravante is a costume designer specializing in millinery and fantasy. She has designed for productions ranging from small stage plays and classical Shakespeare to fully staged operas, films and high-fashion runway shows.Inspired by the glamour of vintage fashion, Fioravante uses antique or repurposed materials in her designs whenever possible. Her personal style motto: "If all the world's a stage, dress for it. Life is too short to wear ugly clothes." WVStyleTeam: What is your favorite place to get artistic inspiration for hats?Fioravante: My artistic inspiration comes from everywhere -- old movies and photos, nature, animals, even household gadgets! I like to think outside the norm and create whimsical things you wear with a smile.WVStyleTeam: What is your favorite accessory to add to a hat?
Fioravante: My favorite "add-ons" are butterflies and birds; they look so lovely and whimsical floating around your head! Depending on your mood or the season, add ribbons, silk flowers, feathers and whatever interesting things you may find ... there are no rules, if you find something you like, make it work!WVStyleTeam: What is your favorite Derby hat look? A small fascinator or "the bigger the better"?Fioravante: I actually like to design "two-in-one" hats. Think of a big hat with a detachable trimming that doubles as a fascinator. It really depends on your setting and how much room you have to show off your hat. You don't want to have to take it off to get through a crowd, and you certainly don't want to put anyone's eye out! Fascinators are great in that they don't give you "hat hair."
WVStyleTeam: What's the best advice you would give to a lady putting together a look for a Derby party?Fioravante: Don't take yourself too seriously. Derby hats should make you smile, whether you are wearing one or seeing one being worn. You can't go wrong with a simple sheath dress and a flamboyant hat.Let the pros do the work
Don't have the desire or time for DIY? Are designer or ready-to-wear hats more your style?Check out Yarid's on Bridge Road, Penny Fioravante's designs at House of Luxe or Dressmaker's Closet, and there are many options online for your hat needs.Amazon is always an option (hooray for free shipping!). Etsy has many options at a variety of prices, although you should allow plenty of lead time for shipping. Nordstrom has an entire section of its site devoted to hats, with free and fast shipping.Designer digs could run you a pretty penny, but there are budget-conscious options too. Some hats like the BCBG Pretty Bow Fascinator and select August Hat designs will set you back $38. Other August Hat and Nordstrom designs can cost upwards of $120. There are a few Kate Spade hats available for $78 to $88, while an Eric Javits Maribel Sun Hat is $295. There are options on a variety of budgets and to fit a variety of styles and events.Final fashion thought: Split the difference. As Penny mentioned, a simple dress paired with a flamboyant hat is great, and I would say that the opposite is be true. If your dress or outfit has a lot going on -- lots of colors, patterns -- I would go with a simple headpiece. A simple fascinator or a classic large-brimmed hat with a simple ribbon or one flower or bow.Remember, there is such thing as too much. You want to draw attention in a fashionable and fantastic way.Fashion homework: We want to see your hat selections or DIY creations. Post them on Twitter and tag us -- @wvstyleteam. What's the point in putting in the work if you can't show it off?For more hat-spiration, check out WVStyleTeam on Pinterest. linksJoann Fabric: www.joann.comMichael's: www.michaels.comTarget: www.etsy.comFollow Jen Wood Cunningham on Twitter at @miss_sociable.
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