A day at the races, says milliner Felicity Northeast, is incomplete without a hat. She’s biased, of course, being in the hat game, but such conventions do exist — at the Spring Races carnival, even in 2022, women are expected to don head coverings.
And while there may be something a little anachronistic about the custom, the industry is modernizing. This year, you can virtually try on your hat thanks to an augmented reality filter.
“During COVID [lockdowns], I had told a few people that trying on hats at home would be really helpful,” says Northeast, a dietitian-turned-milliner. “Wouldn’t it be great if people could see, from their phone, if something suited them?”
Then she found Creative Victoria, a community organization that included her in an AR filter pilot program.
“At the time, I didn’t even really know what a filter was,” she says. The program was difficult to articulate. “Headwear is a lot more difficult than, say, sunglasses,” Northeast explains, “because it’s figuring out where to put things on your face, and putting things on your head is a bit more difficult. .”
She and the team at Ignition Immersive, funded by Creative Victoria, used a variety of face shapes, ethnicities and ages to develop a filter that she says will work for a wide range of clients, and the filter is now live on Northeast’s Instagram.
“It probably won’t replace trying on hats in person,” says Northeast, “but it gives you an idea of what might work for you and gives you more confidence.”
A standard rule of thumb for styling hats, says Northeast, is to pull them forward (“most people wear them too far”) and angle them back slightly. “It gives a very complementary angle,” she says.
Virtual try-on is nothing new – Bailey Nelson has been offering the tech to try on eyewear, and Gucci has been letting customers “try on” shoes since 2019. But the tech has received a COVID-19 bump as shoppers have been forced out of physical stores, and hats are the latest accessories to get the fitting treatment.
When it comes to spring running trends, Northeast predicts a return to headbands and straw boater hats, and says that while women still pair dresses with hats, these days the rules are more flexible.
“These are more casual styles that you can wear again, to other events,” she says. “I like the idea of wearing hats on more than one occasion. Wear them to a barbecue, a garden party. Hats shouldn’t be just for shopping.