A fascinator is a headpiece, a style of millinery. The word originally referred to a fine, lacy head covering akin to a shawl and made from wool or lace, but mostly feathers. Today, a fascinator may be worn instead of a hat on occasions where hats were traditionally worn—such as weddings—or as an evening accessory, when it may be called a cocktail hat. It is generally worn with fairly formal attire.
A substantial fascinator is a fascinator of some size or bulk. They have been mentioned in the press, due to Queen Elizabeth pronouncing new standards of dress required for entry to the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot. But in 2012 Royal Ascot announced that Women will have to wear hats, not fascinators, as part of a tightening of the dress code in Royal Ascot's Royal Enclosure this summer. In previous years, when female racegoers were simply advised that "many ladies wear hats".
Bigger than a barrette, modern fascinators are commonly made with feathers, flowers or beads. They attach to the hair by a comb, headband or clip. The fun, fanciful ornament is often embellished with crystals, beads, or loops of ribbon, and attaches via a comb or headband; some have a small, stiff, flat base that can be secured with bobby pins. They are particularly popular at premium horse-racing events, such as the Grand National, Kentucky Derby and the Melbourne Cup. Brides may choose to wear them as an alternative to a bridal veil or hat, particularly if their gowns are non-traditional.