"The important thing is to find the right style for you. Try on as many as possible until you find the best shape for your face. Most people make the mistake of plonking a hat on the back of their head, but it should be worn either straight on, so you're peeping out from under it, or at an angle. Never wear polyester, it's such a naff fabric and very unflattering and heavy. The key to a good hat is that it should look light; not necessarily in colour but in effect. Feathers are good for this and always very flattering. It's got to be light to wear as well, so you don't feel you're being pulled down by it.

Go for something metallic for Ascot this year - we're coming up to the millennium and there'll be lots of golds, silvers, sequins and glittery creations there (men, however, should stick to the black silk top hats). They don't have to be serious but just make sure the hat you choose doesn't overpower your personality rather than enhancing it. Your hat does not have to match your outfit - clashing is in. Whatever you do don't put bits of the fabric from your dress around your hat - it's a definite no-no. Take extra care over your make-up as attention is instantly drawn to your eyes; your lipstick should compliment the colour of the hat. Hats are instant glamour, so experiment. It would be so nice if people wore hats more often, and I don't mean just baseball caps - although any hat is better than no hat in my book." Interview by Fiona McClymont

1999 is the official year of the hat. London hat designer Marie-Louise has just opened a shop in Luton (01582 756 365)