Wearing a Lot of Hats

Gigi Burris, the designer known for some of the prettiest toppers on the market, imparts some much-needed hat wisdom. We are taking notes.

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"If you have the chance to go to a physical store that sells hats, just try them on and you'll know if it's the right hat—there's an emotional reaction when you find it," says Gigi Burris, a New York City-based designer who spends her days creating the perfect headwear for her clients.

After graduating from Parsons in 2009, she launched her own line of millinery which quickly inspired a flood of accolades and requests from celebrities and editors alike. Burris is this year's CFDA nominee for the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design, and it's easy to see why her pieces are so in demand. Her most popular styles—from the Drake to the Nell—are feminine and insouciantly cool, and range from classic fedoras to barbed wire-inspired headbands in leather.

The Nell hat is one of Gigi Burri's most popular styles. Photo courtesy of Gigi Burris Millinery
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"It's not like shoes, when you know a shoe is too big or too small," explains Burris, who believes that finding the perfect hat (a priority mission for those of us already in vacation mode) is a personal experience. "Some people like the fit to be tight so it doesn't fall off with the wind. Then there are people who are prone to headaches—they like their hats a little loose."

And when it comes to hat trends, Burris says, "You're not going to see a particular silhouette represent the last 15 years like the bucket hats and visors of the '90s." But she does offer the following good news: "The overall trend is that hats are being worn—and more," she says.

Keeping those rays at bay with a sun hat that doubles in fashion and function. The Gigi Burris Millinery Spring 2015 Collection as seen at New York Fashion Week. Photograph courtesy of JP Yim/Getty images

So, that's exciting. Here, Burris fills us in on what to look for when buying a hat and how to go about traveling with it this summer.

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What are some good rules to consider when shopping for a hat?

Dress for your body type and face shape. Think of your stature—don't put on a wide brim hat if you're petite. A hat is one of the closest things to your face and hair. So think about color, too. It's a good thing to ask yourself, "Will this bring out my eyes, or the redness in my face?"

Make sure to pick a hat color that flatters your hair and complexion. Photo courtesy of Gigi Burris Millinery

How do you know when a hat fits properly?

It's really all about preference.

What's your personal hat style like?

Honestly, I love everything. The only thing that I tend to shy away from is anything in the beige family. I have blonde hair and pale skin—the color washes me out.

A statement hat can go a long way. The Gigi Burris Millinery Spring 2015 Collection during New York Fashion Week. Photograph courtesy of JP Yim/Getty images

What comes first, the outfit or the hat?

Most people aren't like me—I own hundreds of hats. So it's about picking your outfit first, and then topping it off with a hat.

Are there any prized hats in your personal collection?

I have a really nice vintage hat collection that's inspired trims for my own line. I don't wear these hats out as much; I more cherish them.

Want to keep a hat in tip-top shape when traveling? Put it on. Photo courtesy of Gigi Burris Millinery

Is there anyone from history who, in your opinion, wore hats particularly well?

Right now, I'm thinking about someone who looks effortless at the beach. Like a Brigitte Bardot, just chilling in a beautiful hat.

Speaking of the beach, what is the best way to travel with a hat?

Wear it. That way you know it won't get ruined. Otherwise, leave a space in the middle of your carry-on luggage. Pack around it. Then put all the clothing you can roll up, like your sarongs and bikinis, inside the hat to create padding.

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