After developing madness for millinery in the summer months, Autumn/Winter 2009 is set to take hat design to new heights. Alexander McQueen leads the way with lampshades and bin lids, whilst feathers appear an all round favourite. This season, the obscure and abstract rule, and hats really get radical.

Earlier this year the master milliner himself, Stephen Jones, joined forces with the V&A and ran a collaborative exhibition showcasing over 300 wonderful pieces and taking us on the journey of a hat, from inspiration through to creation, the workings of a salon and the all important clients. ‘Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones’ took inspiration from Victoria and Albert themselves, both famous hat wearers. Queen Victoria’s distinctive bonnet still inspires styles today, such as the baseball cap. While Prince Albert’s iconic top hat is an all time favourite of milliners, its classic shape used again and again with modern interpretations.

Another major runway house, Louis Vuitton, went along the lines of a fairy tale theme with their interpretation of headwear: bunny rabbit ears. However, not the white and fluffy kind. Marc Jacobs’ designs for the Autumn/Winter Paris show saw black, structured fabric protruding out from messy bun hair styles. Less cutesy Playboy bunny and more Donnie Darko. Proving that these ‘ears’ are a wearable accessory, and not just a one hit catwalk wonder, is Madonna. As the face of Louis Vuitton’s latest ad campaign, Madonna was the first to be seen wearing one of the headpieces. She chose an emerald green version to top off her head-to-toe Vuitton ensemble at the Costume Institute Gala. Organised by Anna Wintour to mark the launch of new fashion exhibit, Models as Muse, what better place to take the hat fad one step further and introduce an abstract, statement creation?

Walking around with giant rabbit ears on our heads might be a tad extreme, but if it’s extreme you’re looking for then Alexander McQueen is your man. With bits of old junk and the contents of a rubbish bin the theme for his latest collection, the hats certainly followed suit.

Impressive designs were made of everyday objects stuck to the head, such as lampshades covered in feathers, car hubcaps, melted plastic bin lids and what looked like upside down carrier bags. You can always rely on McQueen to deliver a spectacular catwalk show, and this one was no different. An enormous knitted snake that coiled round the neck as a scarf and then tied in a knot on the head as a hat, was one of the highlights, as well as a huge feather structure. In keeping with the rubbish theme were the aluminum cans; used to form shapes on the head and tied in place with black, plastic bags. A particularly ingenious piece was a mini umbrella, made with printed fabric and a matching suit. What a great idea for those miserable winter months; a hands-free umbrella that matches your outfit.

If you’re keen to join in with the hat trend but haven’t quite got the confidence of Isabella Blow, Lanvin’s feathered headpieces are a much more wearable option. Sculpted to the head as though part of the hair, these designs are understated, yet effective. Amongst the wild and wacky, there is the subtle and more sensible. Such is the beauty of this season’s hat trend. So don’t be shy, you can leave your hat on.

Contributors: Yvette Yarnold.

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