When we came home from a wedding, we added another kippah to our collection. As we stuffed the pale blue satin one into the drawer, it made us think: They won’t be wearing kippot at the royal wedding? So will there be a basket of fascinators at the door to St. George’s Chapel for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding?
There’s a sea of differences between a Jewish wedding and and a royal one, not the least of which is how the guests cover their heads. While our cousin Margie would wear a wire kippah with purple beads to Temple Beth El.
Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, would wear a designer fascinator with a purple ostrich plume to Windsor Castle.
Both kippot and fascinators are held on with a clip, but that’s about all they have in common. Here are all the differences:
The fascinator dates to the early 1500s, when English women wore veils and hats in keeping with the latest fashions. Wealthy women bought headpieces adorned with pearls, real jewels and feathers – and these fancy ones became status symbols.
Although the Tanakh includes some references to head covering, the custom of wearing a kippah didn’t become common practice until the 1500s. Whether Jewish men wear a discreet round skullcap or a shtreimel, the fancy fur hats popular among married Hasidic men, it’s meant as a sign of devotion and religious observance – not as a fashion statement. Women began wearing kippot in synagogue around the time they gained equal rights to reading from the Torah, participating in services and other religious observances.
If you’re not a duchess, countess or princess but are lucky enough to be invited to the royal wedding, you need to get a touch with a milliner to make you a modest veil or pillbox hat. If you think you might land and in Vogue, you’ll probably contact Irish-born milliner Philip Treacy, hat maker to the royals and all their friends. He’ll ask you to send him a fabric sample of your dress. He’ll post you back some sketches, and then you’ll send your butler to his showroom to pick up your one-of-a-kind fascinator. Remember Princess Beatrice’s over-the-top fascinator? Treacy made that – and 35 other amazing hats that were worn to William and Kate’s wedding.
To buy kippot for a wedding, you go online to see your choices. You ask your daughter, “Are you sure you want ivory satin? Then you click “add 10 dozen to cart.” A month before the event you find yourself on the phone yelling at Moishe in the Bronx. “Where’s my order? It was supposed to be here two weeks ago.” He informs you that the factory was closed for the holiday but “they’ll be there in plenty of time.” While Moishe is not a famous milliner, he can trace his lineage to a long line of shmatte traders.
Too small to be a hat and (usually) too crazy to be cool, with a fascinator, the sky’s the limit – literally. It can incorporate ribbons and ostrich plumes, silk roses and plastic strawberries, or butterflies and birds to complement your outfit and add inches to your height.
A kippah comes in satin or leather, suede or velvet, crocheted or beaded. You can choose basic black or a rainbow of colors and get it trimmed in silver braid or embossed with palm trees or zebras. Your kippah can trumpet your sports team loyalty or political affiliation.
Like a fascinator, a kippah can announce your personal style to the world – albeit in a smaller, flatter kind of way. You can stash an extra kippah into your tallit bag or purse, but you can’t do that with your fascinator.
Harrods, the venerable London department store, carries Philip Treacy’s fascinators. For $1,700 you can make a statement (that you’re elegant and fashion-forward) in his black Ribbon Disc Headpiece. The Floral Veil Headpiece with hints of fuschia goes for $5,500. That royal sum would get you 229 dozen fuschia satin kippot, shipping included.
Like fascinators, kippot can be custom-made originals. But if you order a suede one for your wedding that’s embossed with the bride and groom’s names, wedding date and flowers that match the wedding colors, expect it to cost 10 times as much as a plain kippah. It will set you back about $20.
We amassed our kippah collection over a lifetime of celebrating b’nai mitzvot, simchas and weddings. Our drawer is filled to the brim with happy memories along with the headgear.
When we pick out a kippah on Friday night and read the name of a friend’s daughter, we remember how beautiful her wedding was. The one with our son’s Bar Mitzvah date stamped inside brings back memories of his middle-school friends, how he read Torah and how wonderful it was that Grandmom was able to be there that day.
When everyone leaves the royal wedding, they’ll go home to their castles and they’ll have their memories, too. We hope that will include a fascinator that says, stamped on the inside, “Wedding of Harry and Meghan, Windsor Castle, 19 May 2018.”