April 04, 1977 12:00 PM

Uneasy lies the head that wears the hat. Thus might read the motto of Queen Elizabeth II, an amiable monarch who, in 25 years as Britain’s sovereign, has earned the tolerant fondness of most of her subjects but has somehow failed to come to terms with fashionable chapeaux. Carefully created by a succession of milliners, her hats have crowned her like small disappointments. Part of the problem may be the restrictions placed on queenly headgear. Because Her Majesty is followed by photographers wherever she goes, brims are seldom allowed to shadow her face. In addition, says the Schiaparelli-trained Simone Mirman, the queen’s milliner since 1965, “Her hats must be the same color as her outfits. The queen is too small to wear contrasting hats. Also, her hats must not be too heavy or cluttered, or they will press down her hairdo.” In the end, however, the queen must impose her own taste. “She doesn’t want to be a fashion model, and she doesn’t wear anything extreme,” says Mme. Mirman. “She likes flowers, but not feathers. In summer she likes silks and organzas.” The milliner regularly consults with Norman Hartnell, one of the queen’s dressmakers, then whips up four to six hats for the queen to choose from at Buckingham Palace. The rejects go into Mirman’s collection and are sold for $60 and up. On these pages are a quarter-century of regal whimsies and foibles, dating from the year of Elizabeth’s accession.

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