Millinery Department at the Lion Store of Toledo, Ohio, 1900s
The Millinery Shop by Edgar Degas

Hat-making or millinery is the design, manufacture and sale of hats and other headwear.[1] A person engaged in this trade is called a milliner or hatter.

Historically, milliners made and sold a range of accessories for clothing and hairstyles.[2] In France, milliners are known as marchand(e)s de modes (fashion merchants), rather than being specifically associated with hat-making. In Britain, however, milliners were known to specialise in hats by the beginning of the Victorian period.[3]

The millinery industry benefited from industrialization during the nineteenth century.[4] In 1889 in London and Paris, over 8,000 women were employed in millinery, and in 1900 in New York, some 83,000 people, mostly women, were employed in millinery. Though the improvements in technology provided benefits to milliners and the whole industry, essential skills, craftsmanship, and creativity are still required. Since hats began to be mass-manufactured and sold as ready-to-wear in department stores, the term "milliner" is usually used to describe a person who applies traditional hand-craftsmanship to design, make, sell or trim hats primarily for a mostly female clientele.

Many prominent fashion designers, including Rose Bertin, Jeanne Lanvin, and Coco Chanel, began as milliners.


The term "milliner" or "Milener" originally meant someone from Milan, in northern Italy, in the early 16th century. It referred to Milanese merchants who sold fancy bonnets, gloves, jewellery and cutlery. In the 16th to 18th centuries, the meaning of "milliner" gradually changed in meaning from "a foreign merchant" to "a dealer in small articles relating to dress". Although the term originally applied to men, from 1713 "milliner" gradually came to mean a woman who makes and sells bonnets and other accessories for women.[5][6]

Learning of millinery

Milliners work independently based on job order specifications or their designs, observing the regulations regarding work safety, health protection, environmental protection, and ensuring quality and efficiency. They combine their uniqueness, innovation, and technical skills and use different materials and auxiliary materials. In some cases, they plan and organize their schedules in cooperation with their customers' various needs. They also collaborate with the team or the apprentice to the presentation and sale of the products.[7]

The millinery industry's apprenticeship culture is commonly seen since the 18th century, while milliner was more like a stylist and created hats or bonnets to go with costumes and chose the laces, trims, and accessories to complete an ensemble piece. Millinery apprentices learned hat-making and styling, running the business, and skills to communicate with customers.[8] Nowadays, this apprenticeship is still a standard process for the students who freshly graduated from the millinery schools. Many well-known milliners experienced this stage. For example, Rose Bertin was an apprentice to a successful fashion merchant Mademoiselle Pagelle before her success.

There are many renowned millinery schools located in Europe, especially in London, Paris, and Italy. During COVID-19, many millinery courses were taught virtually.[9]

Special tools and materials used by milliners

A wooden hat block is an intricately carved wood form shaped by skillful woodworkers. Hat blocks are the tools of the trade for milliners in creating a unique hat crown shape. Some of the hat blocks are ensembles with crown and brimmed, while some are only with crown or brim or designed for fascinators. Milliners always have an extensive collection of different hat blocks because there are specific hat sizes and custom shapes for every hat block. In the blocking process of a hat, milliners used push pins and a hammer to hold the adjustable string along the crown's collar and the brim's edge.[10]

A floral-making iron is a unique iron used by milliners to create different floral petals or leaves as the ornament for hat decoration. In the past, candles were used to heat these irons with various shapes of metal in one set. Nowadays, these irons are electric. A ball-shaped metal heading is commonly used for the curve of floral pastels.[11]

Milliners often use buckram, a stiff cotton (occasionally linen or horse hair) cloth with a loose weave. Millinery buckram is impregnated with a starch which allows it to be softened in water, pulled over a hat block, and left to dry into a hard shape.[12] Millinery buckram comes in many weights, including lightweight or baby buckram (often used for children's and dolls' hats),[13] single-ply buckram, and double buckram (also known as theatrical buckram or crown buckram).[14]

Notable hatters and milliners

This is a partial list of people who have had a significant influence on hat-making and millinery.



See also


  1. ^ Perry, Lorinda (November 1916). "Millinery as a Trade for Women". Monthly Review of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 3 (5): 32–38. JSTOR 41823177.
  2. ^ "milliner". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.) - "2. Originally: a seller of fancy wares, accessories, and articles of (female) apparel, esp. such as were originally made in Milan. Subsequently: spec. a person who designs, makes, or sells women's hats."
  3. ^ Adburgham, Alison (1989). Shops and shopping: 1800 - 1914 ; where, and in what manner the well-dressed Englishwoman bought her clothes (2nd ed.). London: Barrie & Jenkins. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7126-2114-4.
  4. ^ "Straw Millinery". If I Had My Own Blue Box. 26 March 2009. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  5. ^ "milliner, Origin and meaning of milliner by Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 22 October 2020. The original milliners were men; by 1713 the word was being used of 'a woman who makes and sells bonnets and other headgear for women,' and this was the prevailing sense of the word 19c.
  6. ^ Tréguer, Pascal (12 August 2016). "The word 'milliner' originally meant 'native or inhabitant of Milan'". word histories. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  7. ^ "Milliner". American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeship. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  8. ^ "Vintage Fashion Guild : Fashion History : History of Hats For Women". Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Upcoming Events – Millinery CoursesMillinery Courses". Millinery Courses. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  10. ^ "The Blocker Shapes and Styles the Hats – Brent Black Panama Hats". Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  11. ^ "flower making iron". PresentPerfect Creations | Original hand crafted flower accessories in fine fabrics and genuine leather. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  12. ^ Hart, Eric (2013). The Prop Building Guidebook: For Theatre, Film, and TV. Taylor & Francis. p. 292. ISBN 9780240821382.
  13. ^ "The Copyist". The Illustrated Milliner. 14 (7). The Illustrated Milliner Company: 68. July 1913. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  14. ^ McMasters, Lynn (1 November 2005). "Buckram 101". Finery. Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  15. ^ Bowler hat makes a comeback Telegraph (London). Retrieved 9 June 2012
  16. ^ The City Visible | The Hatters NYT (New York). Retrieved 4 August 2023
  17. ^ Tobias, Maricris Jan. "GAMABA: Teofilo Garcia". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  18. ^ Reynolds, William and Rich Rand (1995) The Cowboy Hat book. p. 8 ISBN 0-87905-656-8
  19. ^ "Akio Hirata – Fashion Designer | Designers | The FMD". The FMD – Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  20. ^ Jones, Stephen & Cullen, Oriole, ed. (2009). Hats: An Anthology. V&A Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85177-557-6.
  21. ^ Steele, Valerie (2010). The Berg Companion to Fashion. Berg. pp. 72–73. ISBN 978-1847885920. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  22. ^ "John Boyd". The FMD –
  23. ^ "Mildred Blount: First African American to Make Hats for Celebrities". Black Then. 7 September 2019. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  24. ^ Schiro, Anne-Marie (29 June 1993). "Mr. John, 91, Hat Designer for Stars and Society". The New York Times.
  25. ^ Biography of Stephen Jones on the V&A Museum website, accessed 1 April 2009
  26. ^ Hillier, Bevis (13 October 1985). "Hat Trick". LA Times. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  27. ^ Cartner-Morley, Jess (16 April 2002). "Who wants to be a milliner". The Guardian. He has created hats to accompany the catwalk collections of Alexander McQueen and Valentino, has been named British Accessory Designer of the Year five times, and was the first milliner in 80 years to be invited by French fashion's governing body, the Chambre Syndicale, to take part in the Parisian haute couture shows