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

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

Historically, milliners, typically women shopkeepers, produced or imported an inventory of garments for men, women, and children and sold these garments in their millinery shop. Many milliners worked as both milliner and fashion designer, such as Rose Bertin, Jeanne Lanvin, and Coco Chanel.

The millinery industry benefited from industrialization during the nineteenth century.[2] 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 the mass-manufacturing of hats began, 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.

The term milliner, originally from “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 from a foreign merchant to a dealer in small articles relating to dress. Although the term originally applied to men, milliner came to mean a woman who makes and sells bonnets and other headgear for women since 1713.[3][4]

Learning of millineryEdit

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.[5]

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.[6] 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 milliner Mademoiselle Pagelle before her success.

There are many renowned millinery schools located in Europe, especially in London, Paris, and Italy. During the COVID-19, many millinery courses were taught virtually.[7] For instance, Hat academy is one of the online-based millinery platform providing different millinery deluxe and essential courses via a subscribe system.[8]

In some British post-colonized countries such as Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, English is a commonly used language; millinery is well-known craftsmanship and fashionable for special occasions.

The Sasa Ladies' Purse Day Races organized by the Hong Kong Jockey club is an extravagant event with catwalks, games, and competitions offering ladies a chance to wear their millinery.[9] Milliners also will get this opportunity to showcase their millinery collections performed by the celebrities.

Special tools and materials used by millinersEdit

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]

Floral making Iron is a unique iron used by milliners to create different floral petals or leaves as the ornament for hat decoration. Candles heat these irons in the past with various shapes of metal in one set. Nowadays, these electric irons are detachable on the metal session and allow for a changeable condition for ironing. A ball-shaped metal heading is commonly used for the curve of floral pastels.[11]

Unique types of hats made in the East and WestEdit

See also, list of headgear

Many styles of headgear have been popular throughout history and worn for different functions and events. They can be part of uniforms, worn to indicate social status or styled for particular religion occasions.

Straw hatsEdit

Straw hats give the main purpose in protecting the head from the sun and keeps cool, various shapes of the straw hats exist around the world for different reasons.

A bergère hat is a particular Straw hat which originated in France with a shallow crown and trimmed with ribbon and flowers as decoration. Although the bergère hat has rural simplicity and was known as a milkmaid hat, it was fashionable in the mid−18th century. This hat is common to be seen on the portraits of monarchs such as the portrait for Marie Antoinette painted by Vigee-Leburn in 1783.[12]

The straw hat in Africa came in a multi-functional form, such as from acting as a basket for cropping, shade from the smoldering heat, protection from the rain, and diverts to animals to attract attention, expressing creativity, and showing status. It also worked as a significant cultural symbol in costume for various regional ceremonies, such as the Fulani hat.

In Ancient China, weimao was one of the most idiosyncratic veiling straw coverings during the Sui and early Tang periods originally used by the nomadic peoples of Central Asia as a protection against the wind and sand blaster. The weimao was quickly adopted by the women of Sui and Tang China. Their prominence would not only remain in China but would spread to other East Asian cultures as well.[13]

In Japan, this type of straw hat was commonly worn by the noble ladies in the Heian period. They are slightly different from the weimao, this veil hats are longer with a lengthened to the hips and knees. The purpose of this hat is designed to prevent passerby to see the features of the noble ladies. The Japanese version of the Weimao was called Uchikatsugi[14] or more generally as the Ichime gasa. Besides the Ichime gasa, Japanese widely use the straw hat for different personal identification. For example the Kasa used by the low ranking samurai, conical straw hat worn by the monk during their daily practice and Amikasa worn by female dancers during the Awa Odori Festival in the summer.[15]

In South America, Panama hats are famous for their intricate weaving and blocking techniques. However, these hats originated from Ecuador for the invention and production until the late 19th century when the Ecuadorian hat makers emigrated to Panama for better business. Their Panama hats are bestselling for the gold prospectors traveling through Panama to California for the historic California Gold Rush.[citation needed]

Canada's early fur trade was largely built on the fashion for beaver hats in Europe, particularly top hats. The steps in manufacturing hats are illustrated in this image from 1858.

Feathers and furry hatsEdit

A great variety of feathers and skins are or formerly were used as decoration or trimmings on women's fashionable hats.

In the early 1900s, feathers, wings, and whole stuffed birds were used as hat trimmings.[16] Plume hunting was so popular that the indiscriminate shooting of birds in search for the snowy egret contributed to the extinction of the Carolina parakeet.[16] Excessive plume hunting like this led to the formation of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the passage of the Lacey Act of 1900.[17][18]

With references to 1880s newspaper issues, describes trims on fashionable hats as including bird feathers, stuffed birds, and other small animals, fruit, flowers, ribbons, and lace.[19] It described a fashion for stuffed kittens' heads as hat ornaments in or around 1883 in Paris (France), often posed looking out from among foliage and feathers, to the point where some people were reported to breed kittens for the millinery trade.[19] This practice was also reported as happening in America.[20]

Bearskin Hats is a tall fur cap, originating from the grenadiers in European armies during the 17th century. The hat is featured with the fur trimmings. After World War I, the bearskins were worn by the Royal guards and armies for specific ceremonials in most of the European countries, such as Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Italy and Russian. Besides military purpose, the bearskin hats were featured in the London Fashion week Spring Summer 2020 by fashion designer Rebecca Shamoon inspired by the Queen’s fashion Guards.[21]

While most of the bearskins are in black colors, the bearskin hat for the Thai royal guard showed a colorful hue in cooperating with their uniforms.[22]

Notable hatters and millinersEdit

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



See alsoEdit


  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. ^ "Straw Millinery". If I Had My Own Blue Box. 26 March 2009. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  3. ^ "milliner | Origin and meaning of milliner by Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  4. ^ Tréguer, Pascal (12 August 2016). "The word 'milliner' originally meant 'native or inhabitant of Milan'". word histories. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Milliner". American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeship. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  6. ^ "Vintage Fashion Guild : Fashion History : History Of Hats For Women". vintagefashionguild.org. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  7. ^ "Upcoming Events – Millinery CoursesMillinery Courses". Millinery Courses. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  8. ^ "Millinery Courses". How To Make Hats Millinery Classes | Hat Academy. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Sa Sa Ladies' Purse Day – Beijing Clubhouse – 香港賽馬會". www.beijingclubhouse.com (in Chinese). Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  10. ^ "The Blocker Shapes and Styles the Hats — Brent Black Panama Hats". www.brentblack.com. 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. ^ "History's Most Iconic Hats". English Heritage. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  13. ^ "Weimao & Mili: Chinese Veil Hat 帷帽". Weimao & Mili. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  14. ^ "Untitled". fate-magical-girls.tumblr.com. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  15. ^ "Amigasa". Konnichiwa. 4 December 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  16. ^ a b Saikku, Mikko (Autumn 1990). "The Extinction of the Carolina Parakeet". Environmental History Review. 14 (3): 9. doi:10.2307/3984724. JSTOR 3984724.
  17. ^ "William L. Finley". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 6 November 2019. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Bird Hats? | Wearing the Weight of the World". blogs.ntu.edu.sg. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  19. ^ a b "When Kittens' Head Hats Were All the Rage". messybeast.com. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  20. ^ The Bulletin (Australian periodical) Vol. 1 No. 37 (26 Jan 1884): (top of leftmost visible column)
  21. ^ Grace, Karen (11 November 2019). "London Fashion Week SS20 – Designers with Hats". Eclipse Magazine. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  22. ^ "Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies aged 88". International Business Times UK. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  23. ^ Bowler hat makes a comeback Telegraph (London). Retrieved 9 June 2012
  24. ^ Tobias, Maricris Jan. "GAMABA: Teofilo Garcia". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  25. ^ Reynolds, William and Rich Rand (1995) The Cowboy Hat book. p. 8 ISBN 0-87905-656-8
  26. ^ FashionModelDirectory.com, The FMD-. "Akio Hirata – Fashion Designer | Designers | The FMD". The FMD - FashionModelDirectory.com. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  27. ^ Jones, Stephen & Cullen, Oriole (editor) (2009). Hats: An Anthology. V&A Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85177-557-6.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  28. ^ Steele, Valerie (2010). The Berg Companion to Fashion. Berg. pp. 72–73. ISBN 978-1847885920. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  29. ^ "John Boyd". The FMD - FashionModelDirectory.com.
  30. ^ "Mildred Blount: First African American to Make Hats for Celebrities". Black Then. 7 September 2019. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  31. ^ "Mr. John, 91, Hat Designer for Stars and Society". 29 June 1993.
  32. ^ Biography of Stephen Jones on the V&A Museum website, accessed 1 April 2009
  33. ^ Hillier, Bevis (13 October 1985). "Hat Trick". LA Times. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  34. ^ 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

External linksEdit