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

Millinery is sold to women, men and children, though some definitions limit the term to women's hats.[2] Historically, milliners, typically women shop-keepers, produced or imported an inventory of garments for men, women, and children, and sold these garments in their millinery shop. More recently, the term milliner is more often used to describe a person who designs, makes, sells or trims hats primarily for a women clientele. The origin of the term is probably the Middle English milener, meaning an inhabitant of the city of Milan or one who deals in items from Milan,[3] once known for setting the fashion standards in Europe[4].


Many styles of headgear have been popular through history and worn for different functions and events. They can be part of uniforms or worn to indicate social status. Styles include the top hat, hats worn as part of military uniforms, fedora, cowboy hat, and cocktail hat.

Women's hats

A great variety of objects are or formerly were used as trimmings on women's fashionable hats: see Trim (sewing).

In the early 1900s, feathers, wings, and whole stuffed birds were used as hat trimmings.[5] 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.[5] 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[6].

This link, 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. 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. It also 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.[7]

Notable hatters and milliners

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



  • Anna Ben-Yusuf wrote The Art of Millinery (1909), one of the first reference books on millinery technique.[10]
  • Rose Bertin, milliner and modiste to Marie Antoinette, is often described as the world's first celebrity fashion designer.[11]
  • Coco Chanel: Creator of the fashion house, Chanel, and creator of Chanel No.5.
  • John Boyd was one of London's most respected milliners and is known for the famous pink tricorn hat worn by Diana, Princess of Wales.[12]
  • Lilly Daché was a famous American milliner of the mid-20th century.
  • Frederick Fox was an Australian born milliner noted for his designs for the British Royal family.
  • Mr. John was an American milliner considered by some to be the millinery equivalent of Dior in the 1940s and 1950s.[13]
  • Stephen Jones of London, is considered one of the world's most radical and important milliners of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.[14]
  • Simone Mirman was known for her designs for Elizabeth II and other members of the British Royal Family.
  • Barbara Pauli was the leading fashion milliner and modiste in Sweden during the Gustavian era.
  • Caroline Reboux was a renowned milliner of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • David Shilling is a renowned milliner, artist and designer based in Monaco.[15]
  • Justin Smith is an award-winning milliner creating bespoke and couture hats under the J Smith Esquire brand.
  • Philip Treacy Irish-born award-winning milliner; first milliner for 80 years to be invited to exhibit at the Paris haute couture shows.[16]

See also


  1. "Millinery as a Trade for Women" (PDF). Monthly Review of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 3 (5): 576. November 1916 via JSTOR.
  2. "Milliner". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 7 June 2012. Webster's New World Dictionary, 4th ed. (1999), also limits millinery to women's hats.
  3. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition
  4. "Milan" (PDF). National Journal of Education. 9 (23): 359. 5 June 1879 via JSTOR.
  5. Saikku, Mikko (Autumn 1990). "The Extinction of the Carolina Parakeet" (PDF). Environmental History Review. 14 (3): 9 via JSTOR.
  6. "William L. Finley". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 6 November 2019. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  8. Bowler hat makes a comeback Telegraph (London). Retrieved 9 June 2012
  9. Reynolds, William and Rich Rand (1995) The Cowboy Hat book. Pg 8 ISBN 0-87905-656-8
  10. Jones, Stephen & Cullen, Oriole (editor) (2009). Hats: An Anthology. V&A Publishing. ISBN 1-85177-557-9.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  11. Steele, Valerie (2010). The Berg Companion to Fashion. Berg. pp. 72–73. ISBN 1847885926. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  12. "John Boyd". The FMD - FashionModelDirectory.com.
  13. "Mr. John, 91, Hat Designer for Stars and Society". 29 June 1993.
  14. Biography of Stephen Jones on the V&A Museum website, accessed 1 April 2009
  15. Hillier, Bevis (13 October 1985). "Hat Trick". LA Times. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  16. Jess Cartner-Morley (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
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