A milliner designs and makes hats, especially ladies' hats. The term is derived from the Middle English "Milener" (meaning a native of Milan, Italy), which was the main center for production of lace and other fine
fabrics used in making hats. Millinery, like most handwork careers, has declined precipitously over the last century due to cheaper factory production. Consumer demand for hats is in decline. Even so, there are still
more than a hundred independent milliners producing custom head wear here in the U.S.
Your tasks would vary depending on which area you are involved in, but could include:
• working to client or company requirements (the brief)
• analysing or predicting trends in fabrics, colours or shapes
• sketching designs by hand, using computer design packages or making up prototype designs
• estimating costs for materials and manufacture
• finding suppliers of fabric and trimmings
• making up or supervising the making up of the hats.
If you are working in couture or exclusive ranges, your work could include meeting clients individually to take measurements and arrange fittings. As a selfemployed milliner you would need to market your work, selling hats through shops or other retail outlets. You would also carry out the tasks involved in running a business.
You could be employed by a fashion house, fashion retailer or hat manufacturer. Because there are relatively few people employed in this sector there is strong competition for jobs, especially in major fashion houses.
With experience and excellent business skills you could set up your own business, or sell your designs to companies on a freelance basis. The Crafts Council or your local Arts Council crafts officer, may be able to advise on studio availability.
• Crafts Council
• Arts Council
You may find the following links useful for job vacancies and general reading:
• Design Jobs
• Design Council
You will need skills in both design and practical millinery.
Many milliners (particularly those working for major fashion houses or upper-end retailers) have a degree, BTEC HND or foundation degree in a relevant subject such as fashion, design or millinery. Several colleges offer courses in millinery at various levels, both full- and part-time. Some include millinery with other subjects and some courses specialise in, for example, millinery and costume for theatre.
A course that teaches both design and technical skills will give you the practical knowledge to work in the industry. You should look carefully at the content of the course before making your choice.
Entry requirements vary, so you should check with the individual colleges and universities. You will need to put together a portfolio of design work that you can take to course and job interviews.
You can also develop millinery skills by attending short courses and workshops which are run by a number of providers. Some established milliners and other private providers also offer short courses.
You will often start as a design assistant before working your way up to designer. Practical experience in the job and a good track record are crucial to progressing in your career.
Throughout your career you will need to keep up with trends in the industry. You can do this by reading trade publications and attending fashion shows.
Joining professional bodies will give you access to professional support and networking. For example the Chartered Society of Designers has a membership scheme for professional designers, and runs courses and workshops.
• Chartered Society of Designers
The Crafts Council coordinates regional networks, awards and training and funding initiatives for new and established designers and makers.
• Crafts Council
Salaries can start at around 15,000 a year
Experienced designers can earn 20,000 or more
Salaries for well-established designers can be over 30,000
Self-employed milliners set their own rates, which can be up to 300 a or more for a hat.