Milliners are creative individuals who are in the business of designing and making hats. Not only do they generate unique designs, but they also manufacture and sell their wares. They are experts in analyzing fabrics, trims, and colors, and they are up-to-date on the latest fashion trends. Milliners may create a design, via computer program or by hand, for mass production or through commission at the behest of a private client. They understand and can apply various techniques to fabrics—hand steaming, blocking, etc.—to create the desired form.
Why Become A Milliner
Milliners have provided their services throughout history by making and selling top hats, cocktail hats, cowboy hats, and military and other specialty headwear. Although this profession is more popular in high-society women’s fashion, milliners produce a variety of styles for men and children as well. Hats can denote elevated social status, military rank, or provide essential flair in the world of art and fashion. Not everyone can become a successful milliner. In addition to creative talent and vision, one must put forth the effort to network and build rapport with clientele. In addition, milliners should possess the following qualities:
Knowledgeable about fabrics and trims
Strong fashion sense
Aptitude for technical components of millinery
Milliner Work Environment
Milliners typically work in studios, shops, and manufacturing sites. In the design stage, they will typically work in an office or studio. They may travel to various fashion shows and clients’ homes to obtain vision and direction. Depending on the type of millinery (fashion/private clientele or mass production), manufacturing completed by the milliner is typically done in a shop, where he or she can take measurements and craft the hat. It may take several days just to make one hat, especially if done by hand.
A variety of markets exist for self-employed milliners, such as exclusive high-end business (haute-couture), designer fashion, and specialty headwear. They may work for theater companies, clothing manufacturers, and fashion designers. Milliners must spend many hours networking and selling their designs to top-end clientele. They may also take their work to craft shows and festivals in an effort to sell and promote their hats. National and international travel is typical of this type of millinery. London, Paris, New York City, and Los Angeles are fashion magnets. Hours can be erratic but with reputation comes flexibility and stability.
Individuals who work for larger companies may work in a factory-type environment. It is important to wear protective gear around machinery. Fulltime and part-time work exists, typically during normal business hours.
The median annual salary for a milliner in the United States is $29,010, although only about 16,000 milliners are employed in the country. It is not a very popular job, mostly because millinery is a unique occupation with a specific skill set. With networking and quality work, milliners can make a good name for themselves and acquire a much higher salary than the national average.
Milliner Career Outlook
Millinery, as a long-term occupation, in itself can be a difficult job to make a living. A lot of time and effort is involved for self-employed milliners, who specialize in making commissioned hats. Milliners typically have exceptional sewing skills and can use these skills to create a number of other goods. With their patience, dexterity, fashion-sense, and knowledge of various materials, milliners can create and sell leather goods, jewelry, handbags, and clothing.
To become a milliner, it is important to have talent and experience. Many individuals who wish to advance in the field should pursue a degree or apprenticeship.
Step 1: Obtain an education. The path to becoming a milliner can include a formal or informal education. Many may have a knack for fashion, hat-design, and sewing at an early age and may choose to work with a master in the field. It is through this experience and name recognition that one can earn respectable employment.
The apprenticeship pathway may prove limited. Many aspiring milliners choose to obtain an undergraduate degree in art or fashion design. Because wearing hats is not as popular in the U.S. as it is overseas, many students may choose to attend universities and colleges in Europe. Many programs provide courses specific to millinery.
Note: Millinery is an entrepreneurial business. Students should make sure to take courses in marketing and advertising, business administration, mathematics, communications, and English, in addition to pertinent art courses.