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There was a time when no one would leave the house without a hat or a bonnet, not even for a walk. Eventually, though, hats only became mandatory for special occasions, and today, in North America, we're lucky if people put on toques for winter! Hats, especially stylish hats, have slipped from everyday fashion. Still, milliners who create interesting and original hats are still making a splash amongst people who love to dress up, like the look of a unique hat, and haven't yet given up on the idea of hats for fashion as well as function.

Milliners create simple, sturdy hats, fantastical colorful hats, hats for weddings, hats for funerals, hats for going to the mall. They make hats for men, women, and children. They usually create one-of-a-kind hats, or only a few of each style. Sometimes they create custom order hats for clients looking for something unique.

They primarily make hats for women. They use someone else's pattern or create their own, or copy an existing hat. They sew by hand, use glue and sewing machines, they decorate with ribbon, flowers, feathers, netting, and dyes to create interesting and original hats.

Milliners are a special breed. There aren't very many of them in North America, because the work is intricate, methodical, and it can be tough to make a living at it. Still, many people out there need hats. They make hats for fun, they make hats for people who are enduring chemotherapy. They make hats for people who enjoy the idea of haute couture, and have a penchant for unique designs.
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  Interests and Skills  
In order to work as a milliner, one should have good eyesight and manual dexterity. They should sincerely enjoy sewing, have an interest in creating something from nothing, and like making other people happy. They should be interested in fashion, have excellent communication skills, and be polite, tactful, honest, and a good communicator. Finally they should be interested in working with their hands, have tons of creativity, perseverance, and a good head for business, as well.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Create designs for hats on paper
  • Copy existing hats
  • Create hats out of many different materials
  • Measure customers for custom orders
  • Create hats by hand and with simple machines
  • Add decorations and embellishments to hats
  • Ask customers to try hats on and make any alterations
  • May handle any administrative duties
  • The typical day for a milliner mostly involves working with original or custom-ordered hats, creating designs or templates, measuring, sewing, picking stitches, and re-sewing sections. Milliners who are self-employed will spend some of each day advertising, as well as looking after the business side of things. Milliners don't get to travel, unless they are training in other countries or purchasing supplies.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most milliners work for themselves, alongside other milliners in their own shop. Some work from home, and sell their hats at festivals, markets, fairs, and craft shows. Some milliners may work for theater companies, design studios, or clothing manufacturers.
  • They work long hours, especially if they are custom-making a hat for an eager client. It is painstaking work and requires long hours of concentration, even on weekends and into the evenings.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Milliners may open up their own hat store, or get into making other accessories, and make bags, belt, gloves, from different materials. They can get into leather work, jewelry making, or they may become tailors, or open their own dressmaking and tailoring shop. They can even become clothing designers, fashion consultants, or work in textile art, fabric printing, or open a shop to sell fabric and sewing notions.

  Educational Paths  
Milliners are generally avid recreational sewers, who take their high school home economics training to a new level. They may apprentice under an established milliner, or learn their craft by taking fashion design programs at universities, colleges and performing arts centers. Some fashion design schools or programs at college may even offer some specific classes in hat-making. Some aspiring milliners may choose to go overseas, to study in countries where hat-wearing is more popular than it is in North America. Other subjects to focus on would be art, math, accounting, marketing, advertising, and business administration.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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