When does a hat maker become a Milliner and when does a Milliner become a couture Milliner?

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I believe in Australia, a hat maker becomes a Milliner when he/she has the minimum qualification of Certificate II in Millinery from a registered training institution OR has been accepted by his/her peers into the Australian Milliner's Association. 

Couture, I think, is when a hat is made specifically for a particular client - to their measurements, style and to suit just them.  Also called Bespoke.   

Haute Couture, of course is a title given to only the top rank of fashion designers in France, e.g., Ballenciaga, Schiaparelli, etc.  

Hope this is right ... and helps :)

Hi Ruth- to answer your question when I was learning to make hats our teacher taught us that a hatter makes mens hats and cuts fabric on the straight grain of the woven material, were as a milliner makes womens hats and cuts the fabric through the grain at 45 degrees(the golden rule). To be a milliner is to able to make any kind of hat, some famous hat designers are unable to make hats but their milliners produce their creations e.g. Aarge Thaarup who designed the Queen Mothers and Queen Elizabeth hats admits this in his book 'Heads and Tales'(which is a good read!). Hopes this helps. Happy Stitching, Evelyne

Hi Evelyne,

Actually, yes that is pretty close to my understanding, too. In fact, in the Collins English Dictionary, a hatter is 'a person who makes and sells hats' and a milliner is 'a person who makes or sells women's hats' . Apparently, the word comes from Italy, MILANER, who is a native of Milan, at that time famous for its fancy goods.

Its funny how word meaning change and evolve over time - fascinating!!

So qualifications don't differentiate between hatter or millinery but the gender of the client is the main factor? That's actually really interesting.

This seems to be an accepted definition.  Most of the time in the US those who identify as hatters are making men's hats/western hats.  It seems that hatters seldom create wired brims and do a number of things that milliners have practiced in the past--at least from what I have seen.

Hi Evelyne,

I've got 'Heads and Tails' and love it!  How wonderful to have lived and made hats at that time -when EVERYONE wore hats. 

I think it's so interesting how you have to have qualifications to call yourself a milliner in Australia (and I think other countries, too). But here in the hat-ignorant U.S., there are no rules involved in calling yourself a milliner. (I keep waiting for those crocheted beanie makers on Etsy to discover the word and start calling their wares millinery. Ack!)

I always thought "couture" referred to specific methods of construction (i.e. no glue or sewing machines, just hand-sewing, etc.). The use of the word "couture" is restricted in France for those who have earned the right to use it. Here in the U.S., it seems to have sort-of become a general term to refer to it being designer or "fancy," even if that's not an accurate usage.

Isn't there an organisation in France who actually governs which fashion houses can call themselves "couturiers", and I thought they had strict standards and quality levels that they had to go by to have that right? But to my understanding "couture" is something that is made of the highest quality and to which there is a lot of handwork involved. Is the term "milliner" goverened in Australia?

It's my believe that 'couture' means made to order for a specific customer (see my post above) but it also has the cachet of very high quality in design and construction.  Unfortunately, I don't think there are any rules for using the word.  It's misused - and over used - in Australia too! 

 'Haute Couture' is the French qualification and for which you have to be in the league of YSL, Chanel, etc. and yes, there ARE rules regarding this.

The qualification is Australia is a means to provide training due to the demise of the apprenticeship system.  This applied to millinery, as well as many other 'trades'.  Once the only way you could become a milliner was to apprentice yourself -and you learned on the job - on in a workroom (and got paid).  

I wonder if the US system has anything to do with the demise of the union system.  I've seen many vintage hats with the label "Union Made' in them and assumed that all milliners/hatters had to be union members.   does anyone know?


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