Milliner (Hat Maker)

Milliners make hats for all kinds of people and for all types of occasions. They also remake hats and make adjustment to hats. If a theatrical producer was contemplating a production of, for example, Alice in Wonderland, a milliner may be asked to design headgear for most of the players and this would involve a certain amount of study, for only Alice and some of the lesser rabbits are bareheaded in the story.

Milliners design and make berets, bonnets, bridal headpieces, caps and hats using materials such as fabrics, felt, fur, leather, straw and artificial flowers.

Milliners interpret fashion trends and apply them to designs. When making hats, they mark out and cut patterns to the desired shape and size, lay the pattern onto fabric and cut around them using scissors for fabric hats. They shape, cut, twist, roll or fold and reinforce hoods with wire to gain the desired effect. They may assemble hats by hand or sewing machine and steam and press the material into shape by hand and, if necessary, stiffen it by using a special solution. Hat brims may be reinforced with wire to maintain shape; headbands are sewn on and lining fixed into crowns. Trimmings such as ribbons, buckles, braids, feathers or chains may be added.

Other milliner tasks may include altering, renovating and re-blocking existing hats; packaging hats for dispatch to customers; and displaying, fitting and selling hats and accessories.

In the mass production of hats, milliners may operate semi-automatic blocking machines. Milliners employed by mass-production firms usually perform single tasks, such as trimming hats with ribbon or sewing in headbands. Milliners making semi-model hats hand-trim shapes that have been moulded by machine. Highly skilled milliners create designs in fabric or on paper that can be followed by other milliners.

People from the beginning of time have worn hats of one kind or another - some for protection from the elements and some to enhance their beauty. Although hats are no longer a fashion necessity, they are still worn on special occasions and by people in the athletic and recreational fields.
Job opportunities depend on: the demand for hats; the cost, quality and durability of hats; fashion trends; and increasing awareness of the value of hats in preventing sun damage

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

There is presently no formal training course in millinery, but candidates have several other options to consider. Private courses in Clothing Design can be completed at private fashion and design schools. Most of these courses consist of 1 year full-time study or 2 years part-time study.

Diploma: N.Dip: Fashion or Fashion Design & Technology, N.Dip. Clothing - CUT, CPUT, DUT, TUT, NMMU, VUT, or Drama and Drama Studies - DUT, TUT, can be followed. These are 3-year courses and candidates have to undergo selection.

Also Clothing Production and Design courses can be taken at the Maluti, Boland, Port Elizabeth and Northlink TVET colleges.


  • hat manufacturing firms
  • clothing factories
  • fashion and costume designers
  • small firms that produce semi-model hats by hand
  • self-employment - with sufficient experience, the necessary capital and business ability, can set up own business, making and selling model (one-off) and semi-model hats

Further Information

Contact the above-mentioned employers and tertiary institutions.

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work in a clothing factory, particularly one that makes headgear
  • try making hats and headgear for yourself or friends
  • arrange to speak to a milliner about this career
  • arrange to visit your nearest Clothing Industry Training Board regional office and speak to the principal of the training centre

Programmes by Study Institutions

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