The Origins of Millinery
26 April, 2018
  • fashion
  • fashion

Although men and women covered their heads for various reasons since the antiquity, It was between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that hats began to be widely used in western culture; hats quickly became sign of status and social standing and marking ceremonies and special occasions. Hats also caused the emergence of a new profession, that of the milliner.

Straw hat, 1700 ca. Courtesy Stiftelsen Nordiska museet, CC BY-NC-ND.

The term 'milliner' was first used in London around sixteenth century. It describe a seller of women's fashion items imported from Milan - in fact at first they were called ‘the Milaners’. They used not only to sell headpieces, but ribbons, gloves, trims and other accessories.  Later, the word came to identify the person making hats and bonnets, initially with straw and then with the most diverse materials: from fabrics such as silk, velvet, taffeta, to leather, felt and fur.

By the eighteenth century in European and American cities millinery shops abounded, competing in selling the most precious accessories to complete the look of a fashionable ensemble. The first name associated with millinery is surely that of Rose Bertin, called in French marchande de mode. Her shop, or better her fashionable salon, Le Grand Moghul, situated on rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, was the best in Paris, for both the materials and the gossip that circulated there. Bertin’s fame was fostered by her most known client, Queen Marie Antoinette.