When I tell someone that I am a milliner, they often cock their head and say “What?” Or if I tell someone I make hats, they say, “Oh, what’s that called, haberdashery?” There are distinct differences between hatting, millinery, and haberdashery.
Today the term hatter specifically refers to one who makes hats for men. A milliner is someone who makes hats for women. In France the term for milliner today is modiste but originally these crafty designers were chapelliers.
Early milliners have left few records of their business activities but we know they existed in England since the beginning of the 1700s. The name milliner came from the traveling haberdashers from Milan, Italy. They sold all aspects of dress and the English called them millaners. Soon, all who were making stylish hats were called millaners since the materials for use were imported from Milan.
The term haberdasher refers to one who makes men’s clothing and accessories and is a very old term and of uncertain origin. It was in use as early as the 14th century and in the middle ages haberdashery included daggers, swords, Milan caps, glasses, spoons, knives, and much more. The original haberdasher was probably a peddler or a badger rather than a hatter. This blog delves into extensive detail on the origins of the term haberdasher http://blog.oup.com/2008/08/haberdasher/
Do you want to learn to make a hat? Find out more about hat making workshops.