Change is in the Air | Modern Millinery

Millinery Operations with Kristin Silverman

According to all of my friends in other parts of the northern hemisphere, spring is here. We’ve sort of got it up here in Northern Minnesota. The snow has melted fairly early this year and so we are in that ever so pleasant season when everything is gray-brown. Milliners (including me) have been furiously switching gears from felt to straw and RACING HATS. The season is here. It’s our big moment in the sun. To see lovely lovely racing hats, check out Fashion at the Races and the Royal Ascot Style Guide on the Ascot Racecourse Facebook page.

by Moe Sew Co Millinery (shameless self promotion)
by Moe Sew Co Millinery (shameless self promotion)


And while all that happens, the world continues to turn for our industry and our struggle for workers’ rights. (made that sound pretty old time labor movement there didn’t I? I wonder if we could join the Wobblies. Should I put “This Machine Kills Fascists” on my next hat? [Hey, that isn’t a bad idea….])

Woody Guthrie

The Academy of Handmade published their blog post on the plight of milliners in the world of Etsy. I think it’s well worth a read, especially for anyone who works in upscale handmade craft.

Etsy has changed their categories and the verdict is still quite out on whether the change is positive or negative. They are extremely confusing and I could ramble on for days about the lack of logic to them. I don’t understand why these developers decided on Baseball & Trucker Caps, Berets & Tams, Boaters & Panama Hats, Bucket Hats, Cowboy Hats, Earmuffs & Ear Warmers, Fascinators & Mini Hats, Fedoras, Formal Hats, Helmets, Newsboy Caps, Sun Hats and Visors, Veils, Winter Hats. Considerably more perplexing are the sub-categories of Formal Hats: Bowler Hats, Cloche Hats, Pillbox Hats, Top Hats. My guess is that this is an attempt at giving us a category for “millinery“.

I’ve heard, but can’t verify that Etsy has also made public statements that categories aren’t the primary place that people go when they want to shop. They’re probably right. We search, don’t we? This means, of course, that tags are the New Black. We’ve got to tag correctly.

And when I get to thinking about this and I get to thinking about the Academy of Handmade’s blog post, I get to thinking about what we really want. And that’s what I’d like to talk about a bit.

Because those tags that are so important are not used properly. There’s no enforcement for wrongly tagged items and this puts us back into the Sea of Knitted Beanies.

Oh how I want to not be adrift in the Sea of Knitted Beanies.

This is what I want. This is my own perfect world.

I want a website dedicated to upscale handmade. At this point, other sites besides Etsy won’t fit the needs of milliners because their price points are so low we’d stick out like sore thumbs and never make a sale. Sites that are purely millinery aren’t very effective either because of their low traffic. I imagine a site that’s committed to the place where handmade becomes art. This wouldn’t be an entry point into the world of handmade things. It would be where those that have made that jump in their lives, those that might have taken the Handmade Pledge (remember that?) seriously. They want to buy beautiful things made with artistry and they are willing to pay for it. Millinery would fit well in this space.

hat by Boring Sidney
hat by Boring Sidney

I want curation. I imagine something along the lines of an online One of a Kind or American Craft Council show. Of course because it’s online, it need not be restricted to people who can fill a 10′ x 10′ booth, but whatever is in there has to be good.

It would involve application and tags that are enforced. This would keep the quality of product up.

But along with this, we need transparency. We need to be able to know the reasons behind decisions and be encouraged to talk about them, not censured for doing so.

We need community. Like Etsy in the old days. Like my beloved Milliners of Etsy team. To know each other, be able to ask for help from each other, chat about things that have nothing to do with our craft. Remember that? Remember hanging out in the forums on a Friday night?

And what we really, really need is for people to wear hats.

hat by Pooka Queen
hat by Pooka Queen

This dream website is just one part of solving the bigger problem of course. All makers of fine things need that site. We desperately need a developer to create it and I swear there’s thousands of makers out there who would be more than willing to chip in to make it happen. Maybe it’s a Non-Profit and could be paid for by members and run by a board of directors. I dunno that part. I just know that it’s desperately needed and someone out there can do it.

But what milliners need is for people to wear hats.

by Marcia Lacher
by Marcia Lacher

When I wear a hat, I invariably and repeatedly have people tell me that they “wish people still wore hats.” How utterly ridiculous. if you want people to wear hats, why aren’t you wearing one?

Don’t leave them in the closet. Put one on!

Don’t tell me that you’re “not a hat person.” Back in the old days, when everybody wore hats all the time, before Vatican II made it so ladies didn’t have to wear hats to church and John F Kennedy’s hair hadn’t flown in the wind during his inauguration (the two key events in the demise of ubiquitous hat-wearing), everybody had hats that looked good on them. How is it possible that there are no hats out there that suit you?

You just haven’t found the right hat.

by montecristipanama
by montecristipanama

Here’s where milliners come in. Instead of relying on what Target or Anthropologie has on their shelves, turn to the work of a milliner who’s work you enjoy. That person will be able to design the hat that suits you beautifully. And once you find one, you will find others. And once you get a taste for the joy that comes from wearing art on your head, you will want to wear more.

The millinery industry is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s a wonderful thing. That must mean that there are ever more people who want to wear hats.

Well that turned into more of a rant than I intended. I meant it more as a wish, hoping that if I give voice to it, something good might come. Much of what milliners need are what all craftspeople need. There’s been a sea change. There are a critical mass of people that make things and people that are committed to buying them. We can come together and make something really, really good.

Emily Moe is a milliner who, since 2007, has slowly been taking over the world of Millinery and captains the Milliners of Etsy, a collective of artistan hat-makers from around the world. She lives with her husband in Minnesota and gets up to all kinds of creative mischief.



Jamie "Mr X Stitch" Chalmers

Hi, I’m Jamie “MrXStitch” Chalmers and since 2008 I’ve been on a mission to change the way the world thinks about needlecraft.

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