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Hat Maker or Milliner

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: Fashion, Industrial and Jewellery Designers: 5,001 to 10,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $1051 to $1300 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Brief A show-stopping hat created by a milliner or hat maker is likely to be on the shopping lists of mothers of brides and racegoers alike.

There are currently around 450 milliners working in South Australia. Employment is largely full-time and most work in the Manufacturing industry. Most persons in this occupation are females with majority of those employed aged between 45 – 54 years.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Hat Maker or Milliner

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Introduction

Milliners design and manufacture hats for every occasion. They use a range of materials and decorative finishes, such as beading or feathers to add that extra special touch to hats. Whether it's a felt beret, silk wedding headpiece or a straw boater hat, milliners create hats that leave a lasting impression. In larger manufacturing outlets, milliners are generally provided with the designs, sketches and materials needed to manufacture hats. Where most milliners work in small hat making businesses, they are responsible for all of the steps involved in hat making. They make decisions such as how a hat should look and set about sketching and producing that design.

They may also design and make custom made hats, in which case they will determine what the customer wants before embarking on the design process. At this stage of the custom made process, the milliner and the customer will discuss aspects such as style, material, colour, and any necessary hat trimmings. This assists milliners with their quote, which they will present to the customer. Rough sketches are always a good idea at this stage of the design process, ensuring that milliners have a fairly concrete idea of what the customer wants their hat to look like upon completion.

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Education Requirements

There are no educational requirements needed to become a milliner. As this is a highly skilled occupation, training, either formal or informal should be undertaken before seeking employment. Self taught milliners or those who have completed a certificate in millinery would be viewed more favourably by potential employers. These are also excellent credentials for persons considering venturing into self employment. Of the current Milliners there are 20% who have an Advanced Diploma or Diploma, 5% who have Certificate III or IV and 73% have no post school qualifications.

TAFE SA offers a Certificate IV in Millinery and a short course "Introduction to Millinery". Other courses associated with this occupation include the Advanced Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Technology. Pathways include the Certificate II and III in Applied Fashion Design and Technology.

Career Path

Milliners are mostly employed in hat manufacturing firms, although some are employed in small firms which produce semi-model hats by hand. Milliners can set up their own retail businesses, selling model (one-off) and semi-model hats. They need to have had sufficient experience in the industry and the necessary capital and business ability to be able to do this. Hat making is a very small and opportunities for entry to the occupation are limited. Applicants should contact individual milliners to obtain information about employment conditions and training requirements, which can vary from firm to firm. Demand for milliners varies throughout the year.

Industry

Manufacturing

Nature of the Job

Once a milliner's quote has been accepted, the manufacturing process can commence. First, measurements need to be taken of the customer's head. Milliners work off wooden blocks, which comes in various shapes and can accommodate a range of shaped heads.

Next, milliners mark and cut out patterns to the desired shape and size, and lay these on to the intended fabric or material before cutting. Further shaping, cutting, twisting, rolling or folding, and reinforcing of the brim, using wire, may be required to gain the desired effect. After the hat has been assembled, it can be hand or machine sewn. Hats are also steamed and hand pressed by milliners, and if necessary, they may stiffen hats using a special stiffening solution. Last but not least, milliners sew headbands and lining into crowns, or any required trimmings such as ribbon or netting. Milliners rely on very traditional equipment in their work, such as a regular sewing machine, steamer and press. They also regularly use glue guns and millinery wire.

Typical Physical Working Environment

Milliners need to keep abreast of millinery fashion trends and to demonstrate an artistic sense of colour and design and eye for detail. They need to be able to work well with their hands and to produce fine needlework. A good dose of patience and good customer service skills, if working directly with the public, should help them succeed. Milliners need to be empathetic to a customer's likes and dislikes. If a customer has conservative taste for example, then the milliner should not try and steer them in a direction that is uncomfortable for them. Milliners work mainly from private businesses and studios, and small hat shops. Interstate is where you'll find the larger, hat manufacturers.

Milliners also do alterations, repairs and retrims of hats. It's important that they have a feel for displaying ready made hats to their best advantage, so that they are ready for sale. Once sold, hats also need to be packaged properly in hat boxes.

Typical Occupational Example

Several fittings are usual for a custom made hat. Like custom made fashion, milliners don't always get the client's vision spot on the first time. Milliners generally make hats to a near-completed stage, so that the hat can be undone and remodelled if the customer isn't completely happy with it.

''I've always loved hats but I found that it was a bit tricky to find hats that fitted my head so I decided to make my own. I'm a bit of a feather girl so I love anything covered in feathers. I've just made a hat, a black cap with long feathers streaming down one side. It's very 20's,'' says milliner, Nicole. Nicole does her best to encourage more people to wear hats. ''I'd love to see more people wearing hats. All you need is the confidence to carry them off. For those people who aren't used to wearing hats, you can start small and then move on to more elaborate hats. It's like wearing a pair of new or a different style of shoe from what you'd normally wear. You'll only get comfortable with them if you start wearing them. Once you do that, you won't even notice the difference,'' says Nicole.

Earning Potential

Employment opportunities for milliners are often offered only on a part time basis, and can very often be seasonal. This is a very small occupation and most opportunities lie in self employment. Hats are not an essential item, and therefore demand is influenced by general levels of business activity as well as fashion trends and marketing strategies. Someone new to this occupation generally earns approximately $25,000 per annum whereas someone with more experience can earn as much as $35,000 plus per annum. Rates can differ between employers. The annual salary level quoted above is probably at the higher end of earnings.

Further Information

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