Canada's early fur trade was largely built on the fashion for beaver hats in Europe, particularly top hats. The steps in manufacturing hats are illustrated in this image from 1858.
Hat-maker making a felt hat
Millinery Department at the Lion Store of Toledo, Ohio, 1900s
Hat-making or millinery is the design, manufacture and sale of hats and head-wear. A person engaged in this trade is called a milliner or hatter.
Millinery is sold to women, men and children, though some definitions limit the term to women's hats. Historically, milliners, typically women shopkeepers, produced or imported an inventory of garments for men, women, and children and sold these garments in their millinery shop. More recently, the term milliner is more often used to describe a person who designs, makes, sells or trims hats primarily for a female clientele. The origin of the term is probably the Middle English milener, meaning an inhabitant of the city of Milan or one who deals in items from Milan, once known for setting the fashion standards in Europe.
Many styles of headgear have been popular through history and worn for different functions and events. They can be part of uniforms or worn to indicate social status. Styles include the top hat, hats worn as part of military uniforms, fedora, cowboy hat, and cocktail hat.
A great variety of objects are or formerly were used as trimmings on women's fashionable hats: see Trim (sewing).
In the early 1900s, feathers, wings, and whole stuffed birds were used as hat trimmings.Plume hunting was so popular that the indiscriminate shooting of birds in search for the snowy egret contributed to the extinction of the Carolina parakeet. Excessive plume hunting like this led to the formation of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the passage of the Lacey Act of 1900.
This link, with references to 1880s newspaper issues, describes trims on fashionable hats as including bird feathers, stuffed birds, and other small animals, fruit, flowers, ribbons, and lace. In 1889 in London and Paris, over 8,000 women were employed in millinery, and in 1900 in New York, some 83,000 people, mostly women, were employed in millinery. It also described a fashion for stuffed kittens' heads as hat ornaments in or around 1883 in Paris (France), often posed looking out from among foliage and feathers, to the point where some people were reported to breed kittens for the millinery trade.
Notable hatters and milliners
This is a partial list of people who have had a significant influence on hat-making and millinery.
International Hat Company, an American manufacturer credited with inventing one of America's most popular early 20th century harvest hats for field hands, farmers, and workmen.
^Jess Cartner-Morley (16 April 2002). "Who wants to be a milliner". The Guardian. He has created hats to accompany the catwalk collections of Alexander McQueen and Valentino, has been named British Accessory Designer of the Year five times, and was the first milliner in 80 years to be invited by French fashion's governing body, the Chambre Syndicale, to take part in the Parisian haute couture shows