The Milliners

Ribbons and bows are perhaps the most common hat trimmings, though they can be used to trim clothing as well. Contemporary ribbon styles are available in gros-grain, satin, silk, velvet, beaded, wire-edged, floral, pleated, polka dots, stripes, and more.

Individual items that lend themselves to hat trimming include feathers, artificial flowers, pom-poms, and tassels. In nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England and America, a cottage industry of hat trimmers kept workers busy, since no self-respecting woman would appear in public without an artfully trimmed hat. Indeed, some hat styles would not be complete without their particular trim: the pom-pom on the tam-o'-shanter, or the tassel on the fez, for example.

The decorative use of bird feathers was practiced in Pre-Columbian America and Polynesia, as seen in elaborate feather work headdresses and capes from Mexico, Hawaii, and New Zealand. In eighteenth-century Europe, tall plumed headdresses called "aigrettes" enjoyed a vogue among society women. In the twenty-first century, pheasant, turkey, rooster, and ostrich feathers are often used in millinery design, though concerns about the exploitation of rare birds have curbed the resale of imported feathers.

Artificial flowers have been a favorite trimming for millinery and haute couture since the nineteenth century. To create fake flowers, manufacturers treat silk, organza, cotton, chiffon, or velvet with a stiffening agent, dry the fabric, die-cut the petals and leaves in a press, and then paint or dye them for final assembly. Of note are the exquisitely lifelike blossoms made for four generations by Guillet of Paris, whose high-end clients include Lanvin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Christian Lacroix.

Dress Making

Dress Making

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