Category Archives: General


This is an annual opportunity to express your creativity, whether you’re a hat wearer, a fashion student or a professional milliner. Millinery Australia invites you to join us. This year we have events in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

Click here to find out more or register your interest.

2023 Design Award Top 10!

We are pleased to announce the Top 10 for the 2023 Millinery Australia Design Award! This year saw 40 Fellow members register to take part in the Design Award.  

The theme was Ruffled and each piece was judged by an expert panel on the criteria of innovative design, quality workmanship, wearability and relevance to theme. The judging panel include Belinda Osborne, Martin Ginnane, Rachael Hart, and Richard Nylon.


Thank you to the following sponsors for their support of the 2023 Design Award, 2023 Student Award and 2023 Hall of Fame.

Patron’s Pick will be selected by Millinery Australia Patron Stephen Jones OBE

B-Unique MillineryBonnetry Millinery, Cherry Ribbon, Guy Morse-Brown, Hat AcademyHat AtelierHat Blocks Australia, HatalkHatters Millinery SuppliesHaute Dog CalendarHouse of AdornJo Maree Millinery, Louise Macdonald Milliner, Michele Cameron, Millinery Australia, Millinery HubMillinery.InfoRichard Shaw Photographer, Rose Hudson Millinery, The Hat MagazineTracy Chaplin Milliner, Wendy Scully Millinery, Yering Farm Wines.

Competitions and Exhibitions by Karen Bailey

London Hat Week, MAA Design Award, Royal Shows & more, there is such an abundance of millinery competitions and each has its own challenges.

My most recent success was at the Royal Brisbane Show this year where I entered my design named, Flow. This hat won Best in Show and came first in its category. The thought process behind this design was of fabric flowing in a breeze. Its low crown building to a curve and the curled, flowing trim almost taking off beyond the brim.

The Chrysler Hat came out of the 2021 MAA Design Awards where it was placed in the top 10. This competition had the theme of ‘20s -Past, Present and Future’. With my love of architecture and the Art Deco movement, the Chrysler building in New York came to mind for inspiration. White sinamay was used to reflect the white bricks used in the building’s construction. The flared brim reflected the radiator inspired Eagle Gargoyles on the building. Art Deco elevator doors inspired the fan shape and scrolls on the hat’s crown and trim.

London Hat Week Exhibition 2020, ‘To the Future and Back’, had a theme of either looking forward to the future or looking back through history. I chose to look back and in particular to the work of fashion designer Christian Dior. I was fortunate to have my design accepted for display at the Hat Week Exhibition.
Inspiration for the hat came from Dior’s iconic 1940s dress silhouette with the nipped in waist and voluminous skirt. To represent the fullness of the skirt, buckram was blocked on a large domed brim board.  I created an inner and outer crown and lifted the outer crown slightly so it hovered above the brim. This recreated the small waist of the Dior dress. The elevated crown was the reason that I named the hat, Altitude. I entered Altitude in this year’s Royal Queensland Show in the brimmed hat category where it received first place.

While entering competitions is a lot of hard work and can be the cause of a few sleepless nights, they expand my millinery for the positive. Competitions push me in directions I may not have taken otherwise.

About Karen

Award winning milliner, Karen Bailey has been designing hats for over 30 years. Karen’s hats have been worn at weddings and functions around the world including national and international race meetings. Her hats have featured in films, theatre productions, and an international millinery exhibition.

Karen trained with celebrated Brisbane milliner, Elizabeth R where she learned traditional model millinery techniques.
Opening her millinery store in Oxford Street Bulimba in the 1990s, Karen’s collections also sold through selected independent boutiques, David Jones and Myer department stores.

Karen is renowned for her meticulous attention to detail. All designs are hand made using the finest materials to create a flawless finish that is both classically elegant and timeless. As well as offering ready to wear collections, Karen offers a bespoke couture service where designs are customised to complement each client’s specific outfit.

After thirty years in Brisbane, Karen recently relocated to the beautiful Northern Rivers Region of N.S.W. She continues to focus on providing beautifully crafted hats for clients and her seasonal collections.

Entering the Myer Millinery Award and other competitions

By Belinda Osborne – Peacock Millinery

Look in the window late at night (not in a creepy way) during peak hat season and you will see by the glow of a sewing light, head down, hands stitching away, a milliner working tirelessly putting finishing touches on the latest headwear delights. As a milliner, I know the gig all too well. It is the time of year where we milliners and hatmakers alike, emerge from our studios, tired, hands worn, with the very best in millinery fashion for our clients.

So how on earth is there time to get inspired to design and make a piece for a competition!? Let alone, a competition such as the prestigious Myer Fashions on the Field Millinery Award. With its rather daunting list of entrant requirements.

I’m going to share with you how I approach designing and making for competitions, in particular, for both the Myer Millinery Award and the Millinery Australia Design Award, and some tips for entering. Competitions always seem to be right in the middle of the busiest time of the year. As a professional milliner, my client’s always come first as they pay me to do what I love. A competition on the other hand, does not pay me to do what I love. So why do I do it?

Very early on in my career, I realised competitions were an investment of time and effort that is not guaranteed a return or benefit. So, I decided that I would make them benefit me in a way I felt I could justify the time spent. I made my own ‘benefit package’ as such. I began to see competitions as an opportunity to further develop my skills, to push me to innovate and to network with others.

Entering a competition such as the Myer Millinery Award requires time, planning, discipline, and a good understanding of the requirements of the competition. If you have not entered previously, or have yet to delve into the competition’s new digital format, trust me when I say, there is more time invested than you may think. This can also become a black hole of time if you let it. Planning is key!

Firstly, I decide how much time I am willing or able to invest in my entry. How much time really depends on how innovative and creative I want to get with the design, and of course the looming competition deadline. If I want to design something completely new, I need to factor time to experiment and fail (maybe a few times). On top of that, I also need to plan for recording and editing footage for my social media and video diary, updating my portfolio, and of course, photographing my finished entry. I do all of this myself, as this has been part of my ‘benefits package’ and learning journey. I approach a competition the same as I would when I need to choreograph shoots and artwork for marketing. I like a professional clean look, and I have been honing my skills at achieving this over the years.

When I begin to think about designs for any competition, I tend to think backwards. What do I want to see on display or in the images? What is going to make the judges not want to take their eyes off my design and curious to know more? What is the best silhouette that is going to portray this? What do a want to highlight; a technique or maybe to convey a feeling? What is the competition asking of me, and how will I address this requirement in my design?

I will always ask these questions before I begin. As I did for both my winning entries in the 2021 Myer Millinery Award and the 2022 Millinery Australia Design Award. With the Myer Millinery Award, I knew I wanted a statement piece that was new and fresh in its concept, but echoed age-old silhouettes. “A bow…no, a BIG bow!!” and that is how it began, with a sketch of a large bow encircling the model’s head. But it was the way in which I used feathers to create almost a new textile in which formed the bow, that really took my design to the next level. I was working in a new space for millinery and creating a real moment. I have a motto I use in my business, and that’s “making millinery moments.” I apply this when designing. I want to create a moment, a millinery moment. I want my clients to feel it, I want the judges to feel it. Surprise, shock, amaze and awe are your friends in a coveted competition such as the Myer Millinery Award.

When designing and constricted by a theme, I’m not one for hiding behind a tenuous connection to the theme. I tend to stay very literal, almost in your face about it. For the Millinery Australia Design Award, the 2022 theme of counterbalance resonated with me. I wanted everything about my finished design to appear to counter balance another aspect of the design. In my head I envisaged the silhouette of a yin yang symbol framing a model’s face. As you can see, I started my designing process by thinking backwards again. It is a way that works for me and helps me focus.

Every competition is different. Being able to understand what a competition is asking of you is no different than understanding a client’s need. If you haven’t had much experience in this, then entering competitions can be a great way to get a little more experience. A competition, like a client, may have a list of criteria they need you to meet. With experience you’ll begin to see there is usually one or two criteria that holds more weight than others. When you understand what that is for each competition, you can really begin to hone your entries to the requirements.

When getting ready to enter your next or first competition, my big tips are:
+ Research. What designs were successful in the past? In what way were they remarkable? Did they take any risks?
+ Understand the requirements. If you are unsure of something, a brief email with your query to the competition organiser is your best option for clarity.
+ Tailor your entry to each competition, but never lose sight of who you are as a designer.
+ Ensure you have your own ‘benefit package.’ That way if the result isn’t a prize, you still benefit from entering i.e. opportunity to hone one’s skills, new images to add to portfolio and social media, building contacts and networking etc. It can be what you make it.

Remember, it’s not about winning or losing, but how you play the game. I’ve always played to have fun.

For more great blogs from our guest blogger Belinda, head to her blog page ‘The Milliner Life’

Visit Belinda’s Instagram page at

Masters of Millinery

Melbourne Royal Show

The Masters of Millinery Section at the Melbourne Royal Show was established in 2015 by President at the time Phillip Rhodes to recognise high-level workmanship within the industry. The section is invitational only for members of the Association in partnership with Melbourne Royal Art, Craft & Cookery and Millinery Australia.

2022 – Leteisha Knetch
2021 – No Royal Melbourne Show
2020 – No Royal Melbourne Show
2019 – Laura Dunnington
2018 – Wendy Diggles
2017 – Bronwyn Shooks
2016 – Louise Macdonald
2015 – Louise Macdonald

2022 – Masters of Millinery – Leteisha Knetch
2017 – Masters of Millinery – Bronwyn Shooks
2019 – Masters of Millinery – Laura Dunnington
2016 – Masters of Millinery – Louise Macdonald
2018 – Masters of Millinery – Wendy Diggles
2015 – Masters of Millinery – Louise Macdonald

Design Award Top 10!

We are pleased to announce the Top 10 for the 2022 Millinery Australia Design Award! This year saw 47 Fellow members register to take part in the Design Award.  

The theme was Counter Balance and each piece was judged by an expert panel on the criteria of innovative design, quality workmanship, wearability and relevance to theme.  The judging panel include Georgia Skelton, Melissa Jackson and Janice Breen Burns.

Check out the Counter Balance merch here!


Thank you to the following sponsors for their support of the competition:

B-Unique MillineryBest Western Motel Apollo Bay Motel & ApartmentsHatalkHat AtelierHat Blocks AustraliaHatlinesHatters Millinery SuppliesHaute Dog CalendarHouse of AdornMillinery AustraliaMillinery.Info, Millinery HubMillinery MarketHat AcademyThe Fabric StoreThe Hat MagazineThe Total PackageYering Farm Wines.

Display Partners

We are pleased to share that the Top 10 will be displayed at Adelaide HattersStrand Hatters, Embellish AtelierBrisbane Hatters and Avenell’s of Bundaberg

Patron’s Pick will be selected by Millinery Australia Patron Stephen Jones OBE

Milliners4Recovery – Interview with Lisette Margini

What made you come up with the idea to host an auction to support the floods in QLD and NSW?

The idea for the Milliiners4Recovery auction had its birth in the days after the ‘Black Summer Fires’ when communities were in such desperate need for help and the general community were unable to do anything to help. A group of artists and authors had a Twitter Auction ‘Authorsforfires’ which was raising money to help the fire fighters, so I asked some close milliner friends what they thought and took on the project myself with their support.

Originally we had planned to run the event a couple of times that year knowing that recovery from such experiences takes years and we wanted survivors to know they remained in our thoughts. However within weeks the pandemic hit, milliners were not making money and it was too much to ask people to contribute again. Come this year and again we see large numbers of people isolated and their lives turned upside down due to the impact of flooding in Queensland and New South Wales. Again that feeling of helplessness set in seeing people have everything they own destroyed and lives being lost. I decided to ask our community if they wanted to do it again.

We have had over 25 milliners donate hats and headwear so far, several donating more than one piece. This time I found an online platform AirAuctioneer, a Sydney based company who waived fees for anyone running auctions raising money for the floods. They have been fantastic support as well.

Where will all the funds be going?

The proceeds of this auction will be paid directly to Lifeline and Red Cross Australia’s Flood Appeal. Red Cross because they are a well run group who manage to get help to those who need efficiently. Lifeline because the recovery from any trauma is not just physical, the impact can take weeks, months or years to emerge. Each milliner is selecting the charity to which the winning bidder will pay directly. Like our first auction, the winning bidder pays directly to the charity in their own name and on proof of payment, the hat is posted to them. This allows the bidder to be able to claim their tax deduction.

The first time you ran an auction you raised nearly $8000 – what would your goal be for this time around?

I am hoping that this time around we can raise closer to 10k. We have pieces this time with a greater size and price range and hopefully pieces that appeal to all genders.

If you were to bid on a piece, which one would you choose?

My husband will be bidding on a couple of pieces for me. The one I’d most like to win is Karen Livingston from KML Millinery’s piece. It is a lovely hat made in honour of her niece’s partner’s father who lost his life in the floods. A proud hat wearer, this piece has been made to honour him. 

I also love Leteisha Knecht’s hat that comes with a handmade macrame hanger and you can’t go past the colour of Georgia Skelton and Sandy Forrester’s hats.

Sadly Louise Macdonald fans have already outbid me as have those who want Rose Hudson’s beret.

Where can we find more details about the auction?

You can see the hats at and feel free to make a bid.

Boldly Different – Even more spotlights on the Milliners

As the event comes to a close tomorrow , lets close this blog series out with the last of the milliners taking part in this exhibition.

Lisette Margini

Lisette Margini. Lisette studied millinery after a 35 year career in teaching. She loves learning from traditionally trained milliners, mastering and preserving skills that could be lost with the recent trends of mass production and the curse of fast fashion.

Her ’Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘Vault’ is inspired by Ron Robertson-Swann’s sculpture of the same name, also known as ’The Yellow Peril.’

Lisa Hughes

Lisa loves to create for those who cultivate personal style and celebrate self-expression. Using modern & traditional millinery techniques, all of Lisa’s creations are made by hand and made with the individual in mind.

Her ’Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘Cover up’ explores how we all cover things up now and again.

Felicity Northeast

Felicity’s millinery is sustainable and elegant, featuring traditional techniques, contemporary design and upcycled materials. She fuses fashion and function with sophisticated modern headwear. Her headwear is designed and handmade to the highest standard to ensure longevity and quality.

Her ’Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘First Adventure ’is designed to have a few adventures and is made to be repurposed, deconstructed and reconstructed into three summer sunhats after Melbourne Fashion Week.

Boldly Different – More spotlights on the Milliners

The exhibition is soon to be coming to a close but before it does, here are a few more milliners taking part in this exhibition.

Lauren Ritchie

Lauren creates quality hats and headwear influenced by the world around her. Her pieces reflect a high standard of workmanship with strong and flowing design lines.

 Her ’Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘Fairywren ’is inspired by the stunning vibrant blue feathers of the Fairywren of the Maluridae family.

Phillip Rhodes

Phillip was showered with opportunity through old-school workroom training in Melbourne with Mr Individual. Later stumbling into the costume house behemoth, Berman and Nathan and major West End theatrical shows. He returned to Melbourne for brand building with major department stores before returning to the Australian Ballet and Melbourne Theatre Company. 

His’ Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘Letting go …’ explores the concept that letting go is easy yet the hardest thing to do. 

Sandy Forrester

Sandy has over 20 years experience as a milliner with many awards to her credit for her stand out creations. 

Her ’Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘Brolga and Water Lillies of Arnhem Land’ is inspired by a beautiful indigenous artwork from West Arnhem Land and the Bangarra Dance Company Dreamtime story of the Brolga.

Visit the exhibition at Joel Gallery, Altona from Saturday 12 – Thursday 24 February 2022.

Millinery Australia – the mark of quality.

Boldly Different – Spotlight on the Milliners

With the exhibition underway, its time to show a few more milliners taking part in this unique and exciting exhibition, showcasing some of Victoria’s talented milliners.

Georgia Skelton

Georgia’s passion for millinery is an extension of her theatrical background with the Australian Ballet Company and her career as a designer and teacher at several leading fashion institutes in Melbourne. Her work is often infused with a sense of drama and incorporates advanced techniques from different creative disciplines. 

Her ’Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘Empress’ is inspired by late 19th century Korea and pays homage to the artisans who created the traditional ‘gat’ hat that represented social status. 

Louise Macdonald

Based in Melbourne’s iconic Nicholas Building in Swanston St, Louise has been making hats and collaborating with clients and designers for over 25 years. Starting her career in London and working as a costume milliner, Louise is now most known for her exquisite hand sculpted straw hats and headpieces that are delicate, light and full of movement that is particular to her label. 

Her ’Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘Off the Rails’ is a tribute to the weavers in China and the Philippines who hand weave the sinamay straw fabric used by milliners.

Laura Dunnington

Laura finds inspiration for her millinery through materials, print making, photography, music, art, film, nature and vintage fashion journals. She has a particular interest in painting and dyeing materials to achieve various effects which results in no two pieces being exactly alike. 

Her ’Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘Soundscape’ is a visual representation of sound and celebrates the individual. 

Visit the exhibition at Joel Gallery, Altona from Saturday 12 – Thursday 24 February 2022.

Millinery Australia – the mark of quality.

Boldly Different – Spotlight on the Milliners

With the launch of Boldly Different now open, we can showcase the amazing Victorian members who are taking part in this event. Every couple of days will be highlighting a few milliners – so be sure to check into his blog for updates every few days.

Catherine Storm

Catherine is an award winning Melbourne milliner based in Altona, in Melbourne’s west. Her collection includes occasion and race wear as well as funky fedoras, sassy sun hats & vivid visors. 

Her ‘Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘Heart of a Lion, Body of a Sausage’, showcases the boldly different breed of the dog world – the dachshund. 

Catherine curated Millinery Australia’s ‘Boldly Different’ exhibition for Melbourne Fashion Week

Chris Mullane 

Chris handcrafts bespoke and ready to wear millinery from her studio in SE Melbourne. She is known for her love of bold colours and graphic statement pieces. Her headpieces range from traditional and tailored through to loud and quirky, often with a hint of drama and movement. 

Her ‘Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘Sunset on Whitehaven Beach ’tells the story of travelling in our own backyard during the pandemic and witnessing views that took her breath away.

Rachel Henry

Rachel is an award winning Melbourne milliner. She describes her work as feminine with clean lines and fluid shapes. She has an ethos to produce quality over quantity. 

Her ’Boldly Different ’exhibit ‘My Melbourne’ was inspired by the love of the city and includes a collaboration with graffiti artist Daniel Van De Wiel. 

Visit the exhibition at Joel Gallery, Altona from Saturday 12 – Thursday 24 February 2022.

Millinery Australia – the mark of quality.

Boldly Different – Melbourne Fashion Week 2022

Coming soon to Joel Gallery, Altona – Millinery Australia presents “Boldly Different”, a gallery exhibition of millinery as showstopper, wearable art.

Created for Melbourne Fashion Week by some of Melbourne’s leading milliners, the exhibition showcases high quality millinery skills, techniques and design.

Be prepared to be amazed by the creativity on display.

Opening soon at Joel Gallery, 5 Sargood St, Altona.
Launch event Friday 11 February at 7pm.
Exhibition from Saturday 12 – Thursday 24 February 2022.

Millinery Australia – the mark of quality.

Design Award Winners – 2021

The 2021 MAA Design Award celebrates the work of the Fellow Members of the Millinery Association of Australia. The theme of the award this year was The 20’s – Past, Present, Future
Judging criteria for the competition included originality and creativity, relevance to the era, quality of the work, degree of difficulty and wearability in terms of comfort and stability.  The panel included Lorraine Gill TAFE SA teacher, Lauren Ritchie President of The Millinery Association of Australia and Editor of The Hat Magazine and Anna Vlach Fashion Editor of Adelaide Advertiser.  
First prize was presented to Georgia Skelton with her piece Fantasy Flight.  The hat is an updated version of the 1920’s aviator cap constructed using a recycled jumper and sunglasses to create a modern piece. The judges said “This piece is very clever!  It is such an innovative use of materials with a strong sustainability approach.  The design has transformed a traditional 20’s functional hat design into a modern day fashion piece.”

 Second prize was awarded to Belinda Osborne of Peacock Millinery titled ‘Mayflower 1620’ inspired by the ship that took the Pilgrims to the New World (America) in 1620.

Third place was awarded to Rachel Henry for her modern millinery interpretation of the Versace logo.

Millinery Association Patron, Stephen Jones, was invited to select the ‘Patron’s Pick’ which was also awarded to Georgia Skelton with special mentions to Catherine Storm and Laura Dunnington

People’s Choice was awarded by online voting to Hats By Tracy Mac.

Each entrant’s piece was professionally photographed by Lee Knowles Photographer from The Headshot Creative, hair and make-up by Natasha Martin of Adelaidemakeup and modelled by Celeste Ryan. The photoshoot was produced by a team led by Oksana Caretti in South Australia. 

The judges stated “All of the entries showed such an overall high standard of quality and innovation.  They are a credit to the milliners and their skills.”
The top 10 finalists also included pieces from Catherine Storm Millinery, Contempromental, Karen Bailey Millinery, Louise Macdonald Millinery, Lisa Hughes Millinery, Jo Maree Millinery and Bonnetry Millinery.  
The pieces will be displayed at Adelaide Arcade, Adelaide Hatters, Avenells of Bundaberg, Embellish Atelier and Brisbane Hatters with the competition supported by Hat Blocks Australia, The Total Package, SilkyFlora, Millinery.Info, Hatters Millinery Supplies, Millinery Hub, BUnique Millinery, House of Adorn, Hat Academy, The Hat Magazine, Hatlines Magazine, HATalk.
President of The Millinery Association of Australia Lauren Ritchie said “The Design Award is a celebration of the talented Fellow members of the Association and the innovation of our local industry”


The Millinery Association of Australia was proud to partner with the Dutch Hat Association to contribute to their publication Hatlines. The project was lead by Katherine Cherry during her role as Vice President and she continued this following leaving the committee. This would not have been possible without the contribution of the Millinery of Australia members and Editor in Chief of Hatlines Elly Stemerdink.

Articles that featured in the issues 67 to 72 included Hat Chat with leading members of the Millinery Association, celebration of local trade skills including Cabbage Tree Hats from Bec Bayss and update from the events hosted for members.

Millinery 3 Ways: Model, Semi Model and Ready to Wear

Millinery Association of Australia | Millinery Australia | Millinery and Hat Blog | Millinery 3 Ways: Model, Semi Model and Ready to Wear

The millinery trade has a long history overseas and particularly in Australia.  But did you know that within the term millinery there are three types of categories?  In the past, milliners adopted one of these distinct types and everyone knew where they stood and the work reflected this.

We ask ourselves of today’s contemporary millinery – is there a place for all three types still?  Let’s explore this topic with commentary from our current President, Rose Hudson.  Some milliners call themselves couture or bespoke, and others don’t. Many hats these days are mass produced but if you shine the spotlight on Australian milliners, all three types of millinery are still represented in a more modern way and they are just as relevant. From the biggest to smallest of budgets, there is millinery for everyone. And this links back to why these millinery types existed in the first place.

So, what are Model, Semi Model and Ready to Wear?

Model Millinery

Model Millinery was and still is making a hat from scratch.  Taking it from the imagination and making it a 3D reality for the client.  The most glamorous of salons like those of Thomas Harrison or Ronald Bernarde in Melbourne, Australia were at the upper end of model millinery in the hey day of millinery fashion.  They had gilt mirrors, leopard skin rugs, chandeliers and a frightening pomposity.  Many other capital cities around Australia also had similar millinery salons just like these. 

Millinery Association of Australia | Millinery Australia | Millinery Blog | Millinery 3 Ways: Model, Semi Model and Ready to Wear Photo Source: Louise Macdonald from “The Hats of a Lifetime exhibition” by Thomas Harrison of Melbourne 17-28 March 1976. 1/Stitched angora hat (top right) 2/Ivory coarse straw bonnet trim of navy grosgrain ribbon, leather flower and navy eye veil (bottom right, circa 1946-50) 3.Violet quilted crepe hat, trim of grosgrain ribbon, scarlet and green and feather (left, circa 1934-39)

These salons of yesteryear usually had one velvet upholstered chair in front of the mirror.  There were very few hats on display.  The average women was too nervous to enter.  The milliner or manager of the salon would discuss madam’s requirements, take her head measurements (if it wasn’t already recorded in a book somewhere) write some notes and take a small deposit.

The manager would then go upstairs or behind a curtain to a workroom where 3 or 4 milliners worked.  Discussions ensued about the client’s requirements and the head of the workroom (a hierarchy never in dispute) set about making a block first for the client.  The block was made of sparterie and sometimes took a week to make.  The milliner then started making the hat from there.  All trimmings were handmade but the flowers imported from Europe and France.  They were never made like milliners do today.  There would be a first fitting, to make sure that the hat was what the client had in mind.

Two weeks later when it was completed the client was called for a final fitting and took her hat home.  The average cost of a hat was like the equivalent of a week’s wages.  Rose Hudson recalls  “ I know this because my mother had her going away hat made by Ann Austin in the Block Arcade and this was the procedure and what it cost.”

Semi-Model Millinery

So the average woman usually didn’t go to a salon of a model milliner.  They went to “semi-model” milliners.  These milliners could be found in the city and they were in every shopping strip in every suburb too.

Magda Urban in East Brighton, Marie Therese Ward in Brighton, Elizabeth of Kew at Kew Junction, Belle’s Bonnetts in Howie Place and Stella Long in the Block Arcade, where our current President Rose Hudson worked for a time.  Every milliner has heard with delight the phrases “my grandmother was a milliner, my aunt was a milliner”.  Usually these women worked in little hat shops of the semi-model milliners.   Rose recalls “The woman who trained me as a junior, had her first hat shop in Kew in the High Street. She had a fabulously successful business which she put down to a bus stop out the front.  Women waiting would come in and browse.  She made a fortune in the days when women wore hats everyday.” 

In these shops, the hats were blocked by hand but machine finished.  Machine zig zagged wire on the brim edge, machine sewn bind on the edge. Machine sewn trimmings.  A bit of glue, here and there.  Bought flowers, pre-made linings sewn in.  These were everyday hats for the average women.  Semi-model because they were half hand made and half machine made.

Ready to Wear

The final category is ready to wear.  These were hats blocked on a hydraulic hat press.  Metal hat blocks, heated by either gas or electric element could produce many blocked hat shapes per hour.  Machine sewn edge and binding, machine head ribbon inside, with simple trims either stitched or glued on.  These hats were sold at Myer or David Jones and every little frock shop in the suburbs.  Hats for church, hats for weddings, hats for work, hats for every day.  People now sneer at ready to wear from a millinery perspective.  It has developed a bad name in the last couple of decades.  Some call it the “hot glue gun brigade”. 

However, many milliners realise that there should be an affordable option for every client who walks in the door.  Many people who have never worn a hat all year will opt for a ready to wear hat as an economical way to buy and wear a hat.  Model and Semi model millinery it isn’t but to that person it could be a “gateway” hat for a younger race goer. Or a pretty headpiece to wear to a wedding.  In a few years, when working in an established career, that same person might be looking for custom made creation from a milliner.

On Reflection

At the recent season of “Ladies in Black” by the Queensland Theatre Company (book written by Carolyn Burns, music and lyrics by Tim Finn based on Madeleine St John’s novel, The Women in Black, directed by Simon Phillips) some of our Millinery Association members went to see the show as one of our member outings. Many members were delighted by the nostalgia the show evoked of the fashionable era of city shopping and department stores of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  The show was not too sentimental but in fact “an echo of a different time in Australia’s history”.

As milliners, we sometimes focus of the fashionable hat days of a bygone era but this sentiment sometimes makes hat history seem far more glamorous than today.  Maybe it was…but what can be said is that today, more than ever, milliners are still creating amazing hats and custom made head wear for clients, they are still making regular collections that tie in with the seasons and special events calendars and some are even making very affordable, ready to wear options at a lower cost for all clients and budgets.  

Gone are the leopard print chairs and gilt mirrors, and Hello internet!  Today’s modern milliners offer all three types of millinery: Model, Semi-Model and Ready to Wear but in a contemporary way.  And with the age of the internet and social media, it is now an endless fusion of fashion inspiration and design. The internet is filled with amazing pictures of vintage pieces yesteryear right through to today’s cutting edge design and on trend style.

The future is bright, so be sure to check out our milliners directory here to find a milliner just right for you!

Get to know the MAA Committee for 2017


In November 2016, the Millinery Association Members voted at the Annual General Meeting and a new Committee was formed. We wanted to get to know our new Committee better so we asked them three questions.

  • What’s your background in the millinery industry?
  • What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to MAA Committee?
  • What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?

Here are the 2017 Committees responses:

Rose Hudson, President (Victoria)

What’s your background in the millinery industry?
I started as a junior milliner when I was sixteen. I haven’t had another occupation all my working life. I raised two sons while working (I went into labour with my second son while packing the hats for Beauty and the Beast!). I went back to study when I was 45 (and still working) and got my VCE and entered RMIT as a mature age student. I completed a Professional Writing and Editing Diploma which has complemented my millinery work with writing notes and correspondence. I am a theatre milliner. Making head wear for the performing arts is my preference, but I make some race wear in October and the occasional bride. I enjoy teaching and imparting the knowledge I have gained in this industry. Millinery now is a mostly solitary pursuit and I like meeting and being with people.

What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to the MAA committee?
Becoming president was a very proud moment for me. Millinery has been my life. I decided to run for the committee position because I wanted to give something back. I’ve been in millinery for a very long time and it’s been personally very rewarding, I hope to enable others to feel that way too. Whether you’re the little guy working at home or someone with a brand, a big label and a shopfront, I want us all to derive satisfaction and happiness from what we do. I want to encourage high standards. I want us to do more social activities together, get to know one another better because if we are united and happy, we can achieve so much more with a shared vision. I know this committee shares that vision.

What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?
I come from a big noisy happy family. Can you tell? I’m used to making myself heard and fighting for attention. I won an Easter bonnet parade hat competition when I was in grade two (1970) at school for the best hat. My parents were both very creative, my mother and grandmother taught me to sew. My father was a gifted drawer and artist but told at a young age he couldn’t make a living from that. He worked in a bank all his life and hated it. I vowed I wouldn’t be the same. When I’m in my studio making hats, I couldn’t be happier. I love my two cats, Ally and Dora.

Catherine Kelly, Vice President (New South Wales)

What’s your background in the millinery industry?
A lifetime of wearing and loving hats for every occasion encouraged me to follow on and learn and experiment with making hats. I pursued Home Economics teaching as a career – and then specialised more in textiles and design, doing my first millinery class with Waltraud Reiner in London in 1989— and took my passion to realisation when I did the millinery course at Ultimo TAFE – and finally establishing Embellish®Atelier to take my first orders. Located in Rozelle, Sydney, with a beautiful shopfront and studio which satiated and combined my love and passion for interior design, restoration of a Historic Building, showcasing Millinery, and supporting and collaborating with other like minded artisans. 

What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to MAA Committee?
By becoming vice president I am excited to be part of a collaborative and innovative team which I believe will improve the professional profile of the association and help establish and nurture long term relationships between members and with suitable partner Associations. 

What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?
I was Runner up Miss Queensland Country Life Showgirl in 1983 – and wore a hat to every event during that competition.

Felicity Northeast, Treasurer (Victoria)

What’s your background in the millinery industry?
About 10 years ago (after a past history of always having at least one art or textile project on the go) I completed a few short courses in millinery. I soon realised the enormous scope within this form of art and enjoyed the way it enabled me to incorporate many of my textile skills.  I went onto complete Certificate IV at Kangan. For a few years over the Spring Carnival I worked with established milliners (and MAA members) while I continued practicing as a dietitian. It wasn’t long before my millinery business grew and my passion for working in the area took over. 

What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to MAA Committee?
Being part of the association initially provided me with informal mentoring, a place to address work related queries and has allowed me to form connections with like minded people which is especially important when most of us work alone.  I feel I understand millinery from the viewpoint of a new graduate to a professional milliner. I have always appreciated the time and effort the committee volunteer to the MAA and now felt it was time I could contribute. I am basically better with numbers that writing so I put my hand up for treasurer. I wish to see us progress towards a comprehensive computerised accounting system that would aid us with budgeting and forward planning. But most of all I want to work with the committee and MAA members to ensure an active, professional progressive association that represents all members across Australia from fields of millinery.

What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?
Frequently after the Spring Carnival my heels are replaced for hiking boots.  This year it was trekking through Patagonia (the southern tip of South America) in 80-120km winds. The scenery was wild, varied and totally amazing.  One year we flew to Tassie straight after Oaks Day and I was soon in knee deep mud reflecting how life was different a few days ago. No glamour, couture hats, champagne or make up just mud, fresh air and a crumpled sunhat.

Lauren Ritchie, Secretary (Victoria)

What’s your background in the millinery industry?
I attended a short course in Millinery at Riverina Institute of TAFE in Albury during my final year of High School with Elizabeth Hemsley. For my Tertiary studies, I followed this passion by completing Certificate II, III & IV in Millinery at Kangan Batman Institute in parallel with a Bachelor of Applied Science – Fashion Design at RMIT.  During the first year of training I completed work experience with Louise Macdonald and have continued to work with her since.

What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to MAA Committee?
I hope to make a contribution to the Association to assist in its professional running to ensure that there continues to be a strong Millinery Industry into the future. 

What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?
I am originally from Wangaratta and continue to play in a Swing Band called High Society Jazz Orchestra that is based in North East Victoria that performs at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival and this year at the Castlemaine Jazz Festival. 

In alphabetical order by first name:

Debbie Kelly, General Member (Western Australia)

What’s your background in the millinery industry?
I commenced creating millinery in 2006 and being based in Perth my only resource at the time was a book “From The Neck Up” by Denise Dreher and is still my go to resource for millinery techniques.  It was not until 2010 that I took my first class with a Jane Stoddard with creating a leather headpiece that I fell in love with leather and in 2012 I attended the millinery conference at Wagga.  

Since 2006 I have established a loyal clientele, both nationally and internationally with some of my designs being worn in the birdcage at the Melbourne Cup Carnival, the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot and worn by Fashion on the Field winners.   I have enjoyed collaborations with Western Australia designers and Perth TV personalities. To date my most memorable highlight of my millinery career was being one of the designers invited to present at the Telstra Perth Fashion Festival on closing night last year.  During 2011 and 2012 I was awarded several awards at the Perth Royal Show for my leatherwork.  In 2014, I was nominated as a finalist in the Belmont Small Business Awards.

What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to MAA Committee?
I’m very honoured to be elected onto the 2017 MAA Committee and during my appointment it is my endeavour to set up policies and procedures for future MAA Committees and members.  I believe that having these in place such a manual would be beneficial to all MAA members as it will set clear guidelines as to how to approach i.e. pop-up shop, holding events, sub-committees etc.  Being a self-taught milliner I’m very proud to be a member of the MAA and to be elected on the Committee.  During 2017 I am working on establishing more Perth milliners to join the MAA and hopefully hold a joint event under the banner of MAA.

What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?
Being self-taught and the lack of confidence with public speaking one of my biggest fears would be teaching fellow and up and coming milliners.

Georgia Skelton, General Member (Victoria)

What’s your background in the millinery industry?
My Mother taught me to sew at a very young age, inspiring and encouraging me with all things crafty. I studied fashion design at Box HilI Institute, winning the student of the year award and subsequently studied millinery at Kangan Institute receiving an outstanding student award.  Over the years I have taught at most of the leading Tafes in Melbourne and I am currently the Millinery mentor at Melbourne Fashion Institute. I started making hats to compliment my own race wear outfits when I married a racehorse lover.

What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to MAA Committee?
I hope to bring an inclusive of all vibe to the association and encourage and assist with the growth of the association both in numbers and keeping up with the times. I am happy as both a leader and a team player and will go where I am needed.

What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?
My passion for millinery is a natural extension of my fashion and theatrical background I was a dancer with the Australian Ballet Company and I think this infuses much of my work with a sense of drama. My Mum still inspires me today

Leighanne Crocker, General Member (Victoria)

What’s your background in the millinery industry?
Started learning in 2008 and now running my own label Day Flower Millinery.  I love hats and have always worn them, so naturally when I wanted to find a new career outside of the corporate world millinery was it! I love creating hats and my preferred way is to make a collection and sell them online. I like some bespoke work but cannot commit too much because of my other businesses. I feel millinery is the way I express myself creatively.

What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to MAA Committee?
I hope to bring my skills from other parts of my life. I include my strong desire to help people feel empowered to not only create a hat but have the ability to bring it to market too and make a thriving abundant life out of millinery. I am driven to bring millinery into the contemporary market place we live in and thrive! I want to collaborate, not compete and work smarter, not harder.

What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?
I am a qualified remedial massage therapist and essential oils lover! I love helping people find wellness and live their dreams.  I took a break last year from millinery to get perspective which I really needed to do….. It really helped me immensely by investing in personal development and upgrading my business skills which I devote time to every week.   I’ve found I’ve become much happier and enjoying my work a lot more but keep a better balance on everything.

Lorraine Gill, General Member (South Australia)

What’s your background in the millinery industry?
I was teaching leather garment making at TafeSA during the time when everyone wear a lot of leather, (1980’s) and with fashion being as fickle as it is, I had to find something to earn money for me and keep me self employed, so I took on bridal wear, which is 3 month fittings with the bride and her maids. The bride’s mother usually attended the fitting and often decided, invariably, at the last minute that she needed some sort of head wear. The Millinery classroom was next door to my Leather garment classroom and visit into there to chat to Gwenda Baker, who is now a life member of MAA, wetted my appetite for the art of Millinery. The mothers of the bride’s requests to make hats to match made it a necessity to learn and of course became addicted to it.

I studied at TafeSA in the early 90’s. Started teaching in 1996 and am still teaching, having instigated the introduction of the nationally accredited Certificate II and a few years later, Certificate IV in Millinery. I, and three of my past students, have set-up an occasional or “pop-up” shop spanning over 20 years, and have been judging the entries at the Adelaide Royal Show for something like 15 years. I have been a member of the MAA for 12 years. I have won awards in local hat competitions and have been in the final 10 at the Myer Fashions on the Field Millinery Awards on 3 occasions and final 20 on two occasions.

What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to MAA Committee?
To help make the MAA truly national, promote the standard of millinery in Australia and encourage the wearing of hats. To extend my passion to educate and nurture upcoming millinery students to make sure that the art of millinery is alive and well in South Australia to the whole of Australia.

What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?
Adelaide started the Hats off Conventions in 2003 when social media was not available.

Louise Macdonald, General Member (Victoria)

What’s your background in the millinery industry?
I have been working as a milliner since 1990. Following my diploma at Wimbledon School of Art in Costume Interpretation, I was lucky enough to get a full time job as milliner working for Cosprop, a period costume company  in London where I made hats for mostly film and television productions, with a little bit of theatre thrown in! All were period productions, so this gave me a good grounding in historical headwear. After working there for 5 years I returned to Melbourne and set up studio in the Nicholas Building where I’ve been working as a sole trader since 1995.  My focus now is more formal occasion headwear and millinery education.

What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to MAA Committee?
I’ve been a member of the MAA since 1996. Initially I was secretary for a year or two, when we had only a handful of members! Over the last ten years I have tried to facilitate professional development within our membership by being a convenor of the Hats Off to Melbourne Convention in 2008, and since then organising professional development programs and workshops with Ian Bennet, Lauren Martin, Paul Anthony and Bridget Bailey. I joined the committee at the end of 2015 and was re-elected this year. My aim on the Committee last year and this year is to continue with professional development of our members through guest speakers at meetings, encourage participation of interstate members in the Association and work on presenting as a professional organisation so we can extend the reach of our members to other organisations that will enable our aims.

What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?
About a year or two ago I started learning the Ukulele, and I LOVE it! No I’m not ready to give you a performance, but it gives me the joy that I guess people feel when they first start making hats. It feeds the soul! If I practice I get better!! My dog is an avid admirer of my playing!

Sandy Aslett, General Member (Queensland)

What’s your background in the millinery industry?
Approximately 9 years in millinery learning and now still up-skilling to keep up with the latest techniques, trends and designs. Before then I was a Regional Industry Career Adviser for Australian Industry Group bringing Industry & Education together and working on projects in Construction & Manufacturing, so that was nothing to do with millinery trade but promoting qualification as a career option.

What do you hope to achieve by your appointment to MAA Committee?
Re-adjusting attitudes in regard to the public perception of the Association.  Play a part to increase awareness of millinery in Australia and internationally whilst promoting our own Aussie tutors as best in the world.   Using my expertise in business and project management to assist in the benefit for the Association. 

What’s something you’d like to share that we might not know about you?
Was honoured with an Australia Day Award for sport as I played hockey for Queensland for 13yrs and also was chosen as a Shadow Player for Australia.

For more information about our Committee and all our amazing Millinery Association Members checkout our Milliners Directory: