How to Become a Hat Designer or Milliner

hat designer

Hat designers or milliners create new designs for hats and other headwear, such as bonnets, caps and crowns. These professionals usually focus on creating designs that meet the needs of customers. If you possess superior creative abilities and have a good sense of fashion, you could become a hat designer or milliner.

The Work

Hat designers can work in any of the following subsectors of the fashion industry:

  • Designer – hats with designer labels
  • High fashion – hat designs made for a single customer or special occasions
  • High-street fashion – hat designs for the general market

Irrespective of the subsector in which these designers may work, their duties could include:

  • Creating drawings and sketches of different hat designs
  • Specifying the type of materials, colour and fabric to be used depending on market trends
  • Estimating the cost of materials
  • Cutting patterns out of fabric and sewing them together by hand or machine
  • Examining finished products to make necessary adjustments before they are released for sale
  • Liaising with customers to identify their needs
  • Attending fashion shows to keep up to date on the latest fabrics and designs in the market.

Work Environment

Full-time hat designers or milliners usually work between 37 and 40 hours. When demand is high, however, they may work up to 45 hours to meet deadlines.

Part-time or self-employed designers have irregular work schedules. The number of hours they work in a week depends on the number of clients or projects they have at a particular time.

Because hat designers or milliners working in factories may be exposed to chemicals and hydraulic machines, they usually wear protective clothing to prevent injuries.


The following table gives the salary information for hat designers or milliners at various career levels:


Annual Pay

Starting designers


Experienced designers

£20,000 or more

Well-established designers

£30,000 or more

Source: National Careers Service

Self-employed designers or milliners usually charge £300 per hat.

Entering the Profession

To become a hat designer or milliner, you need to earn a diploma, foundation degree or bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:

  • Design
  • Fashion
  • Millinery

Some of the colleges in UK offering these courses include:

Before deciding on a course, be sure to carefully evaluate its content. Courses that teach design and practical knowledge are preferable because they equip learners with the practical knowledge required to excel in the fashion industry.

After completing your course, focus on attending several training workshops to develop your skills and gain some practical experience.

Essential Skills and Abilities

A successful hat designer or milliner should have:

  • Great creative skills to develop trendy hat designs
  • A good eye for color and fabric
  • Good time management skills to hit tight deadlines
  • A passion for fashion and interest in designs and textiles
  • Good technical and practical skills to use with production equipment, such as sewing machines
  • A strong commercial awareness and good business skills

Career Development

After finding work, you will most likely start as an assistant hat designer and work your way up to designer with increase in experience. To improve your career progression prospects, you need to:

  • Stay abreast of hat designing trends by attending fashion shows and reading industry publications
  • Join professional bodies, such as the Chartered Society of Designers, the Crafts Council and the Arts Council to access their training schemes and network with other designers
  • Pursue a master’s degree in millinery.

Job Opportunities

Qualified hat designer or milliners can work for:

  • Fashion retail shops
  • Fashion companies
  • Textile factories
  • Hat manufacturers

Hat designers or milliners with vast experience and a master’s degree in design or millinery can become teachers of design in colleges.

Also, with enough capital and experience, you can startt a hat deigning shop.

Useful Links

Success Tip

The key to success in the hat designing or millinery profession lies in your ability to take risks. You should not shy away from producing new designs simply because you don’t know how the market will respond. One of those hat designs may just be what you need to make it big in the fashion industry.

So if you think that you have that sense of fashion and have a real passion for hats this might well be the career for you.