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. Many milliners worked as both milliner and fashion designer, such as Rose Bertin, Jeanne Lanvin, and Coco Chanel.
The millinery industry benefited from industrialization during the nineteenth century. 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. Though the improvements in technology provided benefits to milliners and the whole industry, essential skills, craftsmanship, and creativity are still required. Since the mass-manufacturing of hats began, the term milliner is usually used to describe a person who applies traditional hand-craftsmanship to design, make, sell or trim hats primarily for a mostly female clientele.
The term milliner, originally from “Milener”, originally meant someone from Milan, in northern Italy, in the early 16th century. It referred to Milanese merchants who sold fancy bonnets, gloves, jewellery and cutlery. In the 16th to 18th centuries, the meaning of milliner gradually changed from a foreign merchant to a dealer in small articles relating to dress. Although the term originally applied to men, milliner came to mean a woman who makes and sells bonnets and other headgear for women since 1713.