The term “millinery” is derived from “Millaners,” merchants from the Italian city of Milan, who traveled to northern Europe trading in silks, ribbons, braids, ornaments, and general finery. First chronicled in the early sixteenth century, these traveling haberdashers were received by noble aristocratic households, passing on news of the latest fashions as well as selling their wear. News of the latest styles and variations on dress was as important to men as it was to women, and milliners often acted as much sought-after fashion advisers to nobility all over Europe. One such milliner is mentioned by William Shakespeare in Henry IV part 1, when the gallant warrior Hotspur refers to his encounter with a “trimly dress’d lord” as: Fresh as a bridegroom; and his chin reap’d show’d like a stubble – land at harvest-home; He was perfumed like a milliner; And ‘twixt his finger and his thumb he held a pouncet box. (Hopkins, Susie. “Milliners.” Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, edited by Valerie Steele, vol. 2 Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005, pp. 411 -415.)
Missouri Artist on Main exhibits the work of two local milliners; Diane Tessman and Kathy Shallow. Each works in a completely different method creating unique, beautiful and fun creations.
Kathy Shallow creates needle felted hats, scarves and accessories from Alpaca wool raised on her two sister’s farms. Kathy says; “Alpaca is such a wonderful fiber to work with, very soft, warm and lightweight.”
Her hats, scarves, purses and bags are wonderfully dyed in a range of rich colors,
and the felted Alpaca wool feels wonderful.
Diane Tessman carries on a multi generational family tradition that she learned from her grandparents and mother; and that she and her sister continue. Diane said,”Believing heavily in repurposing, we recycle cashmere and lambswool sweaters, blue jeans and pretty much anything that can be redone. Everything is handmade, no forms or ready-made additions. The hats are braided, just as a rug would be braided, and sewn on a commercial machine using a technique of tension in holding the braid. The hat is completely formed when it leaves the machine. Each hat is uniquely different.” (Deer, Karen. “Made in St. Louis: Two sisters keep a family tradition growing by making hats.” St. Louis Post Dispatch, Dec. 27, 2013.)
Please visit the gallery to see the work of our milliners.
BTW… once inspired by Diane and Kathy’s work visit an Edgar Degas exhibit featuring hats and paintings, “Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade” is on view at the St. Louis Art Museum through May 7. It is a fantastic exhibit and a chance to view not only major works of impressionism but also a wonderful collections of 40 period hats.