Millinery Careers: Drop Out, Move On, Stay In

Milliners1999I rarely visit Ebay; maybe once every 2 months or so. Usually I look for a specific item and then I check for “millinery” and “hat block”. Ebay is a good source for second hand hat blocks, with some real treats among the banal.

A few weeks ago, on a whim I entered “milliner” in the search field, unlike my usual “millinery”.

Up came, fairly close to the top, a photograph titled New England Milliners 1999. The title caused me to pause – I had been a milliner in 1999 and I lived in New England back then. And sure enough, there I was, smack in the middle of the black & white photo, wearing a (as I know) red hat.

I did not recall the picture being taken, but I do recall the event.

Rosie’s Place in Boston is a unique charity for women. Founded in 1974 in Boston by the late Kip Tiernan, a formidable social activist and philanthropist, it started out as a shelter for poor and homeless women. It has evolved into a place which helps create permanent solutions for the women it serves. www.rosiesplace.org

A part of the organization since 1996 is the Women’s Craft Cooperative at Rosie’s Place. Here women learn to make decorative accessories out of old (vintage) buttons which then are sold and provide the women with an income, amongst other benefits.

Now to the milliners in the photo: on the left standing is Christina Bevilacqua, who sold her hats under the “Anna Millinery” label. Unfortunately, she discontinued her millinery business before digital photography was widespread, and thus, very few pictures of her hats are “out” there.

She is now the Director of Programs and Public Engagement at the Providence Athenaeum, an independent, member-supported library open to the public whose roots go back to 1753 .

Next to Christina is Laurie Ramona. She is now a beekeeper in Massachusetts and the co-author of “The Complete Idiots Guide To Beekeeping”. Hmm. Then again, she was also in a band etc., so hats were probably never her main thing.

I am next in the middle and I continue to make hats. You can find some of my hats on my website,  www.absolutelyhats.com

Hilary Day began as a milliner in Portland in the early 1990s. She then went to the Rhode Island School of Design.  She is now a designer of very cool looking women’s outer wear in Portland, Oregon. No hats on her website, www.hillaryday.com.

On the very right is Barbara Summer who ran the Women’s Craft Cooperative at Rosie’s Place at the time. (And still does, as far as I can tell). She is a hat connoisseur extraordinaire.

Sitting in front on the left is Lisa Ventre. She started out with flat pattern hats, then took sort of a sabbatical and now makes beautiful sewn braid hats in Provincetown, MA. Her website is www.lisaventrehats.com.

Bottom right is Marie Galvin, Irish milliner in Boston and she also very much still makes hats. You can find her extravagant creations at www.galvinizedhats.com.

So, out of six milliners, two completely left the field, one stayed in fashion but away from hats and three are still or again active.
I think this is fair representation of the turnover in millinery at large.

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