Looking at the Cost of Millinery

IMG_8632.JPGI just photographed the first millinery pieces of the year. As there currently is discussion in at least one Facebook group about the cost of attire and what historic artisans make, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the cost of millinery.

This has been a topic I have addressed a few times in the past. I wrote “Why are Bonnets so Much” in 2014, sharing again in 2015. Prior to that, I created a chart “The Cost of Authenticity” in 2010.


This time, I will focus on straw millinery, as that is what I will be focusing on this year.

One significant factor in the cost of straw millinery is the availability of straw. Suitable straw plait is becoming more and more difficult to find. Modern trends have shifted to cellulose and plastic materials. Vintage straws have the risk of being dried out. The growing doll fascination is finding narrow plaits to be sold by the yard, which just is not plausible for millinery pieces that take several dozen yards. With one of my trustworthy suppliers, a hank I used to buy for $16 is now $22 plus shipping, which has also increased quite a bit over the years.

Straw Bonnet and Hat formsIMG_6788 - Copy.JPG

  • Straw plait ($20-$55 a skein depending on origin, plait and color)
  • Millinery wire ($20/coil)
  • Thread
  • Needles
  • Sizing/blocking ingredients


Straw Bonnet Finishing

  • Lining ($10-$15/yard)
  • Facing ($10-$20/yard)
  • Organza, net or lace for frill ($10-$30/yard)
  • Bavolet net ($32/yard)
  • Silk or Ribbon for Bavolet ($5/length to $60/length)
  • Ribbon for functional ties ($2.80)
  • Fashionable Ribbon ($4-$60/yard)
  • Flowers ($10-$75)
  • thread, needles, etc

Straw Hats Finishing

  • Lining ($10-$15/yard)
  • Ribbons  ($2-$30/yard) (narrower)
  • Flowersf ($10-$40)
  • thread, sizing, etc

I hand sew all my millinery. Some straw is easy to work with. Other straw is very tough on the hands, both the skin and the muscles & joints. Some milliners have permanent wear, even damage to their hands. We need really good moisturizers and muscle rubs to keep the hands going.

Depending on the millinery piece and the straw, it can take from 6 hours to 18 hours to hand sew a form. This includes row after row of plait (the narrower the plait, the more rows), edging, wiring, binding and blocking.

Published in: on February 17, 2016 at 11:22 am  Comments (2)  

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Preach!! 🙂 I don’t own one of yours, but I have made a few, even experimenting with sewing and blocking my own. As a Modiste, I know time and effort is worth it. Anyone talks you down on price, I always say no. 🙂 Keep fighting the good fight.

  2. I really firmly believe in a day rate vs. an hourly rate. And I think you need to be paid what you are worth, which is a lot more than $100/day. Skilled craftsmen need to make $500-1,000/day, and if you aren’t a skilled craftsman, IDK who is. We are too accustomed to Chinese slave labor. Quality costs, and that is that. I ran myself out of business on $100/day. It’s not sustainable as it leaves no margin for error, illness, injury or other expenses.
    Those prices may not be realistic in the current market, but I think the market needs to get in line with reality, not the other way around.

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