Ever wonder what the official title is for people that make the beautiful stuff you own? I have, so I asked around a few years ago and found the terms. It also makes it much easier for me to locate the couture makers.


Maker/designer of hats. Coco Chanel started out as a milliner, though in France, they were still a bit divisive with the genders and called them Modistes, but now all hatmakers that make hats for women are called Milliners (men’s hatmakers are called…hatmakers but I’ve also heard the term Chapelier).The term milliner originated from the importers of fine goods from Milan (where all of the good stuff came from!).

As I’ve written, hats are making a comeback in North America (largely due to the recent Royal Wedding), but they’ve been around at formal events in the UK for many years (lucky English!).

Cordwainer (Cordovar)

A cordwainer is a leather shoe designer. I used to believe that shoe makers/designers were called Cobblers, but cobblers historically have been the ones who repair shoes. The word ‘cordwain’ derives from a Córdoba, Spain, where the fine leather used to come from. So next time you are searcher for a maker of fine leather or luxury boots or shoes, you are searching for a Cordwainer.

Corsetier/Corsetiére or Stay-Maker

Even though the term Stay-Maker is now obsolete, I kind of love it. I imagine it was because this person makes everything ‘stay in place’. Usually stay-makers were men and would fit a corset or bodice narrowly to a woman’s body to create the desired shape. Does this mean that Spanx are the modern stay-makers?

Corsets themselves are making a comeback in many foundation garments, thanks to high end lingerie lines (is it a Lingeriere? ;)) like Agent Provocateur. Corsets are popular for weddings and even worn as formal evening tops, but I somewhat doubt they’ll ever make a comeback as a daily ritual…thank goodness.


A mercer is a maker of fine cloths: silk, linen and fustian textiles (velveteen, cordouroy and fine cottons). Anyone who sews for fun or for a living relies heavily on a modern form of a Mercer type of a person to supply the luxurious fabrics for our gorgeous clothing. Though most textile making and printing is done by computer and machinery, there is still a difference in quality.


Haberdashers create and carry all of the bits and bobs (literally) that hold the fabric together: the needles, thread, buttons, zippers and bobbins (okay, a bobbin doesn’t hold fabric together, but it’s a necessary bit in the sewing process). I quite like the word. It reminds me of the Mad Hatter’s language in Alice in Wonderland, even though the function is very practical. Haberdashery, I say!



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