The millinery workroom or atelier is the creative laboratory where hat designs are transformed from ideas into reality. The methods, materials and tools have changed little in the past hundred years. Milliners still work seated around a large table with their scissors, needles and thread. Straws, felts and fabrics remain the key materials used to pin and shape prototype hats on a calico-covered head known as a ‘poupée’.
From these prototypes a hat mould (‘block’) can be taken. Usually of wood, the block is an essential tool of the workroom. Milliners often amass a library of differently shaped blocks that can be used time and again.
In the words of Stephen Jones, a milliner’s workroom is ‘half Aladdin’s cave and half artist’s studio’, a place where each hat is carefully coaxed into being.On this page you can see a film specially commissioned for this exhibition, showing the creation of one of Jones’ most famous hats.