About the Author

Denise Dreher is a well qualified, experienced milliner who has studied and worked in costume construction, design and history in both educational and professional theater. She began her millinery studies at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis where she was assistant to the milliner. After the Guthrie internship, Ms. Dreher received a grant from the State Arts Board to study theatrical and historical hatmaking.

She spent three years researching in theaters, museums and libraries in the United States, Canada and England. During that time she combed through the book and photo collections at the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, the British Museum library and the archives of the Metropolitan Opera. She studied period clothing and hat design in the costume collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum.

While living in London, Denise worked for six months as a staff milliner at Berman’s & Nathan’s, (now Angels, The Costumiers) one of the largest costume houses in Europe. She has traveled extensively, teaching hat workshops in both the United States and Canada including U.C.L.A., the University of Michigan, and at the national conventions of the National Costumers Association, the American Theater Association and the United States Institute for Theater Technology.

Some of Ms. Dreher’s hatmaking credits include Amahl and the Night Visitors and Les Miserables for American television, Prince Regent – a BBC series, and the films The Great Train Robbery and The Empire Strikes Back.

A Note from Denise

“My purpose in compiling this book was to preserve the knowledge of how to make professional quality handmade hats, to take the mystery out of millinery, and to make this information easily accessible to everyone. Now, in the twenty-first century, we have all sorts of materials available to us that were never dreamed of by the milliners of old. I want to encourage you to experiment and try them all.

So many of the traditional millinery supplies are becoming obsolete and unobtainable that it will be necessary to explore alternate resources and alter our methods to suit the new materials. I have seen stunning headdresses made from chair caning and leather, styrofoam, plastics, and other assorted objects. Perhaps you will be the one who comes up with the next wild and wonderful idea.

Begin by paying attention to the new products that modern technology offers for uses other than hatmaking and see if they can be adapted. Without such experimentation, little progress will be made in the field of millinery. If the art is to survive, we must try new things; along the way we’ll find faster, easier, or better methods than those currently being used.

Whenever you are trying out new methods or materials, keep in mind that it is the final appearance and effectiveness of the finished hat, not the technique or materials by which it was created, that will determine the success of the hat.

After you have made several hats you will naturally become hat-conscious. Hats, and possibilities for hats, will begin popping out of magazines, movies, paintings and store windows. When this happens, stop and analyze the hats. What materials were used, what is the shape of the foundation, how is the hat held in place, how could you have improved upon the design or construction?

Continue to develop your powers of observation as you search out the new and different. Observation, you will find, will become not only your best teacher, but also your best source of inspiration. So go ahead, jump in and try out those crazy new-fangled ideas. From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking is a book of timeless, traditional techniques. It’s a great place to start learning the techniques. And once you’ve got the basics figured out you can begin to experiment. That’s what makes millinery so exciting. It’s creative, it’s expressive and, most of all, it’s fun!”