Mary Ann Koch
Mary Ann KochMilliner
How did you become interested in millinery? Where else have you worked?

Everything about my life has been directly or indirectly associated with fashion, fabric and creation. For this I can thank my mother who signed me up for sewing classes at the age of 11. As I was growing up, fun for me meant designing patterns, making clothes, dying with natural dyes, batiking, weaving, embroidery, leatherwork and anything else I could get my hands on. I love to learn and experiment. I was the owner of my business for 13 years, where I designed and handmade draperies in the traditional fashion. I created elaborate designs using the finest of fabrics and trims, and had a style seen in many classical European houses. Due to rather serious physical injuries I was forced to make a life change. I spent about a year trying random jobs and quickly found that my life lacked the creative outlet I so desperately need. Having been a hat enthusiast for most of my life, the decision to learn the art of millinery seemed a natural and healthy progression.

Where and how did you learn millinery?

Most of the long time greats were gone or retired by the time I started. Left to my own resources, and living in a rural area, I scoured the internet for any information I could find.

It was my fortune to find “From the Neck Up” and “Classic Millinery Techniques”. From there I was quickly on my way. I started at chapter one and methodically trained myself. My biggest breakthrough was the day I realized that hat making was very similar to upholstering furniture – the methods and techniques of stretching fabric over a frame are uncannily alike. The first hat I ever made was a wire frame design, covered in buckram, interlined and covered with silk dupioni fabrics.


How long have you been a milliner for?

It has been a little over three years since I first began my training. I was creating for only six months before a local shop took interest in my designs and work. I now enjoy working on my designs on a daily basis.

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

I enjoy tailored styling and sophisticated elegance. I don’t follow trendy fashions. Often times I am inspired by the fabrics and various materials I find. Inspiration can also be ideas that simply spring to mind while staring at my choices in materials, and there are technical aspects of making a design function that can lead me to a new direction. I also love styles and the hand worked details that are often found in vintage work. Some of my favorites designers are Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Chanel.

What has been your most enjoyable commission?

Currently I am working on a Cavalier style chapeau for a pirate style wedding that will be aired on Style Network’s “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?”. It’s fun to work with people who want a hat for a specific event. I recently made some hats for a private customer who was going to the Derby races. Hats were created to compliment her wardrobe.

On a local level I am currently working on a project to promote hats and hat making. My goal is to develop more public awareness about the methods and techniques used by milliners and to create a better understanding about handmade hats.

Who do you make hats for?

I make hats for men and women, brides and mothers, horse race goers and everyday folks of every walk of life.

What materials and techniques do you favor?

I enjoy the technical aspects of a perfectly blocked hat and the creativity that fabrics allow. Currently many of the hats I make are blocked in felts and straws. I also enjoy pattern work and wire frame making.

Become a podcast sponsor through Patreon