Advanced Millinery Course

Intensive hat-making course at the Royal College of Art, taught by couture milliner Vivienne Lake

The Royal College of Art is a renowned centre for Millinery, training creative design greats including Phillip Treacy. With a strong emphasis on design, visual references and materials, this course offers a fun-packed week learning new skills in hat making and the history of hats.  

The history of millinery is strongly linked to social history: through the ages, hats have signified professional, social and economic status. Millinery today takes on many forms with a range of connotations, from bold catwalk pieces to playful and eccentric Ascot hats, from the outlandish and oversized and crazy, to innovative designers currently practising this art form.  

Millinery is both visual and tactile: it’s all about volume, texture and colour and making a statement. This is an artistic discipline which is intensified by being worn close to the face. Students will begin designing through research and sketching, then shape and material sampling will inform the choices needed to start making the hat.

The millinery techniques taught will include wire work, stiffening, blocking, hand stitching, pattern cutting, and any other techniques required to complete every participant’s unique design. Materials ranging from fabric to plastics, straws, felts, feathers will be made available for both sampling and the final piece.

Learning will be consolidated through handouts on the subject of millinery, its techniques, the speciality materials used and their selection, gaining the skills needed to make and reproduce your hat styles again and again.

On successfully completing this course, participants will have made a handcrafted hat suitable for any red-carpet event, race meeting, cocktail party or wedding. The time you invest in this will benefit your creative practice in the future, whether as a portfolio piece or simply the satisfaction of owning and wearing a hat you’ve made yourself.

Dates:  2–6 July 2018 

Duration:  5 days

Location: Royal College of Art, Kensington

Fee: £1,000 

What will I learn?

Participants will learn:

  • knowledge of millinery traditions (past and present)
  • a detailed, practical understanding of the process of hat design
  • material manipulation skills
  • millinery techniques, including stitching, building forms and structures, styling and draping, stiffening and wirework, blocking
  • designing skills
  • design research methods.

Personal and organisational benefits

  • Experience an intensive introduction to millinery
  • Learn skills and knowledge from a couture milliner
  • Progress your professional practice
  • Take away a hat of your design and the knowledge to create further designs
  • Learn about the UK millinery industry

How will I learn?

This course will be taught in the Royal College of Art Millinery studios, and will include detailed information about millinery, one-to-one and group teaching of the process of design, and the techniques needed to complete a hat, delivered through:

  • taught sessions supported by handouts
  • videos of blocking methods and techniques
  • research and design methods as group work
  • hat making demonstrations and practicals
  • individual sessions alongside group work.

Who should attend?

This summer course will suit participants of all ages interested in fashion, making and styling who wish to learn new skills in millinery (hat making). In particular, the course will benefit participants from a fashion background who wish to add to their accessories knowledge, students who would like to take this short course before pursuing millinery or those interested in the combination of textiles and building shape and form that millinery offers.

Potential students thinking about applying to the Royal College of Art Fashion Programme Footwear Accessories & Millinery specialism will find this a useful taster of the RCA teaching and studio experience.

Programme team

This course will be delivered by staff from the RCA's School of Design.

Vivienne Lake is an experienced couture milliner. She trained in France in traditional millinery and later millinery in the UK. She is currently millinery visiting lecturer on the Royal College of Art’s MA Fashion Programme in the Footwear, Accessories & Millinery specialism.

Vivienne’s training in France in traditional techniques led her to London to train further with Kensington and Chelsea College. Specialising in fashion, she works for renowned milliners including Stephen Jones, producing hats for Marc Jacobs Dior and Thom Browne, as well as House of Flora, Sarah Cant and Gregoria Recio. Recent freelance projects include a piece for Vogue Italia and masks for a music video.

Vivienne has acquired skills and techniques from costume millinery as well as at the leading couture design houses.

Admission criteria

  • A background in art/design is helpful but not essential. Hand-sewing skills are advisable.
  • Participants must have a good level of English language.  
  • Please research ideas and compile a small sketch/scrapbook before day one in order to make the most out of the course and provide direction. 

Application deadlines

Register your interest to download the full course description.

Book your place here.

Our short courses are very popular and places fill quickly. We particularly advise early application if you will need a tourist visa to enter the UK. 


School of Design Executive Education
T: +44 (0)20 7590 4538


Register your interest to download the full course description.

Book your place here.

Our short courses are very popular and places fill quickly. We particularly advise early application if you will need a tourist visa to enter the UK.