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Haberdasher vs. Milliner: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 7, 2023
A haberdasher sells small sewing articles; a milliner designs, makes, or sells women's hats.

Key Differences

Haberdasher and Milliner are both associated with the world of fashion, but they have distinct roles and focuses. A haberdasher traditionally sells small sewing items like buttons, ribbons, and zippers. Their role is to provide the essential components that help in making or mending clothing. They are akin to suppliers or retailers for those who engage in tailoring or sewing projects.
On the flip side, a milliner specializes in designing, crafting, and selling women's hats. The term is explicitly associated with hats and headgear for females. Historically, a milliner's shop was a place where women could find or commission headwear for specific occasions, be it everyday wear or more formal events.
Haberdasher, as a term, finds its roots in Middle English and is less commonly used in American English today. Nevertheless, it's still prevalent in British English where it might also refer to a person dealing in men's clothing. The store of a haberdasher is stocked with a diverse range of small items essential for sewing.
Milliner, originating from the city of Milan, Italy, where the profession started, has a more artistic connotation. A milliner doesn't just sell hats but often plays a role in their creation, understanding the intricacies of design, style, and fit. In modern times, a milliner might create bespoke headpieces for fashion shows, weddings, or other special events.

Comparison Chart

Primary Goods

Small sewing articles
Women's hats


Supplier or retailer
Designer or seller

Gender Association

Neutral or men (in British context)
Primarily women

Historical Origin

Middle English
Milan, Italy

Modern Usage

Less common in American English
Still prevalent

Haberdasher and Milliner Definitions


A dealer in small sewing articles.
She went to the haberdasher to buy some buttons.


A designer of female headwear.
The milliner showcased her new collection at the fashion show.


A person selling men's clothing (British context).
The gentleman purchased his suit from the local haberdasher.


A maker or seller of women's hats.
She ordered a custom hat from the renowned milliner.


A retailer of notions.
The haberdasher had a vast collection of ribbons.


A specialist in crafting decorative hats.
The bride consulted a milliner for her wedding headpiece.


An owner of a shop with sewing essentials.
I need to visit the haberdasher for tailoring supplies.


A merchant dealing exclusively in women's hats.
That milliner has the latest trends in stock.


One specializing in sewing accessories.
The haberdasher provided all the materials for her sewing project.


An expert in women's fashionable headgear.
She dreamed of apprenticing under a famous milliner.


A dealer in men's furnishings.


One that makes, trims, designs, or sells hats.


Chiefly British A dealer in sewing notions and small wares.


A person who is involved in the manufacture, design, or sale of hats for women.


A dealer in ribbons, buttons, thread, needles and similar sewing goods.


Formerly, a man who imported and dealt in small articles of a miscellaneous kind, especially such as please the fancy of women.
No milliner can so fit his customers with gloves.


(US) A men's outfitter.


A person who designs, makes, trims, or deals in hats, bonnets, headdresses, etc., for women.


(British) A member of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, a livery company.


A merchant who designs and sells hats


A dealer in small wares, as tapes, pins, needles, and thread.


Someone who makes and sells hats


A dealer in items of men's clothing, such as hats, gloves, neckties, etc.
The haberdasher heapeth wealth by hats.


A dealer in drapery goods of various descriptions, as laces, silks, trimmings, etc.


A merchant who sells men's clothing


Are haberdashers common in America?

The term is less common in American English but is still understood.

Where did the term "milliner" originate?

It originated from Milan, Italy, where the profession began.

What does a haberdasher sell?

A haberdasher sells small sewing articles and, in some contexts, men's clothing.

Are all milliners designers?

Many milliners design hats, but some only sell them.

What's the most famous event where milliners showcase their work?

Events like the Kentucky Derby often feature hats by renowned milliners.

Do milliners only work with traditional designs?

No, many milliners create contemporary and avant-garde designs.

Who is a milliner?

A milliner designs, makes, or sells women's hats.

Is "haberdasher" gender-specific?

No, but in British English, it can sometimes refer to men's clothing dealers.

Are there modern-day haberdasheries?

Yes, especially in places where the term is still commonly used.

Are all hats sold by milliners expensive?

Not necessarily, but bespoke or designer pieces might be.

Can a haberdasher also be a tailor?

While they deal in sewing supplies, they are not necessarily tailors.

How long does it take for a milliner to craft a hat?

It varies based on design complexity and the materials used.

How do haberdashers source their items?

They usually procure them from manufacturers or wholesalers.

What materials do milliners commonly use?

They use a variety of materials, including felt, straw, and silk.

Can men wear hats made by milliners?

Yes, although milliners traditionally focus on women's hats.

Can I become a haberdasher with no sewing knowledge?

While it helps to know about the items you're selling, it's not mandatory.

Can I find a haberdasher online?

Yes, several online stores offer haberdashery items.

Do haberdashers only sell sewing items?

Primarily, but some might offer related goods.

Are there famous milliners?

Yes, designers like Philip Treacy have gained international acclaim.

Is haberdashery a profitable business?

Like any business, it depends on location, demand, and management.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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