Known as milliner to the stars, Mildred Blount is today’s 28 Days of Black Fashion History muse.
Mildred’s interest in millinery stems back to her childhood when she became interested while working as an errand girl at Madame Clair’s Dress and Hat Shop in New York City. She and her sister would later open their own dress and hat shop catering to wealthy New Yorkers.
I found a wonderful YouTube video chronicling more about Mildred Blount’s life (and it’s backed up with reputable periodicals, which is awesome!), but here are a few bullet points about this talented woman:
- Blount had a love for researching various fashion “hat” history which would help inspire many of her modern day creations.
- She designed 87 miniature hats, representing styles from 1680 to 1937 for the 1939 New York World’s Fair
- She answered an ad for a learner with the famous John Frederic, Inc. millinery (unheard of for a Black woman at that time) and was hired! It was during her time working for John Frederic that she helped design the hats for “Gone With the Wind”. She would become the first Black milliner to design hats for movies.
- She paved the way for diversity and inclusion being the first African American to be admitted to membership in the Motion Pictures Costumers Union. She would also refuse to enter through the back door of any venue or movie set she was working.
- In the 1940’s, she opened her own hat boutique which catered to a Who’s Who of Hollywood and Black wealthy women including Marian Anderson, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell.
- Mildred designed the bridal veil for Gloria Vanderbilt’s first marriage to Pasquale DiCicco
- One of her hat designs was featured on the cover of the August 1942 edition of Ladies Home Journal
As my friend, Lisa McFadden, milliner for Lisa McFadden Millinery, likes to say, “For everyone, there is a hat!” As with any accessory, a hat can complete or could break an entire look. Mildred Blount helped to complete many women’s looks, both on and off screen, with her creativity and technical prowess. She is definitely an American historic (and somewhat hidden) figure whose contributions to fashion are vast and should be celebrated.