We milliners have our very own Patron Saint – she is Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
In the Middle Ages, Saint Catherine was considered the protector of girls. They formed devotional groups to Saint Catherine and crafted an exquisite headdress to “cap” her statue each year on November 25. Young women left the group when they married and the term, “capping Saint Catherine” became synonymous to “being still single at the age of twenty-five”.
As the status of women and the views of marriage changed, the term fell into disuse in France, EXCEPT in the millinery and textile industries. Unmarried women over twenty-five in these professions would attend a ball on St Catherine’s Day in a hat created particularly for the occasion; and hoping to meet that elusive man. Wearing this kind of hat was referred to as “capping St. Catherine” (coiffer sainte Catherine), and these unmarried women became known as Catherinettes.
Although the term has become rather old-fashioned in France, it is still sometimes used to refer to 25-year-old single women.
A modern revival has taken place and milliners now celebrate all over the world by taking to the streets during the month of November, in hats of their own making. Yet another excuse to don our hats and hit the town.
Read about the New York Milliner’s Guild Celebrations on St. Catherine’s Day 2012.