When millinery meets art: inside the world of Christine Rohr

Explore the craftsmanship of Austria's most exciting milliner at the German Hat Museum Lindenberg

The milliner, Christine Rohr, with her own creations (2016)German Hat Museum

Hats - more than a fashionable accessory

The special exhibition ”Hats, Art & Fashion – by Christine Rohr“ at the German Hat Museum Lindenberg demonstrates that there is no clear distinction between fashionable headwear with individual design and the hat as an art object. These lines are blurred. Not all hats are equal and some owners will only be characterized by the hat they wear. It doesn’t matter if her hat is worn with everyday clothes or for special occasions – the hat is more than a fashionable accessory; it completes the outfit, is part of personal expression and indicates the prevailing taste. However, how will hat fashion define itself in the future, considering current materials and work techniques, and design possibilities?

Green satellite hat from Sinamay with peacock feathers (2016)German Hat Museum


Christine Rohr was born in Trofaiach in 1969. Already as a child, she was very interested in head coverings; at the age of 18, she went to the Fashion School Vienna at the Schloss Hetzendorf and decided to take Modiste classes and subsequently decided to obtain a degree in this field.

In 1992, she graduated from the school and passes the examination for the Milliner’s master craftsman’s diploma; she was the last and only one remaining in her field. The following years, she worked as a freelancer, which lead her to work in various jobs. For more than 12 years, (starting in 1996), she carried out freelance work for various Austrian event and theater productions.

In 2004, she fulfilled the long-cherished desire to open her own studio. By this time, her small Graz store and studio is known far beyond the borders of Styria. Exclusive custom-made orders for customers - from home and abroad - are part of her repertoire, including innovative small collections.

Christine Rohr at her atelier in Graz (2016)German Hat Museum


In 2015, Christine Rohr was invited to exhibit her hat creations, as one of eight international milliners, within the framework of the Dubai World Cup, which is considered the world’s highest endowed horse-racing event.

Sound craftsmanship and artistic elements are critical to Rohr’s work. Rohr’s long-lived technical expertise and a graduate degree, Magistra artium, in art education and textile art from the University or Arts in Linz in 2005, finally lead her to establish the Christine Rohr Academy – School for Model Millinery and textile design in Graz, to promote young talent in the field. In addition, she holds workshops in fashion schools, vocational schools and teacher colleges. She has also taught internationally at the international Millinery Forum in Wagga Wagga/Australia.

For her tireless professional commitment and her desire to establish her hometown of Graz once again as the “hat capital”, Rohr was awarded with the Styrian coat of arms in 2013.

With the exhibition Old Hat and New Fashion in the Universalmuseum Graz in 2011, Rohr exhibited for the first time in a museum to demonstrate that a hat can be more than just a fashion accessory. Hats, Art, and Fashion by Christine Rohr is now a continuation of her scientific examination of the theme of “BeHueten” and “BeHaupten”.

Art Nouveau wreath with velvet lilies in gold, and biretta with golden tassel (2016)German Hat Museum

The exhibition

The special exhibition addresses two topics related to the hat: on one hand, the tradition and the craft of making head coverings from the view of a milliner; and on the other hand, the visitor should learn that a hat is an essential accessory to complete an outfit for everyday life or special occasions. People who wear hats make constantly personal statements depending on the choice of their head coverings. The boundaries are blurry and cannot always be clearly distinguished between the design that is fashionable and  adapted to the spirit of the time, and the hat as an art object that reflects society. In addition to showcasing the technical and sociological aspects of hats and/or objects, the exhibition also focuses on technological innovations, both in terms of materials and techniques as well as the new design possibilities directly associated. Tradition, innovation and artistic demands and/or claims are reflected in the exhibition as well. Those are the areas that encompass Christine Rohr’s work spectrum; she uses them to always find new entry points for her hat creations.  

Exhibition View

Racello headpiece with feather flowers (2016)German Hat Museum

By bridging Lindenberg and Graz together, I see a great opportunity for the millinery trade and its future; this bridging gives us the opportunity to link interests and abilities in order to successfully demonstrate our dedication to ‘hats’ today and decades ahead.
Christine Rohr

The Nest—velvet bridge with a bird's nest made from crinoline tubes with five small feather birds and flowers (2016)German Hat Museum


I consider my hometown of Graz the only Austrian pendant to the German hat capital, Lindenberg. Around 1900, nowhere in Austria were there as many hat industries, milliners and hat makers as in Graz. The reason was that many officers retired in Graz and the women on their sides needed new hats to parade along the Glacis and for every special occasion. That created an upward movement for the trade and produced a lot of income for the millinery business in the city. Naturally, the annual ball of the milliner and hatmaker guild took also place in Graz.

Today, there is not much left from the glamour of those times; the stores are closed, and the manufacturers don’t exist anymore. Barely anything remains from those heydays. And yet, a few of us milliners have stayed. As the last examinee of the milliner’s trade with a master craftsman's diploma from Styria, it is my mission to conserve, develop and pass on the knowledge and craft of my profession and inform the public what the nowadays almost antiquated term milliner really encompasses these days.
Christine Rohr

Photo of the special exhibition: "Hats, Art & Fashion by Christine Rohr" (2016)German Hat Museum

The Art of "BeHueten" and "BeHaupten"

A hat should invite the person who wears it to dress, dress-up, discover, enchant, hide and up-lift. The hat is used as a protection and/or may be regarded as a status symbol. That is why I used the terms „Behueten“ and „Behaupten“. Everyday hats are usually worn to protect against the sun, wind and weather, dirt or other environmental influences. Events, however, offer boundless opportunities of fully convey the intention, status or profession of the person who wears it. The strict conventions of former times, however, are often not adhered to. Therefore, you will often see the headwear worn on the left side as well, and not only on the right side, which used to be the requirement for ladies. Also, the color black is regarded as a fashion statement these days and no longer seen only as a sign of mourning.

Beret with golden tassel (2016)German Hat Museum


The future of the head covering will be different than its past. Large hat manufacturers will be history. Small and fancy hat specialists who network internationally will take their place and offer their wearers a new self confidence. It won’t be the wealth that is represented on heads. Individualists and people with courage and self confidence will be the ones to attend to the hat as an accessory. There will still be a lot of ‘head objects’ worn as a statement on the heads to beautify our future.
Christine Rohr

Detailed view of green feather wreath (2016)German Hat Museum


Etymologically, the word “hat” derives from the verbs protect; to guard; to cover; to care for; and to defend; this goes back to the primary function of each head covering, which is to protect a person and specifically a person’s head from external influences. This aspect could also be extended to the fact that a hat makes a person appear taller, and therefore, raises the person above the others and highlights her or him. The hat provides a kind of personal boundary for a person from other people within a society, which may change the self-perception and self-confidence of the individual.

Mohawk made from chinchilla rooster feathers (2016)German Hat Museum

"A wig is a wrong claim."
Johann Nepomuk Nestroy

The primary function of everyday hats is to protect and guard people from environmental influences such as the sun, wind, rain, snow, and other weather conditions. The purpose of the hat also drives the choice of its material, which in turn influences their form and shape.
Christine Rohr

Jinsin object in neon orange (2016)German Hat Museum

Knowing that “Behueten” has to do with external influences and “BeHaupten” with intrinsic motivation, she shows us that the traditional repertoire of shapes should not be an obstacle to fabricate new, attractive and original creations.
Christine Rohr

Fascinator with king pheasant feathers and strass (2016)German Hat Museum


Art does not only talk about artificial things or only deal with the so-called Fine Arts. Generally speaking, art can also be considered and serve as a cultural artifact - a product that requires human action; it is the result of a creative process, an action that is based on knowledge, practice, perception, imagination and intuition. 

Hat made from parasisol and sinamayGerman Hat Museum

“The source of all arts is the craft.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

At the beginning of the industrial age, society was confronted with a dilemma of definitions. Ostensibly, the creative process and its product became invisible through the mechanization and the manufacturing of mass-produced goods. Individuality seemed to be lost as well as one’s identity associated with it. The Arts and Crafts movement of the 19th century with its return to artisanstry led to the re-emergence of this creative scene; the focus returned to the essential and paved the ground for new starting points in creative processes.

Knowledge, practice, perception, imagination and intuition are the abilities and skills that Christine Rohr incorporates in her creations. Therefore, it is only fair that Christine Rohr’s enchanting and unique creations be regarded as art objects; through her works, she possesses the necessary self-criticism to constantly reflect, upon, and change her creative process, as she thinks about new projects in the future.

Toque with pleated crinolineGerman Hat Museum


Playing, disguising, discovering, enchanting, hiding, elevating – a hat should become an experience. Head coverings display the status or profession of the person who wears it. Strict former conventions may be upheld or boldly ignored. Hats are statement on the head, visible for everyone. They are not created as objects by themselves, but are in a constant dialog with the outfit and the event that they have been created for. This way, they are able to amplify the expressiveness of the outfit as well as the personality of the person wearing the hat.

Calabrese hat in orange velour with large flower made from gray heron feathers (2016)German Hat Museum

“Hats, by which what is really fantastic becomes for a moment the universal.”
Oscar Wilde

The repertoire of fashionable forms of expression has expanded many times over, since the Renaissance. European society changed completely at the end of the middle ages as a result of a new found focus toward the person as an individual, the discovery of the New Worlds, and technological innovations.

Golden headpiece (2016)German Hat Museum

Ladies were already wearing berets, modeled after men’s head coverings, although it seemed somewhat frivolous; and new trade relations gave access to new materials and, therefore, enabled new and fashionably adapted shapes.

Feather wreath in greenGerman Hat Museum


The special exhibition “Hats, Art & Fashion” was, of course, primarily composed under those aspects of everyday life, events and the future. However, I was surprised when I looked closely, that I could always see the triad in the exhibited pieces. A three dimensional imagination is a prerequisite to create pieces incorporating these different aspects. This leads us to head coverings that can be divided into three main categories: hat, cap and fascinator. Throughout my creative process, I constantly strive to unite the three aspects - craft, design and art - in every single object.
Christine Rohr

Exhibition View

Art Nouveau wreath with velvet lilies in gold (2016)German Hat Museum

Today, it is no different. The market influences Christine Rohr’s fantastic and unique hat designs. Therefore, in the 21st century, the form and shapes of hats and caps has been enriched by fascinators and headpieces.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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