Mildred Blout

The costumes we see on actors and actresses in movies bring the period during which they
take place directly to the theater or your living room. Little is often known, however, where
these costumes’ inspiration came from, and more importantly, who made them. Mildred Blout
was the first Black woman to make costumes, notably, exquisite hats for celebrities, and her
work was most notable in the controversial film, Gone With the Wind. Although unrecognized
and wildly unknown, Blout, and costume designers in general are instrumental in how we have
enjoyed and seen iconic films, both past and present, and their influence and work should be
celebrated and recognized as important pioneers of fashion.
Blout was born in North Carolina. Orphaned at a young age and leaving Cooper Union due to
illness without finishing, Blout defied the odds at an early age one way or another. Suffice to
say, Blout was set up to fail, but fail she did not. Her perseverance and dedication led her to
millinery work, making her first foray into the industry at Madame Clair’s Dress and Hat Shop in
New York City as an errand girl. As her experience increased, so did her love for the work, and
she and her sister ended up opening their very own dress and hat shop.
Even before this shop opened, Blout’s love for the creation of the hat radiated through her
every action. She took inspiration from the past and applied it and integrated it to her styles
that she was continuously working on and dedicating her time to. So much so, in fact, that she
famously designed and created 87 miniature hats on par with style of hats through the years
from 1680 to 1937; displaying them at the notorious New York World’s Fair in 1939. Blout’s
World’s Fair exhibition took her career from nonexistent pastime to booming business. She
was almost immediately asked to design the hats for Gone With the Wind and Easter Parade,
securing her place in fashion history as the first Black person; male or female, to conceive and
design costume hats for a movie. Many probably know and can visualize her work because
these movies have staunch images and historical and cultural references, but few probably
thought about where these looks and hats came from. Now you know: they are by Blout.
Following her launch into fame, in the 1940s, Blout opened a hat shop in Beverly Hills,
California; a shop that seems so outdated and so vintage that it is simply hard to imagine on
the luxy streets of Rodeo; lined with post-worthy coffee shops and influencer energy. But it
was a different time, the 1940s, and Blout’s craft was thriving, especially after her work was
noted in such prominent films. Other actresses, as well as singers, requested her work;
notably Marian Anderson, Mary Pickford, Ginger Rogers, and Rosalind Russel, just to name a
few. And most famously, Blout designed Gloria Vanderbilt’s veil for her first wedding in 1941.
Blout passed away in 1947, and with that, seemed her legacy and her influence on both
costumes and fashion as a whole. But like almost everything that is worn today, they all
started somewhere, and they were all thought of and started by someone. Blout put

beautifully curated and created hats on the map, both for costume-wear and real-life-wear
alike. Emily Goldberg