Hats off to long serving couple

NILABE110920d1, Tony and Margaret Thorniley are retiring from the Margaret Anne milliners shop on Bath street Ilkeston.
NILABE110920d1, Tony and Margaret Thorniley are retiring from the Margaret Anne milliners shop on Bath street Ilkeston.
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A LONG-STANDING Ilkeston milliners is set to close after 44 years as its owners hang up their hats and head for retirement.

Margaret and Tony Thorniley from Margaret Anne Milliners will be shutting their doors for the last time having seen their hats worn at thousands of local weddings and funerals.

Some of the 250,000 hats which have left the shop since it opened in 1967 have even been to Ascot and Buckingham Palace.

Tony, a third generation milliner, said: “Our most productive period used to be through the winter. Ladies would buy a hat at least once a month and occasionally even once a week.

“Many ladies would simply not go out without a hat. To go to church or chapel without one would be unthinkable.”

The couple buy most of the hat shapes from Luton, which is still the centre of the industry in the UK.

Then they adorn them with silk flowers, feathers and other eye-catching objects.

As for fashions, Margaret said: “They have gone full circle. You could say they have gone round twice.

“There are shapes from the twenties and thirties like the cloche. That is popular again now.”

Most of the business is now in the spring and summer when couples’ thoughts turn to marriage and guests need new outfits.

Seeking a crowning glory, the Thornileys could create a unique design which picks up the style of the clothes and suits the wearer.

Tony, 70, said: “If they try on 100 hats, you can still find they will choose one of the first they have tried.

“They are amazed but we know what suits them.”

Margaret said: “You can tell what will suit by looking at the person, their height and perhaps the shape of the face.

“You don’t want a small person dressing in a hat with an enormous brim.

“People find it interesting and enjoy what we have done.

“And many times they come back and show us the wedding photographs so we can pick out the hats we provided.”

The couple used to live above the Victorian premises but will retire to West Hallam, where their new home will provide an outlet for their love of gardening.

The shop and flat will be auctioned on September 27.