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Hats Off to Broadway Milliner Arnold S. Levine

How this designer became the creator for award-winning productions
Threads #219, Fall 2022
Arnold S. Levine shares his love for theatrical millinery through his creations and by teaching.

When it comes to creating nearly any kind of headdress for theatrical performances, Arnold S. Levine is among the top practitioners of the craft. From his studio in New York’s Garment District, Levine and his crew of skilled artisans bring life to the sketches of the foremost theatrical designers. The theatrical milliner’s work helps to complete the appearance of so many characters, and it plays a key role in setting the overall environment for performances on and off Broadway. It’s a job that requires highly specialized skills.

What exactly is millinery?

rust red broadway hat
Photo: Arnold S. Levine

Levine defines millinery as not just hats, but as things worn on the head. In the past, he says, millinery encompassed hats plus all the trimmings-bows, tassels, swags, etc.-that coordinated with and finished an ensemble. Today, millinery overlaps with what is called craftwork, the making of nongarment objects and costume props needed to complete a design.

A sought-after artisan

Levine has created millinery for more than 100 designers, and for a number of Tony Award-winning shows. His client roster includes such luminaries as Bob Mackie, Desmond Heeley, Jane Greenwood, Catherine Zuber, Marty Pakledinaz, Florence Klotz, and Patricia Zipprodt.

In addition to Broadway work, Levine and his studio produce millinery for shows on the Disney, Norwegian, and Viking cruise lines. They also create for large parades for Royal Caribbean, and have worked for Disneyland and Disney World.

How did Levine come to do this kind of work? He credits a lot of it to serendipity.

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