Tuesday, May 12, 2009

1920s Flapper Fashion: the Cloche Hat

Even though they were worn as early as 1910 and well into the 1930s, the cloche hat is usually thought of as the iconic headwear style of the 1920s flapper period. Cloche hats went hand-in-hand with short haircuts of the times, such as the Eton Crop, and symbolized the ‘modernity’ of the wearer.

Wikipedia credits Parisian milliner Caroline Reboux as the creator of the cloche hat. Whether she invented it or not, she certainly helped make it hugely popular in the 1920s. Reboux would create her cloche hats by placing a length of felt on a customer's head and then cutting and folding it to shape.

The basic shape of a cloche hat is a form-fitting bell shape. They hug the head but can have a bulging crown, so as to add height to the wearer. Cloches were worn pulled low over the forehead so the wearer’s eyes ‘peeked out’ from just below the brim.

Actress Vilma Banky in a cloche hat

Angelina Jolie sporting a cloche for her role in
The Changeling, set in the late '20s

Cloche hats are relatively simple in construction and were easily mass produced, commonly made of felt, as this material conforms well to the head-hugging shape.

Decorations on cloche hats were usually minimal and often Art Deco (geometrical) in style. Decorations took the form of surface appliqu├ęs or other ‘flat’ items like feathers, ribbons or art deco jeweled clips, that did not alter the distinctive bell shape of the hat. The decorations were usually asymmetrical – that is, appearing on one side of the hat only.

Brimless cloche hats were also fashionable.

The huge popularity of cloche hats in the 1920s is part of the major shift in women's fashion that was occurring as women started to wear more casual, loose clothing rather than formal and physically restrictive clothes. Cloche hats are low-effort, practical yet stylish – part of the statement of the new ‘modern’ flapper of the 1920s.

Cloche hats were initially seen as a ‘shocking’ and even scandalous fashion statement, but once they become more accepted and commonplace they symbolized feminine style and refinement.

Norma Shearer in Vanity Fair magazine, 1926

Cloche style hats suit just about anyone, and can be purchased today from numerous stores and designers. There's a fancy hat shop in the town where I live and I'd venture to say at least 50% of their women's hats are based on the classic cloche shape. Fashions are fleeting, but style is forever!

Modern-day cloche hat, by Etsy seller Boring Sidney

Keen to make a cloche hat yourself? You can purchase a pattern
to create this stylish cloche from Etsy seller McHats


Sue said...

Thank you for putting me on your blog.

Sharon said...

Hi Sue,

No problems on the McHats mention - your cloche hat pattern looks really lovely!

Cakelaw said...

I love cloche hats, and find it hard to beleive that they were ever considered scandalous. Love you blog BTW.

McArt said...

I have a new favourite cloche hat now, if you want to see it


Marta said...

I love, love, love the fashions of the 1920's. The fashions were so elegant and ultra cool...

Perhaps you might enjoy my Art Deco Fashion site?

Keep up the great work...your blog is awesome!!