The Cloche: One Hell of a Modern Hat

Posted by Christina Stewart April 17, 2013 2 Comments 7018 views

THE hat of the 1920‘s, the cloche has seen a revival in the past few years and why not? It’s worn close to the head and tilted to one side. Plus it can be pulled down over the forehead as far as you’d like, depending on the level of mystery you want to evoke. The cloche crosses all classes by being extremely versatile. It can be simple or dramatically adorned, it can possess a brim or not, can be made of felt, straw or cloth, and can be worn for any occasion. What’s not to love?

Even though the cloche is the iconic hat of the 1920’s, it was created in 1908 by famed French milliner Caroline Reboux and derives it’s named from the French word for “bell”. The first wave of these hats had a bulbous crown shape to accommodate long hair piled high on the head of the wearer and the brim was close to the head.

Still image from "Alice Brady"

Alice Brady, ca. 1918

Still image from "Greta Garbo"

Greta Garbo as “The Temptress” 1926

As the 1920’s gave way to the modern woman, with shorter cropped hair styles and makeup, the cloche conformed to this new style by fitting tighter to the head with the brim shielding the eyes. This forced the wearer to tilt their head seductively in order to see. With some red lipstick this created a very entrancing look that defined the era and added to the glamour of Hollywood film stars.

Still image from "Bennett Sisters"

Joan and Constance Bennett wearing contrasting dress and cloche ensembles, ca. 1930

Still image from "Norma Shearer"

Norma Shearer wears a matching cloche and blouse combination, ca. 1925

Still image from "Lilyan Tashman"

Lilyan Tashman looking alluring, ca. 1930

The cloche evolved through the 1920‘s with the brim shrinking and becoming upturned or influenced by patterns of the Art Deco movement. By 1928, the brims had been eliminated all together and the cloche resembled a skull cap nearly hiding the wearers hair completely. In 1933, Elsa Schiaparelli’s high sitting deep stiff brimmed hats that allowed the wearer’s hair to be free became the new vogue and the cloche became outmoded.

Still image from "Evelyn Brent"

Evelyn Brent wearing a high couture matching evening outfit, ca. 1928

Still image from "Bebe Daniels"

Bebe Daniels sporting a scarf draped cloche, ca. 1928

Still image from "Marion Davies"

Marion Davies in matching Art Deco designs, 1930

Still image from "Sylvia Sidney"

Sylvia Sidney in a Lilly Dache knitted cashmere cloche and sweater, ca. 1931

Still image from "Lilly Dache"

A Lilly Dache straw cloche accented with a diamond brooch, ca. 1931

Still image from "Norma Shearer"

Norma Shearer the epitome of a movie star, ca. 1931

Today, the cloche is back and will only become more popular as films and television shows set in the 1920’s, such as The Great Gatsby (2013) and Downton Abbey, take the fascination of the female public. Ladies, give yourself a little glamour and wear a cloche!

Still image from "Downton Abbey"

The Downton Abbey cloche, 2013

Still image from "The Great Gatsby"

Rosy Boylan and Margaret Gill’s luscious millinery designs for the 2013 version of “The Great Gatsby”

About Christina Stewart

A film archivist by day and a film buff by night. What more needs to be said?

View all post by Christina Stewart

There are 2 Comments

  1. David
    - April 17, 2013
      -   Reply

    If the cloche is the hat of the 20’s, what’s the hat of now?

  2. Christina Stewart
    - April 20, 2013
      -   Reply

    Thanks for your question David! Wool cloche’s are still popular in winter, as they’re warm and worn close to the head, but in spring and summer fascinators are now popular. Technically they’re not a hat, just a millinery headpiece, but can be worn for any occasion depending on styling.

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