Cloche hats were the most fashionable form of women's headgear during the 1920s. They were close-fitting, helmet-shaped hats that hugged the skull. They had deep rounded crowns with no brim or just a small curve at the edge. Cloche means bell in French, and these hats were so named because they resembled large bells. They often were made of woolen felt.
Women's hats of the early twentieth century were ornately decorated with deep crowns and wide brims. During World War I (1914–18) hats became less flamboyant. By the end of the war many women were cutting their long hair. They wore bobbed haircuts trimmed to the nape of the neck; shingled locks, layering their short hair into flat, overlapping rows; and the Eton crop, a severe, masculine style with hair slicked back close to the head.
With new short hair fashions, older style hats appeared old-fashioned and out of place. The tight helmet fit of the cloche hat complemented the new hairstyles. The round crown of the cloche followed the natural curve of the head. Trims were simple. Some cloches were trimmed with a ribbon band and some featured small jeweled brooches on one side or in front. Others were unadorned. Women wore their cloche hats pulled down over to just above their eyes so that the forehead was hidden under the hat. The back of the cloche hat skimmed the nape of the neck. Sometimes the cloche was worn tilted over the right eye. The cloche hat gave women an air of mysterious appeal, but wearing the hat so low made watching where one walked difficult. To counteract that problem, women began holding their heads back as they walked, a mannerism that led to a new slant in female posture. Cloche hats became very popular attire for weddings. Such bridal accessories were trimmed in lace or composed solely of veiling.
During the 1930s cloche hats still were popular but in modified versions. Some had pleated folds on the sides and back, and some dipped over one eye. Trims of veiling or lace sometimes were added, as hat fashions returned to more elaborate designs. The cloche faded from fashion in the late 1930s and 1940s but was revived as a fashion trend in the late 1950s.
Langley, Susan. Vintage Hats and Bonnets, 1770–1970. Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 1998.
Probert, Christina. Hats in Vogue Since 1910. New York: Abbeville Press, 1981.