Invented by milliner Caroline Reboux in 1908, the cloche hat or simply cloche, is a fitted, bell-shaped hat for women. They were especially popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Its name comes from the French word cloche, which means bell. The cloche hat is usually made of felt to conform to the head and is typically worn low on the forehead so that the brim does not cover the wearer’s eyes. Summer clothes were sometimes made from sisal or straw in the past. Cloches could also be made of beads or lace for evening wear, cocktail attire, dancing, or even bridal wear.
Due to new short hair fashions, older style hats looked old-fashioned. Cloche hats complemented new hairstyles with their helmet-like fit. Cloche crowns follow the natural curve of the head. The trims were simple. A ribbon band trimmed some cloches, while others featured small jewelled brooches. Some were unadorned. Women wore cloche hats just above their eyes to hide their foreheads. Cloche hats skimmed the nape of the neck at the back. Cloches were sometimes worn tilted over the right eye. Cloche hats gave women an air of mystery, but wearing one so low made it difficult to watch where they walked.
Weddings became very popular with cloche hats. Bridal accessories such as these were trimmed with lace or comprised only of veiling. Consequently, women began to hold their heads back when walking, resulting in a new slant in their posture.
In the 1930s, cloche hats continued to be popular, but in modified forms. The sides and back of some had pleated folds, and some dipped over one eye. As hat fashions returned to elaborate designs, veiling or lace trimmings were sometimes added. Cloches faded from fashion in the 1930s and 1940s but were revived in the late 1950s.
Here are some fabulous photos of women wearing Cloche hats from the 1920s.