How Is a Cloche Hat Supposed to Fit?

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Model Marisa Miller donned a cloche for a major hat event, the Kentucky Derby, in May 2011.
Model Marisa Miller donned a cloche for a major hat event, the Kentucky Derby, in May 2011. (Image: Stephen Cohen/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

The film industry often features historical period pieces that influence fashion trends. Costume designers research specific periods, collecting accessories and textiles pertaining to a particular fashion era. Certain periods in American history had distinct fashion styles that included accessories like hats. In 1908, milliner Caroline Reboux invented the cloche hat. More than a decade later, the fashion design house of Lanvin paired the bell-shaped hat with its collections, propelling the hat to the fashion forefront -- and iconic status -- throughout 1920s. This distinct hat is enjoying a present-day revival with fashion trendsetters.

Traditional 1920s Fit

The French word for bell is cloche. This no-brim, crown-fitting hat was generally worn low over both eyes, hiding the forehead altogether. This fit created a mysterious look, and short hairstyles worked well with this hat type. Since hairstyles changed from long to short in the early 20th century, this hat style shaped the crown of the head and finished at the nape of the neck, accommodating the short hair trend. As the cloche began to evolve, subtle changes to the basic design emerged. For instance, the natural curve around the crown remained the same, but certain styles had a slightly shaped brim, prompting the wearing of the hat over one eye.

1920s-to-1930s Millinery Textiles

Cloches were made primarily of woolen felt, and this fabric adapted well to the bell-like shape that required almost no blocking, which refers to molding the hat shape. As the style evolved, milliners used blocks (wooden forms) to hand shape the added brim. As the hat style gained popularity and transitioned from fall to spring and summer fashion, straw replaced the felt. Sisal, a fine straw, was woven into a linen-like material and used for cloche summer trends. Bakou (Baku), a fine and expensive straw, produced a shiny texture when woven. Other cloche styles included painted straw designs.

Cloche Styles

As the cloche hat style continued to be on trend, designers implemented trimming details that altered the overall look. Designers attached trims to one side of the hat, such as surface appliques, feather fans, tied scarves and jeweled brooches. For instance, a scarf was tied around the cloche and dangled loosely on one side of the hat. Other trims, which included ribbon bands and zigzag stitching, also adorned the cloche throughout the 1920s. During the 1930s, the cloche was further modified with wider brims and side pleats. Although the cloche was associated with the flappers, the style also represented the "new woman."

Current Styles

Thanks to filmmakers' period pieces set in the '20s and '30s, the cloche has returned, but in a more bucket-like shape. Trendy ensembles that include a cloche have touches of feminine influences. For example, pair a cloche hat with a silk blouse with dress pants and skinny belt. As an alternative, wear a cloche hat with a satin blouse, pencil skirt, back-seam stockings and two-tone spectator pumps for a vintage look. Match a silk tie or scarf to your blouse and tie it around a brimmed cloche, letting it dangle loosely on one side of the hat.

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