One of the most consistently popular styles of the last century, the cloche hat remains one our most popular women’s hat as well. Inseparable, in our minds, from the fedora, which also rose to popularity in the early part of the twentieth century, the cloche suffered less from a rise and fall in popularity, and remained more consistently in vogue, perhaps because of the classic ease of wear, and perhaps because of of the wide variety of materials and occasions for which it is appropriate.
The cloche, from the French word for “bell” was officially invented in 1908 by Caroline Reboux, and it enjoyed immediate popularity. It was most popular time for the cloche was 1920-1930, when it was worn by flappers and film stars, billionaires and shop clerks. The cloche gained it’s great notoriety with the flapper movement, where it was so popular with women that it may as well have been part of a uniform. It was a hat for everyone, not unlike the fedora, and is flattering to practically any face shape and occasion. Originally made from a felt, the hat was quickly converted to a variety of materials. It has been worn practically continuously for the last century, although it has been most popular, since the ‘20s, in the ‘60s, ‘80s, and also the last decade or so.
Part of the worth of the cloche is that it can be worn, in some form or another, for practically any occasion. We, amongst others, carry a series of lovely knit cloches that look great with any cool weather outfit, and offers a level of style above that of a knit cap, without sacrificing warmth or casual panache. A plain felt cloche transitions well from weekend to professional wear, and with a little detailing and maybe a higher quality felt is perfect for a more formal dress occasion.
The other of the great strengths of the cloche hat is its shape. The low bell shape of the hat cups practically all of the back of the head, down to the neck, and also over the ears. In addition to attractively framing the face of the wearer, this offers phenomenal protection from the wind and cold, and because the hat is worn so low, even the relatively short brim of the cloche shields the eyes from the rain or the sun extremely well. All this makes the cloche a great practical hat, either in a wool felt or fur felt, or even a knit, in the winter, or in a straw or paper cloche to keep you cool in the summer.
Although it does occasionally vie for pride of place with a fascinator or a wide brimmed dress hat, there are few timelessly classic dress pieces than the cloche. Ornate detailing, like stitching, ornate felting, or gemstones, all draw the eye to the cloche, and the perfectly framed face wearing it. It’s small size lends itself to dinner or cocktail parties where space is at a premium, and the wide brimmed hat goes from classy to cumbersome.
It’s no surprise that a hat as versatile as the cloche should also transition between the seasons as well. While a felt cloche is great through the fall and winter, it does get a bit hot and sticky into the spring. Enter the straw cloche! Available in practically any straw that a men’s straw hat might be made in, the summer straw cloche also has a material to fit any occasion. From the more informal paper and braided straw, to the elegant toyo and panama straw weaves, the summer straw cloche has all of the bases covered. It should also be noted that while a paper hat can be a more casual piece, there are some very fine weaves that do well for a dress hat too.