When you think of the 1920s and the flapper era, one hat comes to mind—the cloche. French for bell, the cloche is often credited to French designer Caroline Reboux, but some say the cloche was a Coco Chanel brainchild. Regardless, the hat was extremely stylish, featuring a deep crown that allowed it to be worn very low, almost to the eyebrows.

Cloche hats ranged from beaver felt dyed in a range of colors to straw. At first, the brims of cloche hats were essentially extensions of the crown, dropping straight down on all sides with no rim, let alone brim. By the end of the 1920s, though, it was common for the cloche to be worn with the brim turned up, especially in the front. This extended the depth of the hat in the back, adding intrigue and complication to the basic bell shape.

Many cloche hats were worn unadorned, but lots of styles demanded ribbons. Interestingly, the style of ribbon could tell a prospective suitor something about the young lady underneath the hat. For example, a ribbon that resembled an arrow signaled that the woman was already in a relationship, a knot naturally meant the wearer was married, but a big bow was an eye-catching sign of availability.

French fashion houses from Lanvin to Patou to Chéruit, to name but a few, designed clothes to go with cloche hats. Some hairstyles also suited the hat better than others. For example, Josephine Baker’s short cut was perfect for the short hat, and advertisers promoted the cloche as a bobbed hat for women with bobbed hair. Even more famously, Marlene Dietrich was a loyal Reboux cloche customer. But by the middle of the 1930s, in the depths of the Great Depression, the cloche had all but disappeared, a painful reminder, perhaps, of better days.

Of course, the cloche was not the only 1920s hat that women of the flapper era went crazy for. In addition to the ubiquitous cloche, women wore sculptural hats resembling airplane wings or crowns. Felt hats were embroidered with Art Deco flowers, and kits were sold for just $.89 so that women could make their own “crushers,” as they were called. Actress Louise Brooks made it acceptable to wear pokes and helmet hats, and so-called Speakeasy hats were studded with sequins and costume jewels.

Things sobered up a bit in the 1930s, but only a bit. Black, Sou’wester hats made of braided hemp continued the helmet look. In fact, straw hats went from garden to dressy, as straw cloches were woven with ecru to resemble smart tweeds. Knit turbans took off thanks to Greta Garbo, the pillbox was introduced, and women even took to wearing sequined or rhinestone-accented calot caps, which resembled large yarmulkes and were first worn by the ancient Greeks. Colorful berets and pirate caps, as well as felt or stitched geometric Dutch Boys, added to the decade’s eclectic sense of style.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Des Chapeaux

Des Chapeaux

A French tribute to women's hats and other headwear from the 1940s... primarily magazine images, with some commenta… [read review or visit site]

American Hatpin Society

American Hatpin Society

Who knew there was so much to hatpin collecting? This site is all about great hatpin images - from recent hatpin co… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 1920s Authentic Natural Woven Straw Summer & Silk Cloche HatBlack Vintage Lady's Wide Brim 100% Wool Felt Bowler Fedora Hat Floppy Cloche 1pVintage 1920's 30's Plume Hat Felted Wool Mohair Feather Cloche Flapper VgcSherel's Women’s Wool Cloche Hat Ivory With Satin Bow And Trim DetailsVintage Inspired 1920s Style Red Turban Cloche Hat Downton Abbey Gatsby Xl FitFashion Vintage Cute Ladies Women Round Woolen Felt Cloche Derby Bowler Hat CapVtg 40s Gold Lamé Black Feather Plume Hat Cloche Cap Showgirl Dancer Deco WwiiChic Black Women`s Wide Brim Bowler Hat Wool Floppy Cloche Fedora Cap Beach SoftVintage Inspired 1920s Style Grey Wool Cloche Hat Downton Abbey Gatsby LargeNew Vintage Women Lady Wool Felt Floppy Wide Brim Fedora Bowler Cloche Hat CapClaret Red/black Heather Vintage Flapper 20's Style Cloche Crochet Hat W/flowerWomen's Vintage Elegant Cloche Knitted Fishing Bucket Cloche Hat Cap Warm WinterVintage Marlea Flapper Style Feather Hat Beautiful Sassy!Camel Women Faux Wool Floppy Cloche Hat Fedora Derby Wide Brim Summer Beach CapHat - Black Wool Derby Cloche Bucket Bowler Rolled Brim W/bow Vtg 30's Lazarus Brown Fur Velour Hat Cloche Flapper Rhinestone Pearl 21.5" Womens Handmade Crochet Cloche Beanie Hat Flower Gray Multi Acrylic One Size Vintage Cloche Light French Blue Ladies Hat Sheer Bow Lace Veil Union Made UsaVintage Pillbox Cloche Collegienne Bullocks Pasadena Womens HatSet 2-red & Black Roaring 20's Flapper Gatsby Feathered Fascinator Mini Hat ClipSet 2-roaring 20's Flapper Gatsby Gambling Speakeasy Fascinator Mini Hat ClipWomen's Vintage Elegant Cloche Knitted Fishing Bucket Cloche Hat Cap Warm WinterRain Hat Nwt Waterproof Golf Wide Brim Bucket Cloche Leopard Print Vintage Art Deco Style Cloche Bucket Hat Velvet Felt W/veil & Pheasant FeathersCharter Club Flapper/cloche Style Red Hat W/velvet Bow 100% Wool Made In ItalyCamel Kids Girl Faux Wool Floppy Cloche Hat Fedora Derby Wide Brim Bow Flet CapsWomen's Vintage Elegant Cloche Knitted Fishing Bucket Cloche Hat Cap Warm WinterNine West Womens Hat, Seasonless Cloche Black One Size