Friday, February 8, 2013

The Skinny -- Cloche to My Heart

I love vintage hats. (Of course, I do.  Is there anything vintage I don't love, really?)  But cloche hats are my favorite.  There's just something about them.  A cloche hat frames the face in that perfect way -- drawing attention to the shape of the wearer's eyes and lips.  I think they also draw attention to a woman's neck, showing the freedom and sensuality of a short hair style and a bare neck.

The cloche hat was invented in 1908 by Caroline Reboux, a Parisian self-made milliner (hat maker) that lived from 1837 to 1927.  She was a striking figure, white hair juxtaposed with a youthful, girly look.  Reboux promoted her creations by insisting that a woman's look was not complete without the finishing accessories, such as the perfect hat.

From Adrianna Sassoon, here.
Although the cloche was invented before the 1920s, the era of the flapper was its heyday.  The distinct shape dictated the hat's name, cloche being the French word for "bell".  The sleek, close fit shaded the eyes and the forehead, forcing ladies to look up to see.  That pose became part of the attitude of the wearer -- to look down your nose and hold your chin up became de rigueur, as did the coyness of looking down, with your eyes hidden, as a flirt would do.

Cloche hats were adopted by all the major fashion houses. They were worn as everyday hats, and they were beaded and appliqued to be worn in the evening or by brides.  They were primarily made from felt or soft fabric, but were later shaped from straw, sisal, and knitted fibers.

From Hoodoo that Voodoo, here.

The women chopped off their hair to match the hats.  Josephine Baker wore what was called the Eton Crop, a short, slicked down style that appeared in Britain first in the mid-1920s.  The style resembled how Eton boys wore their hair, hence the name.  Soft finger wave bobs and severe Louise Brooks style bobs were also very popular, and all showed off a woman's bare neck in a new way.  Very risque!

Now for a fun fact!  From my research, it seems that women could send messages with the ribbons on their cloche hats. For example, a firm knot trim indicated the wearer was married and unavailable; an arrow shaped ribbon indicated a single girl that was already in love with someone, and a flashy bow meant single and looking for love.

The stunning Carole Lombard, from here.

There are some beautiful new examples of cloche hats out there right now, too, like this one from Behida Dolic Millinery, available here on Etsy.  This is on my wish list!

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