The 1920s was a period when milliners used their imagination to embrace
aspects of dress from nations far and wide. Inspiration was sought from
Egypt, China, Japan and Russia. Headdresses including turbans, toques, kokoshniks and tiaras were all reinvented by designers.
Both the couture houses of Molyneux and Lanvin had atelier shops attached to
them so buyers were able to make a hat selection at the same time as buying
a dress or suit and gain a complete ensemble that matched to perfection. Patou also felt accessories were an important feature of fashion and he too
established a millinery section and his final finishing touch accessory was
his perfume selection, the most famous
of which is Joy. Caroline Reboux was a designer of hats in Paris who gained international
acclaim at that time.
The cloche hat was not confined to the 1920s as is often first thought.
It was fashionable from 1908 to 1933 was one of the most
extreme forms of millinery ever, with an appearance that resembled a helmet.
It was the iconic hat of the twenties decade and will ever be associated with
the flappers of the era. It was responsible for the period stance we
associate with the era. To wear one correctly the hat had to be all but
pulled over the eyes, making the wearer have to lift up the head, whilst
peering snootily down the nose.
Cloche hats had a basic bell contour with bulbous crowns which if correctly
designed could add inches to the height of the wearer helping to foster the
haughty look, so redolent of the cloche in our mind’s eye.
Art Deco influence can be seen in the zigzag seaming and construction lines
of many cloche hats. Art Deco appliqué was a popular embellishment. Cloches
existed in many forms including one with a beret like top.
This harsh style was made more acceptable by the use of
make up. Make up became the epitome of sophisticated chic and
self-assurance. When a woman publicly applied make up from a glamorous
compact when in a restaurant or dance hall, she was exhibiting the new symbol
of womanly grace and refinement.
Never before had women abandoned the softness that came with possession of
feminine tresses and its effect on physical appearance. Now the effect
was for a different effect, one that said look at me I am a new woman
unhampered by old ideas and I embrace the new. Make up instead was used
to define the face in the modern style making it a specific and recognizable
new look of the new women.
Blush was not considered quite proper so was used very
sparingly. Those that overdid the rouge, were frowned upon for their
poor skill at application, but luscious ox-blood red enhanced lips were a
must for the woman of the moment.
Art deco design elements often
decorated cloches throughout the twenties.
As early as 1908 close fitting hats with deep crowns that clung over the
brow had emerged and as the war years progressed. At both the start and
end of World War 1 the close head fit became even snugger.
From 1916 the cloche was
firmly established as a style women wore a great deal.
By the twenties the hair worn
under it was also cropped so short that the new even closer fitting
cloche shape made a statement that said 'new woman.'
Cloches are worn with small brims at the front.
After 1926 the only way to
update the cloche fashion was reduce the brim substantially.
By 1928 the cloche hat brim
disappeared entirely, so between 1926 and 1929 asymmetric brims reduced
often to nothing.
By 1923 the bob, a pageboy style with some length was seen everywhere amid
enlightened women. About 1924 the razor cut shingle style was
introduced and the most clear cut silhouette of the year is the dome shaped
rounded crown with a much reduced brim.
From the mid twenties styled, shaped to the head cuts, which combined various
forms of waving from the Marcel wave to finger waving, became a norm.
All of these new cuts enabled smaller closer fitting headwear like the cloche
to be worn as the shaped hair conformed to the skull’s contour.
Eton Crop - The most extreme form of hairstyle was
the Eton Crop circa 1927 to 1928 and the hair could have Brylcreem brilliantine to
increase the skull like appearance of the hair style. Shiny black hair
was the best form of this fashion. Josephine Baker wore this style of
slick, greased hair to great effect.
By 1927 hair was softening from straight to wavy and by 1928 neckline nape
hair began to be grown and thus softening the look of some women.
Likewise the way the brim was worn gave a new meaning to the cloche style. The forehead and hairline was exposed as either they were cut higher, or the
front brim was lifted back on one side following the asymmetric lines of
skirts which dipped and waved dithering from month to month as the hemline
wavered with indecisiveness.
By the late twenties women suddenly wanted to break free
of the cloche and show their hair to the world. The point that they
could have shorn hair had been made, now the new point to make was that they
were free to choose to be ultra feminine whilst having more rights formerly
once an attribution of the male gender only.
Mass produced cloches were an easy market to produce as only the barest
amount of shaping and blocking was necessary for such a simply formed hat. Felt was the most
commonly used material as it adapted well to the form fitting shape, but
cloches for mid twenties and later summers were also made from sisal, balibuntal and Baku straws.
Sisal was a fine straw that produced cloches with a linen look weave and
found its way to the west in 1926. Baku (Thailand) straws were also
varnished to make the cloche shiny and helmet like. Straws could also
be painted or embroidered in raffia or ribbon work.
Painting of hats was a common way of revamping a hat and
Agatha Christie describes in her autobiography how she painted hats to revive
them and added new trims to enliven their look.
The cloche became a statement of understated chic. The elements used in its
construction became subtly complex as zig zag jigsaw shaped pieces of fabric
were used to echo the complexity of dress lines of jigsaw zig zags on bias
cut pieced garments much favoured by the rich.
The rich noticed these discreet clever differences, but mass produced
versions ingeniously took short cuts, adapting machinery so that it moulded
and shaped ridges that looked like pieced effects. Use of moulding
techniques with artfully produced ridges in cloches achieved an almost
identical appearance at first glance.
To retain the helmet like appearance of the cloche, trimmings were generally
kept to a minimum with surface appliqués and other decorative pieces usually
applied to one side only. Feather fans at the side and scarves swathing
the hat and falling to one side were a usual trim. That side was of
generally the right side of the cloche, but not exclusively so.
Severely rich and chic women favoured the understated effect of single
diamond clips. They wore expensive platinum and diamond brooches to
adorn the most pared down of cloches after 1926. Brooch styles were
often stylish and modern in the art deco style and sometimes badge like.
In the late twenties brimmed felts were worn casually with casual clothes for
sporting events and narrower cloches partnered occasion wear. Capelines
in straw were romantic looking broader brimmed hats and they and were also
considered casual soft wear were often worn at the beach with summer frocks.
But hat variations were being added to the wardrobe as berets as favoured by
Marlene Dietrich and Schiaparelli's knitted sock style hats were modern takes
on the hat that was nothing like earlier hats of the Edwardian and Victorian
eras. Innovations in hats emphasized tidiness, neatness, or quirkiness
and became emerging advances in fashion trends.
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