Hats Off: Cloches & Perts

Getting back to hats that make you stand out in a crowd.

In the 1920s (the”Flapper Era”), a hat called the cloche (French for “bell”) was the rage.  As seen in the picture of actress Aileen Pringle (1926, Wikipedia), cloches were small, tight-fitting hats that cupped the wearer’s head.  (They were perfect for the modern, short Flapper hairdo’s.)  They could be wool, knit, crocheted or made of straw.

If you saw the movie Changeling, you may remember Angelina Jolie wore one.  The character she played was not wealthy.  She seemed to have only one hat and one coat.  The character altered the look of the hat and coat by the using different decorative pins.  (A good example of the versatility provided by a few basic accessories!)

According to the Stitch Diva, cloches are timeless – as illustrated by the beautiful designs in her book.  I agree.  I own two cloches – one felted wool, the other plaited straw – both purchased at Goorin Bros. in San Francisco.  Thankfully, Gorrin being Gorrin, the cloches come in an array of sizes, so these are the first cloches I could buy!

The cloche was invented by Frenchwoman Caroline Reboux (1837-1927).  Known as “Queen of the Milliners,” Mme. Reboux designed the unstructured felt hat in 1908 by placing a length of felt on a customer’s head and then cutting and folding it to the shape of the wearer’s head.  Later cloche hats would be felted on hat forms and made from plaited straw.  The “bells” are longer either over both ears or over one (and, in the latter case, thus can be asymmetrical).

One of the popular hats of the 1930s was the perk (Pic from pattern on eBay) also known as pert hats.

The pert/perk hats were small, worn high on the crown and generally tilted.  (The pic at left is of Elsa Schiaparelli wearing one of her designs.)

They were supposed to have a jaunty or outdoorsy, sporty feel – something that, in my humble opinion as I look at these pictures – the designers may have miscalculated.

Check out “Millinery Madness” on Silver Screen Scribblings blog for some great shots of Hollywood women and their hats.   The blogger’s comments are great!  (I have to wonder what Bette Davis – one of my all time favorite actors – was thinking in 1955 with that hat!)

Perhaps Ms. Davis liked it better than this hat on the left!  The picture at left is from CoutureAllure.com, a blog I encourage you to visit when you have a moment.  I very much enjoyed the Vintage Hats – 1953 post!

Making them yourself: 

Ravelry has a Winged Pill box hat knitting pattern from Paton (see pic at right).  I think you could probably adapt it for crocheting without too much difficulty.

Ravelry also has some great classic patterns by Schachenmayr – such as the Nomatta cloche (pic to the left).

There are some great flapper and cloche hat patterns (knit and crochet) at Ravelry.  Take a peek at the Patsy Flapper Hat, the Flapper Cloche Hat, the Flip Flapper Hat and the Amanda Hat.

If you haven’t visited Free Vintage Knitting and perused its hat patterns, I urge you to take a peek!  The Vintage Knitting Lady also has patterns galore!  You may also want to check out Hats, Bags and Accessories – Vintage Crochet and Knitting Patterns for 1940s Fashions (Hiawatha Book 16), by Heirloom Needlework Guild.  There are some doozy of knit and crochet patterns!  (I’ve linked it to Amazon.)

I hope hats continue making their comeback.  I especially look forward to the day when I can buy a nice hat with a veil; I always wanted one that I could tie under my chin.  (Didn’t Bette Davis do that in Now Voyager?)  Of course, I will risk Thor asking me if I’m going to a funeral.


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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12 Responses to Hats Off: Cloches & Perts

  1. kiwiyarns says:

    I was impressed too – until I found out that I misunderstood and that they got given the hats! Apparently, they were part of the history focus for the day. Aptly related to your post though, huh!?


  2. He made his own?! Impressive! I hope he had fun – did he hand felt it?


  3. Thank you for reading … And have fun with the links! 🙂


  4. Northern Narratives says:

    I love this post and thank you for the many links. I am going to check out all of them 🙂 Judy


  5. kiwiyarns says:

    Wow, what a lovely series about hats! Thank you for sharing all this knowledge. As I grow older, I’m appreciating hats more and more. They keep the head warm, the hair in place and the sun out of my eyes! I liked them when I was young too, but somehow never felt comfortable wearing them. As I type this, my son is wearing a saucy fedora he made in his holiday programme today – and he loves it!


  6. We’ve lost that sense of value for sure, we live in a very disposable culture. And clothes were passed on, I remember one dress I wore and seeing that ten years later on a child! Parents get very sniffy about passed on clothes now, although carboot and online auctions still attract the sensible. Silly modern world. 🙂


  7. I wonder if the sloppiness is related to being able to buy clothes so CHEAP: cheaply made, cheap fabrics, and cheap price. I mean, who cares if the color washes out of the shirt by the third wash; you can pick up another one cheap. I think back to my childhood: My sister and I shared one small closet and one six-drawer dresser (three drawers each). We had church clothes, school clothes, and play clothes. And if we ruined something, we mended it and wore it until we outgrew it. Perhaps everybody should be forced to make an outfit (sew, knit, etc.) to gain some appreciation? 🙂


  8. I didn’t know the name of the perk/pert hats although I recognise them. The Vogue pattern image reminds me more of the New Look by Dior in the 40s/50s, Evita, that era than the 30s. I find it fascinating and amazing that women were making their own hats. The need for a hat! It echoes what you were saying about Jolie’s character, every woman had to have a hat and coat ensemble regardless of budget, it was essential. With gloves too, I’m sure. We’re such sloppy dressers these days! 🙂


  9. Ahhh, me too. I tried a lot of hats on the other day … a lot of the retro ones I thought looked quite nice on me – but alas, that day, with my flying all over the place, no make up and casual clothes, I couldn’t quite make it work. But I think with a smart outfit … 🙂


  10. Thanks for reading my blog. I am glad you’re enjoying reading about hats. There will be one or two posts more on the topic. 🙂


  11. Slowerpoke says:

    Loving your posts on the history of hats!


  12. Tina says:

    I love the hats of the 1920’s … The are classic!


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