Women in the Jazz Age did not leave the house without a hat or some type of head covering. Fortunately for them, there was no reason to do so with the wide range of hats and headbands that were available to them. Although the snug fitting cloche hat was the most common, it certainly wasn’t the only women’s 1920s hat style.
1920s Garden Hats Styles
1920s hat styles of the early years were still somewhat influenced by the enormous hats of the previous decades. The large hats from the turn of the century were often accessorized with an abundance of bird feathers, but the Audubon Society managed to get that trend banned and once that happened big hats started to fall out of favor.
As the 1920s began, wide brimmed garden sun hats with round crowns were the thing to wear outside. You would still see some hats that we might consider big today. Broad straw garden hats trimmed with a wide sash of silk and perhaps a large artificial flower on the crown looked fabulous on a sunny day. Keep in mind that these hats were worn for an afternoon on the town, not for an afternoon pulling weeds. At home, women didn’t need to wear hats inside the house.
1920s Musketeer Hat
In 1921, the release of “The Three Musketeers” sparked a brief trend for ladies wearing the three-corner musketeer hat, also called Cavalier hats. In the summer, they were made of straw and in the winter they were crafted from rich velvet. The bi-corn hat was perhaps even more popular with the front brim folded up creating points on either side. Bi-corns often had a bow to one side or dangling ribbon, feather, tassel or jewel.
1920s Tam O’Shanter Hat
The Tam O’Shanter hat was another floppy hat along the lines of the beret and turban. It has Scottish roots as a hat worn by both sexes, but as a fashion item it was just for the females. the Tam was especially popular with teens and young women. It was made popular by the film star, Clara Bow, in the mid ’20s. Easily knit or sewn from wool or felt, it was a cheap hat to own. Teens could make enough Tams to go with every outfit and every season. They were certainly a young flapper’s favorite hat.
1920s Sporty Beret
The Beret had been popular for a number of years already. It was another hat loved by young girls and trendy teens. Floppy felt or fabric was held low on the head with either a traditional thin leather band or wide knit band in winter.
1920s Toque Hats
Toque hats, often fashioned out of stiff panels, were worn on top of the head rather than down around the forehead like most other ’20s hats. They were the hat choice of mature ladies and those who preferred not to look like a flapper. The flapper also adopted the Toque, moving it down their foreheads and embellishing it with beads, sequins, metallic embroidery, and precious stones. In heavy winter, Toques were wrapped and lined in fur.
Turbans were a good alternative to cloche and toque hats. They were pretty much what you would think a turban would be. Turbans were basically pieces of cloth wrapped horizontally around the head. However, done properly and accessorized with just the right feathers or jewels, the turban could be a very glamorous look. It was one of the only hat styles worn with formal evening attire.
1920s Cloche Hats
“Bobbed hats for women with bobbed hair”
Of course, the iconic hat of the Jazz Age was the cloche, which is French for “bell.” Understand that not everyone can pull off this look. You needed to have a small head and a short “bobbed” haircut. These close-fitting hats were worn low over the eyebrows making visibility difficult. Women walked with their chins up and eyes cast down creating an air of conceitedness or feminine independence.
The brims of the hats were so slight that the New York Times called them “an apology for a brim.” Starting in 1924, when cloches were readily established as the hat style, brims were a mere 2 inches at most. Some curled up, some angled out like a mini visor, and still others pointed down. By the end of the decade, brims were non existent. The bell-like fit was now a true helmet.
To keep the tight appearance of the cloche, decorations were usually kept to a minimum with ribbon trim and embroidery daintily applied to the right side. Fans of bows, small clusters of feathers, a single large feather, or jeweled hat pin were common decorations. In many later cloche styles, the side brims came down over one or both ears, which allowed more room for larger decorations. They often featured intricate embroidery, art deco geometric shapes, jewels, or ribbon. Those ribbons sometimes carried coded messages for those in the know. Ribbons tied like an arrow signified that the woman had given her love to another, a firm knot meant that the woman was married, and a bow meant that a woman had some openings on her dance card!
Cloche hats were worn throughout the year, so they could be made from straw or cloth, depending on the season. Straw hats came in various light weight waves or braids in the summer months. If a straw hat lasted through one season, it was trendy to paint them in next seasons colors. Agatha Christie described in her autobiography how she painted hats and added new trims to refresh the look each year. Even fabric hats could easily be redecorated with new trim and a reshaping of the brim.
Hats for All Heads
“A face that is very round and full at the lower half must wear a hat that gives prominence to the upper part; but a woman with a large forehead and thin face should wear narrow hats that come rather over the forehead. A round face looks well in a wide brim; if short, a high crown is best; but a tall girl should select a low crown. A girl with fluffy hair can wear a hat that turns away from the head, but hair dressed close to the head should have the hat fitting well over it at the sides. The hat must always look as if it was a part of the wearer, not as if it had dropped on that head by mistake. A little study will soon teach any woman what is best suited to herself; and the opinion of others is not to be despised.” –
The Complete Dressmaker: With Simple Directions for Home Millinery, 1917
The Jazz Age was a time for breaking rules but one rule stood: don’t leave the house without a hat. With all of the fabulous choices, that was one rule that was easy to follow.
Here are some more hats from my catalog collection (click to view bigger):
Buying 1920s Hats
Since the trend in the 1920s was to redecorate a hat every season, a woman only needed to buy one or two solid color 1920s style hats. You too can start with a simple cloche hat and add your own embellishments. Use the catalog images above as your inspiration or choose one of these simple ribbon techniques.
Start with a straw or felt 1920s style hat like one of these: