Belle Curves: Improving A Modern Cloche Hat

We all have them lurking in our closets, those cloche hats we’ve been collecting for years. You may have one, you may have three, or if you’re like me, you may have dozens. You may have so many you keep finding them in crevices, popping out of boxes, and tumbling off of neglected upper shelves.

This Nordstrom cloche hat is one I would almost certainly buy…but it would almost certainly land in my Reject Cloche pile.

The problem is that we never wear these modern cloche hats, for many reasons. Maybe they’re too big for our heads, have too-large or too-small brims, come down too far in back, too far in front, etc.

This is not the cloche hat you are looking for. (but in case it is, it’s from White House | Black Market)

Sound familiar? Wish you could alter your hats to make them wearable? Me too! So here’s the tale of one hat, and ideas for many, many more.

Among my Reject Cloche Hats, I had this weird white woven cotton thing. The bell shape it certainly had, but no style. (Of course I didn’t get a picture of it). I realized I never wore this hat even once, despite holding onto it for at least a decade.

It looked kindof like this….this is an unblocked hood from Hats by Leko

After taking the wonderful cloche hat blocking class at Costume College, I decided to try altering some of my reject hats. I cut the brim down, especially in back, bound the edge with blue bias tape, turned the front of the brim back on itself, and set to decorating.

The nice thing about cloche hats is that anything goes. Asymmetry? perfectly OK, even encouraged. Brimless? OK. Big brim? OK. Feathers, tassels, ribbons, lace, abstract shapes made out of chenille? Yes, please.

I chose some random ribbon design and stitched strawberry appliques to the side. All of these things came from my stash, which always brings me joy, but the most satisfaction has come with taking something unused and creating something lovely from it.

I plan to wear my new Strawberry Cloche this Sunday at the Lake Tahoe Gatsby Festival. And when I get back, I shall devour another Reject Cloche and turn it into another pretty thing. 🙂

How many Reject Cloches do you have in *your* closet? If it’s too many to count, here are some ideas for how to rework them:

Sears, 1922
Sears 1924
Sears, 1925
Sears, 1926
Sears, 1930

See scads more ideas on my Pinterest board, “Hatmaking” – Click Here!


  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    August 8, 2014 at 9:46 PM

    Looking at all those fabulous hats, not to mention your strawberries and cream concoction, makes me wish hats were still a Thing like they were 90 years ago. I mean we can still wear them of course, but they are a great currency and the wrold is worse of for having relegated them to the races, weddings and People who Choose to Wear Hats and/or Dress up in Past Fashions. Who are the best kind of people!

    • Lauren Stowell

      August 9, 2014 at 7:38 PM

      I wish they were too! Although…maybe they are? Nothing like it used to be, of course, but I catch myself wearing a hat or head covering of some sort at least 3 times a week in the summer, and much more than that in the winter. Or…maybe I'm just one of those "People Who Choose to Wear Hats"?

    • Black Tulip

      August 10, 2014 at 12:21 AM

      One of the few (and I mean very, VERY few) advantages of getting migraines is that on hot sunny days I have the perfect excuse to wear a hat. I even walk out of the office for my lunchtime constitutional wearing a hat.

      Come to think of it, cold windy days are a good excuse as well! 🙂

  • Miss Jackson

    August 9, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    I have two cloches, a black one and a burgundy one, both wool. I have very long hair and finding a style to work with cloches can be difficult. My favourite way to go is putting my hair up in a low side bun, then I flip up the back brim of the hat and wear it at an angle with my bun on the higher side.

    • Lauren Stowell

      August 9, 2014 at 7:40 PM

      Part of the difficulty might be in the length of the brim in back – it's the same problem I have, and I have super short hair. You mentioned you flip the brim up – they did in the 1920s, too, or it was completely brimless in back, to allow for the chignon, which of course many women kept well into the '20s. The hats just curved over the top of them. 🙂 Cut those brims!

  • Lauriana

    August 9, 2014 at 5:36 PM

    I love your hats!
    I only have one reject cloche but there are some other hats there as well… maybe eight or ten. Like Miss Jackson, I always have to find ways to make hats work with my long hair. And with my fringe…

    I've signed up for a hat-making class which will include blocking felt hats. It will start in September and I'm really looking forward to it.

    • Lauren Stowell

      August 9, 2014 at 7:41 PM

      You'll greatly enjoy the hatmaking class. I was surprised how easy it was to block the cloche hats, whether straw or felt, and it opens up a world of possibilities for re-blocking hats. Enjoy it!

  • Caroline

    August 9, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    That is darling! So cute! I love the strawberries!

    Oh god, I have so many of these things! I have this awful habit of buying them (especially at target…), thinking they will be perfect for something, and then they totally just pile up on the top shelf. I still have yet to wear one.

    Oh! Oh! Just kidding. I actually did remake one last month!! I remade a straw one into a little regency bonnet. Must post one day soon.

  • Gina

    August 10, 2014 at 5:22 AM

    SQUEEEEE!!!! I love what you have done with this hat! Cloches are so very fun and I love the addition of the strawberries!! I can't wait to see this worn!!

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