Hats and Hair
Close-fitting cloche hats are emblematic of 1920s fashion. They complemented the bob, a symbol of the flapper's declaration of freedom from tradition.
Invented in 1908 by a French milliner and named after the French word for bell, cloche hats were typically made of felt and worn low over the forehead, requiring the wearer to hold her head up in order to see well. Their form was simple but allowed for embellishments like beads, applique, or brooches; the same hat could even be redecorated for different occasions.
Like other elements of 1920s style, the bob actually originated in the 1910s, when celebrity ballroom dancer Irene Castle cut her hair short for convenience. She may have been copying the look taken on by European women during World War I, when workers in munitions factories had to tie back or cut their hair short for safety.
At first, women had to go to men's barbershops to get their hair bobbed, since hairdressers refused. Once they decided the trend would last and relented, they discovered it was good for business: the number of hairdressing shops in the country quadrupled between 1920 and 1925.
There were several different kinds of bobs, such as the finger-wave, the Marcel (using the newly invented curling iron to make waves), the shingle bob, and the Eton crop – the shortest style, designed especially to be worn under stylish hats. Bobby pins - invented during this era and named for the bob - held the hair in place.
"Bobbed hair is a state of mind … It typifies growth, alertness, up-to-dateness, and is part of the expression of the élan vital! … I consider getting rid of our long hair one of the many little shackles that women have cast aside in their passage to freedom. Whatever helps their emancipation, however small it may seem, is well worth while."
Mary Garden, "Why I Bobbed My Hair," Pictorial Review, 1927