France has been renowned for fashion over the years. Hats were considered more than just an afterthought in France. Paris millinery salons, where women would have felt cut and sculpted to their head, were a French luxury. Caroline Reboux was the most important French milliner according to Torb&Reiner.com. She created several fashionable French haute-couture looks.
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Cloche hats are bell shaped. In fact, the word "cloche" means bell in French. Designed to fit close to the head, these hats are often made of a soft fabric that allows them to conform to the wearer's head.
These hats cover the entire head and can be long and narrow with no brim, a small brim or even a floppy brim that conceals some of the face. The cloche was traditionally embellished with ribbons, feathers or bows.
A beret is a soft, round cap traditionally made of knitted wool with a flat crown. These casual hats are worn by men and women. They can be stiff and formal like a military hat or soft and floppy, hanging down off the side or back of the head. This hat is usually associated with artists, French intellectuals and country shepherds alike.
Berets have several modifications. A typical French beret has a leatherette band that fits the wearer's head. These black-, red- or creme-coloured hats were worn swept to the side. Now they are available in nearly any colour and a variety of patterns. They are also made with embellishments like fabric flowers or cording.
A toque is a hat with a narrow brim or no brim at all. Different versions of the toque have been worn over France's history. The toque blanche is a tall, round, starched-white hat worn by chefs. Traditionally, they feature exactly 100 pleats according to Newsfinder.com. This is symbolic of the many ways a chef can cook an egg.
Toque-style French hats also played a role in the Napoleonic era as explained in depth on Heraldica.org. In short, the feathers on the toques hats the nobles wore reflected the rank of the wearer. The number and style of feathers showed whether the person was a duke, count, baron or knight.
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