11 September 2012

A Fashion for Feathers

Ostrich feathers for winter evening wear, 1794.

The fashion of wearing feathers as adornment was brought to England from France in about the 1780s. The plumes were 'ornaments of luxury', the most valued of which was that of the ostrich, due to its soft feel and the open filaments, which could be white, black, brown or grey, and the white feathers themselves could be 'tinged'. Due to the expense of ostrich feathers a particular breed of turkey feather could be used as a substitute. Other feathers came from the birds of paradise, black feathers from the heads of herons, peacock, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, yellow feathers from toucans and jays as well. Birds could also be skinned with the feathers attached to make muffs and tippets and swan feathers were used to make powder-puffs for applying face powder.

A more understated use of feathers.
La Miroir de la Mode, 1803.

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