Birds in Fashion

Norma ShephardBe they embroidered, sequined, woven, or fashioned from their magnificent plumage itself, birds have long played an important and sometimes controversial role in centuries of fashion design and execution. One of my favourite show hats is this feather-trimmed fascinator by Maria Curcic, called Flaming Desire.  Here is another spectacular piece by this Paris trained designer:

Maria Curcic

From the Victorian days of plunder-taxidermy manuals instructed readers to ‘start with birds’ to 20th century protectionism, birds have found their way into fashion in one form or another; while Australian Huia beak brooches, hummingbird dinner dress adornments, and ostrich feather fans captivated the hearts of 19th century fashionistas, 20th century buyers, respectful of avian environmental concerns, were charmed by printed and woven textiles representing all species of man’s feathered favourites.

So widespread was the slaughter of exotic birds for fashion that feathers were actually classified as textiles. This is a sub-collection category that intrigues me greatly.

Published by Norma Shephard

I'm the founder and director of the Mobile Millinery Museum & author of five books on vintage fashion.

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