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Shake your feathers sister!


Shake your feathers sister!




When Miuccia Prada decided on a strong avian theme for her Spring/Summer show, she was reflecting a new mood in fashion which is about freedom and free expression. Parrots, peacocks and swans were displayed across hats and chiffon gowns, skirts with peacock feathers, shimmering blues and greens and digitalised feather prints.  The creations made the catwalk look like a fairytale garden of elegant swans like figures, precious peacocks and flamboyant parrots.  This trend will come as no surprise to milliners who have been using bird feathers in their work for centuries and as Treacy once said, “Birds are exquisite perfection. 




Prada ss/05


Their feathers are weightless, they give movement and volume-women love them and they are very sexy.”

Birds are what it is all about this summer and have provided a rich source of ideas for designers, who have used them in creative and interesting ways. From familiar ostrich to magnificent peacock, plumes have inspired prints at Emma Cook and Matthew Williams.  Ralph Rucci presented an exquisite ostrich and peacock cape in his couture collection alongside John Paul Gaultier, who used pheasant feathers to fancy up his recent collection.




emma cook ss/05



Using early Zandra Rhodes, Roberto Cavalli created printed feathers on chiffon and applied the real thing on top to make a creation that floated in contrasting layers and textures.

However, just like the trend of real furs and leather, the feather can cause some controversy.  Prada’s use of peacock feathers, the official bird of India since 1963 and very precious to many cultures, could cause the superstitious to get their feathers in a fluster.



Roberto Cavalli ss/05


This is because it is said in many Mediterranean countries that the distinctive pattern at the top of the male peacock’s tail feathers represent the Evil Eye; and is thought to bring bad luck. As well as the superstitious, there is also the taste factor which may effect a person’s choice of wearing (or not) wearing it.  Some people find the peacock too precious and exotic to wear and because it is natural, some may find it disturbing and prefer to fake it.


Antony Price, couturier to some of the most glam women in the world, has kept birds like the Yokohama fowl with tail feathers 5m long and uses them in clothes and on hats. However, although they are fabulous to look at, he says many women see them as unhygienic, spiky and well, a bit camp! Others, such as Matthew Williamson, are attracted by its exotic nature as it signifies a combination of his bohemian signature with an element of the ethnic vibe.


Despite there being a slight apprehension approach to wearing feathers, the Spring/Summer 2005 collections have been displaying a wide variety of feathers like Roberto Cavalli, Yves Saint Laurent and of course Prada.


As Price says, “It feels like you are wearing living, breathing material which has a feeling of history and exoticism to it.  You are drawing with them rather than just decorating a piece of couture.” Marni have also created a collection of shoes and bags with our feathered friends emblazoned on them. Anya Hindmarch has also grabbed a piece of action by making her exclusive gold leather, flat sandals with rich green and blue peacock feather motifs on the front (£255).



Matthew Williamson ss/05


Influences are drawn from Hollywood’s golden years such as, Marlene Dietrich in Travis Banton’s frothing jacket in Shanghai Express (1932) and Norma Shearer wearing a hat by the designer Adrian in The Women (1939).

The history of plumage in dress started in 1898, when Britain imported 25 million wild birds for use in fashion and millinery.


Feathers were used on hats which represented wealth and status, as well as a higher rank in the style ratings as they were quite rare and expensive then.  Now, however, there are rules which govern the type of feathers which are ok to use.  Those permitted, such as cock and goose, are usually by-products or from farmed birds. The regulated feathers include heron, pheasant, guinea fowl and of course the peacock.


The feather it appears, is back in Vogue but for how long we ask? Well, as Williams states, “I think they add richness and volume without the extra weight-utterly fabulous!” Or will it merely end up as yet another passing fashion fad? Those of you who are fabulous enough (and rich enough) to wear it, go ahead and embrace the pathway back to nature. But only time will tell if this fashion trend will up and leave its nest.


Kyrsty Hazell


all picture by Vogue.com

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