Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The madness for feathers has reached a point of excess


Montezuma's headdress

From The New Yorker:
...After the [Spanish] conquest, Cortés sent crates of Aztec feather-work to the king of Spain, along with codices tallying the birds and the down collected. The most beautiful pieces made their way across Europe, enthralling Albrecht Dürer and the Holy Roman Emperor, among others. In France, a taste for feathered hats took hold under Louis XIV and quickly grew into a craze. Ostrich feathers were shipped in from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, and Madagascar, and dyed black, green, lilac, rose, sky blue, and yellow; heron feathers were brought from Germany and Turkey to adorn the Knights of the Holy Spirit. “The madness for feathers has reached a point of excess one never could have suspected,” the journalist Louis-François Métra wrote in the winter of 1775. “Hats that would have seemed ridiculously tall a few months ago no longer suffice.”

Prompted by Marie Antoinette, who doubled the height of her feathered hat for a ball thrown by the Duchess of Chartres, women were soon wearing hats as high as two and three feet. Arguments broke out at the opera, where viewers could no longer see the stage, and the finest ladies were forced to kneel in their carriages to clear the ceiling, or else stick their heads out the window. “When a woman thus coiffed dances at a ball, she is compelled to continually bend down as she passes beneath the chandeliers,” the Count of Vaublanc noted in his diary. “It is the most graceless thing imaginable.”

Paris had twenty-five master plumassiers at the end of the seventeen-hundreds. A century later, it had hundreds, making fabrics for Hermès, the Folies-Bergère, and the Moulin Rouge.

In London, the feather market went through nearly a third of a million egrets in 1910 alone. In New York, Hanson writes, a bird-watcher named Frank Chapman counted more than forty species of feathers on women’s hats on a single walk, and those were only from native birds. Some ladies had taken to wearing whole birds on their heads by then - an economical choice, given that feathers were more costly, by weight, than anything but diamonds. Among the treasures that went down with the Titanic were more than forty cases of feathers, worth upward of 2.3 million in today’s dollars.


I think today should be a "Say Something Hat" day!

Don't you?

2 comments:

  1. mistress maddie would look FABU in that peacock-colored gown!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She'd have it with a peephole, though. Jx

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