Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fighting the 19th Century Feather Fad

Photo © Smithsonian Institution

At the turn of the last century, stylish women wore hats with the latest feather-topped design from Paris, New York, and other centers of fashion. Millinery houses in Europe and America traded internationally and indiscriminately for birds and bird feathers. The more exotic or unique the hat design and feather display, the larger the sales.

By the 1890s, women were wearing whole bodies of birds on hats and clothing. In 1886, noted ornithologist Frank Chapman counted 40 varieties of native birds, or bird parts, decorating three-fourths of the 700 ladies' hats that he had observed in New York City. The Smithsonian has an online exhibit of this turn of the century fad that turned ladies into activists.

Frank Chapman's 1886 Feathered Hat Census can be found here.

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