Peacocks and their feathers have been working their magic on fashion for centuries. Different cultures have attributed special meanings to this bird; often connected to immortality. Peacocks are able to eat poisonous plants and survive hence they, or their feathers, are often used to symbolize resurrection. The fact that they shed their impressive long feathers each year only to grow back fresh, bright and beautiful ones, makes them the perfect symbol for renewal.
In western culture peacocks are also associated with men who consider themselves particularly well dressed or good-looking and who like to show off. “Pavoneggiarsi” (to display oneself in front of others in italian. Comes from the word “pavone” which means peacock). It is of course only the male peacock who has the spectacularly feathered tail and who displays it when he thinks it necessary…
Rex Silver for Liberty, Peacock feather textile design, 1900c
Peacock fashion frenzy seems to begin at the time of the Pre-Raphaelite and the Arts and Crafts movement in England in the second half of the nineteenth Century.
William Morris in his textile designs and his wife Jane Morris in her embroideries and tapestries often use the peacock motif. By 1900 it becomes THE textile design (see above) that best represents the Liberty culture of those years. And it is still synonymous of the company today.
Liberty case, 2013
Peacocks – as symbol and as motif – becomes hugely popular in the first decades of the 20th Century. They appear in and on fashionable clothing too
Maison Weeks, silk evening dress, 1910c, Metropolitan museum of art, New York, USA
R. Lalique, pendant jewel with peacocks, 1901, Metropolitan museum of art, New York, USA
In more recent times peacocks are still going strong – there seems to be a fashion subcultural trend there somewhere
Alexander McQueen, peacock dress, A/W 2008-09
and lastly one of the most expensive wedding gowns ever made – just to confirm the POWER OF THE PEACOCK lives on!
Vera Wang, peacock wedding dress, 2009 at bridal Fair in China