Archives for posts with tag: feathers

Picture 29107

La Gazette du Bon Ton, cover by George Lepape, cape by J. Lanvin, 1923

No_61_Mark_Rothko

Mark Rothko

Blue goes well with more blue….different shades together are intense, sensual and powerful.

Horst P. Horst Vogue USA,fashion ed Babe Paley,1946

Horst P. Horst, Babe Paley, 1946

Horst P. Horst is here using tones of blue to give depth and a sense of intrigue to his portrait of one of the most powerful women in New York just after the second World War, Babe Paley, Vogue USA’s feared fashion editor.

But blue works well with a number of colours (see my previous post on blue and red), in some cases muted shades such as green, give a light spring/summer feel to an outfit

Derwent Lees,girl in black hat,1912,NGVictoria

Derwent Lees, Girl in black hat, 1912, National Gallery of Victoria , Australia

Electric blue and grey are dynamic and work well for this child’s dress from 1918, but this colour combination would not be out-of-place on today’s catwalk

Bernard Meninsky,child in blue,1918,pc

Bernard Meninsky, Child in blue, 1918, pc

Blue and any acid colour has a stunningly fresh effect, catching our attention every time

Blue and orange:

beckmann-autoritratto-in-giacca-blu-1950,St Louis Art mus

Beckmann, self-portrait in blue jacket, 1950, St Louis Art museum, USA

Or blue and yellow:

Ethel Spowers, skaters, 1931 Bonhams

Ethel Spowers, skaters, 1931 (Bonham’s, London, UK)

mark rothko

Mark Rothko

Mme Gres, sleevless dress, 1968 with overcoat, met ny

Mme Grès, maxi dress + coat, 1968, Paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art , NY, USA

Mme Gres, sleevless dress, 1968

the dress

Mme Gres, sleevless dress, 1968 back, met ny

the back of the dress

Yellow also works splendidly with a greener shade of blue:

feather tunic, 7th-10thC, feathers sewn on cotton fabric,MET NY

Feather tunic, Peru, 7th – 10th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, USA

man shirt,embroid damask

Man’s short sleeved cotton Bazin top with yellow embroidery, west Africa, 21st century

Jeffrey-Campbell-shoes-Lita-(Blue-Green)-010604

Jeffrey Campbell shoes, USA, 21st Century

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ventaglio,punched skin leaf,ivory,1590-1600, MFA Boston

Punched leather and ivory fan, 1590-1600c, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA

Can fashion make a noise? Can what we wear and the way we wear it make specific noises?

Probably the first type of sound we associate with fashion today is some form of music. The extra loud music of fashion shows or the background melodies of department stores. Nowadays music is also an essential part of fashion advertising, it forms the sensorial backdrop that sticks in potential customers’ minds.

What about the noise that fashion items (clothes, shoes, hats, fans, etc.) actually make when we wear them? Are these sounds distinctive and recognizable? Are they instinctively associated with  a particular item or even style throughout history?

Here is a selection of items which make or made, each in their specific fashion eras, a bit of a noise:

THE 1500s

During the pre-industrial  era sounds and sound perception would have been quite different from today (just like the perception of light and darkness would have been different in pre-electricity days). So when looking at these objects we should take into consideration that the noise pollution surrounding the wearer and the listener, would have been made up of other types of sounds from those we are familiar with today.

THE METAL CORSET

corsetto metallo, lombardia 1560-80,MPP mi

Metal corset, Italian, 1560-80c, Poldi Pezzoli museum, Milan, IT

This type of metal corset was quite common amongst upper class women from the middle of the 16th Century (examples survive in museums around Europe). As we can see by looking at the right hand vertical edge, there are two sets of hinges center back. The corset therefore was front opening (it has a small clasp at the front to keep it closed). We can imagine that if the hinges were not kept well oiled,  it would have made a screechy  jarring noise on opening and closing it. Not a pleasant sound.  But then not a very pleasant fashion item.

THE FAN

Tiziano, ragazza con ventaglio,1556,G Dresden

Titian, Girl with fan, 1556c, Gemaldegalerie, Dresden

Fans were very popular in the 1500s, as they still are today in many countries around the world. Back then, women (who were wearing  those rigid corsets and tightly laced bodices) would have suffered from the lack of air in a crowded room, an overly incensed church interior or simply the heat of the  summer months. Fans were functional as well as decorative. In a previous post I mentioned 16th century  feather fans, but before and alongside these, many women used paper fans such as the one used by the young woman in Titian’s painting . We can imagine the swoosh swoosh noise as she flips it back and forth between her fingers.

 

CHOPINS (platform slippers)

These were a form of female footwear which (in one form or another) became fashionable in various countries in Europe during the 16th century. They were essentially a very sophisticated version of the wooden clog worn by peasants everywhere throughout the middle ages and beyond.

chopines, veneziane, XVI sec, castello sforzesco MI

Chopins, leather covered wood platform sole, punched leather uppers,16th Century, Civiche Raccolte Arte Applicata, Milan, IT

These chopins in the Castello  Sforzesco museum in Milan are of a moderate height (much higher ones were the norm in Venice at this time – examples can be seen at the Costume museum in Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice). Yet they are interesting for the shape of the base – it resembles an animal’s hoof (possibly an elephant’s). The wide base provided some stability to a very precarious piece of footwear. The upper is so short and the back of the heel so narrow, that one wonders just how the lady could walk in them. Throughout the wooden clog-wearing centuries, people must have been used to a certain degree of noise emanating from them. They were generally worn out of doors on packed earth roads or in some areas even  paved streets from Roman times. A common sound associated with the lower classes. If I have to imagine the sound that these chopins created, I think of a muffled thud thud noise. An aristocratic sound of covered wood gently thumping down on terracotta or tiled floors, as the lady – swiftly lifting the hem of her dress so as not to trip – walked through the halls of her palazzo.

Francesco Merletti, First Lady, 2008, tecnica mista, 22 x 23,5 x 28,3 cm, collezione privata

Francesco Merletti, First lady, 2008, mix media, p.c.

For my last post on feathers I have decided to put together a selection of extraordinary feathered items I have come across. One thing is certain it takes character to wear feathers, just as it does to carry off real fur (yes! fur posts coming soon).

scarf and muff of sea-gull feathers, 1880-99,MET NY

Sea gull muff and scarf, 1880-99c, Metropolitan museum of Art, New York, USA

And it takes a real woman to carry off a whole bird – eyes, beak and all. This skillfully made “set” of sea gulls from the US seems totally audacious today, but probably less so back in the 1890s when there was a genuine vogue for stuffing and wearing just about any form of living species.

Emanuel Harry of London, gold earings with bird heads, 1865c, V&A

 Emanuel Harry, London, gold and bird head earings, 1865c, Victoria and Albert museum, London, UK

In 20th Century fashion, the trend re-emerges during the 1940s in the form of exquisite little hats:

LIFE cover 1942

cover of LIFE magazine, 1942

Hattie Carnegie, feather hat, 1940, MetNY

Hattie Carnegie, birds hat, 1940, Metropolitan museum of Art, New York, USA

Caroline Reboux, feather hat suede base, 1946, V&A

Caroline Reboux,Paris, bird hat, 1946,Victoria and Albert museum, London, UK

And finally lets not forget shoes! In this example (image below) Roger Vivier not only covers the exterior in feathers but also echoes the fluid shape of an exotic bird in the silhouette of the shoe – a masterpiece

Roger vivier for Dior, feather covered shoe,  1960c,Met NY

Roger Vivier for Dior, feather covered shoe, 1960, Metropolitan museum of Art, New York, USA

att John Bettes,Queen E I,1580-86,NPG

Att. John Bettes, Queen Elisabeth I, 1580-6c, National Portrait Gallery, London, Uk

The fashion for feather fans spread across Europe by the last quarter of the 16th Century. Queen Elisabeth I, in England, had a great number and it is very likely that they came, via fairs and merchants, from Italy – Venice, Milan and Genoa had specialised in this kind of luxury item made up of part local craftsmanship and part imported exotic materials.

By the following century feathers were not only added to accessories but had also become part of  textile iconography

brocaded silk for clothing, peacock feather patern, 1600-1620c, V&A

peacock-feather patterned silk brocade, italian, 1600-20c, Victoria and Albert museum, London, UK

Feathers continue to appear in textile patterns up to present day.

The silk below is typical of the rococo period – small delicate flowers and soft feathers rather than the stiffer, more regimented baroque ones above

Rococo french silk, VEA

French dress silk, 1750c, Victoria and Albert museum, London, UK

In the 19th century feathers continue to be added to accessories such as bonnets and fans (still much in use, especially for the evening)

feather and stuffed bird fan with ivory handle, 1880s, V&A

Fan, feathers, stuffed birds and ivory handle, 1880c, Victoria and Albert museum, London, UK

but also gradually found their way – stitched, apliquéd, woven – onto and into fashionable clothing.

A hierarchy of plumage emerges: from the rare, exotic and therefore expensive feathers from South America or Far East, right down to the more mundane european varieties. The main difference was in the colours available. However with the introduction of chemical dyes in 1853 this problem was quickly resolved.

latvian feather short coat made of feathers, poss swan down, 1860c, met NY

Short outdoor lady’s coat, swan’s down, 1860s, Metropolitan museum, New York, USA

This extraordinary coat (because its made of worked feathers!!) is a perfect example of the levels reached by the new world of Haute Couture from the 1850s onwards. Designers and their Maisons would attempt to outdo each other by inventing the most intricate and exquisite details.

Emile Pingat Paris, mantle in wool, velvet, silk and osttrich feather trim, 1891c,LACMA USA

Emile Pingat, evening cape, 1891, L.A.C.M.A., Los Angeles, USA

Maison Emile Pingat is a wonderful example of the highest level Parisian fin de siecle haute Couture.  Several materials (silk, velvet, wool, metal thread, beads, feathers, lace and so on) were combined into unique pieces by the most creative and skilled craftsmen/women.

ma-1368550-WEB

detail

Emile Pingat Paris,evening mantle, wool silk metal and feathers, 1891c, Met NY

Emile Pingat, Paris, evening mantle, mixed materials including feathers, 1891c, Metropolitan museum, New York, USA

For centuries, probably millennia (but I don’t have the material evidence for you) mankind has been fascinated by bird plumage and has used it as body adornment.  Feathers become imbued with specific meanings, for many ethnic groups they become a fundamental part of the costumes/objects they use to communicate with spirits and gods. They become part of the rituals of life and death.

The use of bird feathers is very much connected to their availability/rarity, as well as their appearance. For example in Europe in the middle ages brightly coloured birds were virtually unknown. The stunning, colourful feathers of Amazonian and Pan-American birds only became known after the “discovery” of the Americas in 1492. These birds (in the Caribbean and Latin American countries) must have charmed the fresh-off-the-ship Europeans with their appearance and song. Soon they became covetable and tradable – dead or alive.  We begin to see feathers in European portraiture, in one form or another, by the early decades of the 1500s. Either they appear as decoration on the attire of savages (thus confirming the use of feathers and the use of specific costume by different ethnic groups in these distant lands. Today we would take this as evidence of developed and communicative local cultures – back then they were just savages dressed in bird feathers and little else).

Vasco Fernandes,Adoration of the Magi,1501-6,Grao Vasco mus, Viseu,Portugal

Vasco Fernandes, Adoration of the Magi, 1501-6c, Grao Vasco museum, Viseu, Portugal

In this Portuguese religious painting of the three kings paying homage to the baby Jesus, we see Balthazar, the traditionally “ethnic” king, represented as an Amazonian chief from deepest Brazil. His facial features and skin tone are a clear indication of his ethnic origin as is the feather crown he wears on his head. He has however been “covered up” for modesty’s sake with a pair of silk breeches in the European tradition.

Occasionally we find portraits of European sitters in ethnic costume which includes feathers

Adrien Hanneman possibly Mary Princess of Orange, 1655c, Franz Hals museum Nethrlands

Adrien Hanneman, possibly Mary Princess of Orange, 1655c, Franz Hals museum, Netherlands

By the 17th century such portraits had become a fashion. In the portrait above Princess Mary is extremely fashionable in a white three-quarter sleeve shiny silk dress. The close-fitting pearl necklace and the pearl drop earings perfectly contemporary. But  she is also wearing an exotic turban vaguely reminiscent of those worn by  Persian pashas or  Indian maharajhas (incidentally both masculine). The turban is topped by large ostrich feathers which have been dyed red. Her body is draped in a cloak made of red/orange, white and black feathers. These are sewn onto a base fabric and the garment is lined in brocaded european silk. The feather-work looks original i.e. made in the Americas to local ethnic tradition. The jewelled  pin used to secure the cloak to the left shoulder is also European. The overall effect is startling and the intention was undoubtedly symbolic. By wearing such incongruous items of ethnic apparel the Princess is alluding to far off places and people. A statement of power made through items of dress associated with power in other cultures  (the chief’s cloak, the high-ranking or aristocrat’s headdress). By mid 1600s european countries such as England and Holland were asserting their power overseas in the name of trade (the East India companies already well established) and soon, imperialism.