Monday, June 23, 2008

The Coming Revolution

Pre-Bastille Day, while Marie Antoinette still played at shepherdess at Versailles, Vigee le Brun recorded the times at hand in her portraiture. Hair had come down a bit, and hats became very important. Wigs were on their way out, so the huge head, coiffed to accomodate gardens, ships, birdcages, fell into softer curls. Hats took over the weight bearing requirements, with feathers, flowers, fruits, fabric in mountains atop a straw or a felt picture hat. (Guess where the name"picture hat" comes from).
Shades of Victorian millinery. The birds of the world may have been still safe from extinction in pre-Revolutionary France. Silk flowers came into vogue, first created in this time period for their lasting beauty . Ostrich seems to be the feather of choice on hats seen in these portraits. Cavaliers had been using up the ostrich feather supply for generations. I can just see the groundskeepers running after all those ostriches, gathering plumes for their masters'/mistresses' hats. Odd, we see peacocks in landscapes, but I don't remember seeing the odd ostrich sticking their necks up over the teatable. Where did all those feathers come from?
Ostrich feathers have had their glory day most days of most eras. The Victorians used them on hats; the Edwardians used them on hats, and as trim on garments.......bump through two World Wars to Hollywood, and ostrich still abounds. On Broadway Ziegfeld used ostrich feathers galore on his Follies Girls; in the Post WWII popular culture deluge, Gypsy Rose Lee brought them to the forefront, literally, on her feathered fans.
Ostrich feathers can be had without harm to the bird, and so have always been popular as their own regenerating product. No harm to the environment, no worries about being politically incorrect. Curled, dyed, stripped....done up on hats, sewn onto jackets, fashioned into fans, ostrich feathers give a girl a certain softness. A feminine seductiveness, with a mere swoosh of a feather.
How easy is life, no?

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