Feathers have the unique ability to signify angelic innocence or devilish glamour, and any number of traits therein. A new exhibition at Antwerp’s MoMu fashion museum, Birds of Paradise, will shed light on the power of plumage in fashion, couture, and film from the 20th century to present. In collaboration with Maison Lemarié of Paris, the exhibition explores the craft of the plumassier and the art of feather embroidery.
For the most part, feathers have been used to signal upper-class sophistication and luxury. Belle époque garments emphasized refinement through ostrich, pheasant and marabou feathers. Soon, flappers of the Roaring Twenties embraced feathers with mainstream gusto, fashioning them into boas and hats. Couturiers from Cristóbal Balenciaga to Christian Dior began working extensively with feathers, which also worked their way into films of the early and mid-1900s. It was on the big screen that Marlene Dietrich’s white swan-down coat gained notoriety. Nowadays feathers have taken on a more diverse role, denoting dark glamour (Alexander McQueen) and poetic esoterica (Ann Demeulemeester).
Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers in Fashion, March 20 – August 24, 2014, MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp, Nationalestraat 28, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium