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2012 | 60 | 1 | 73-88

Article title

Kobiety i ptaki. Moda na ptasie pióra na ziemiach polskich w latach 1865-1914

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The years 1865-1914 witnessed women’s great fascination with feathers. Praised for their beauty, feathers were an expensive object of desire. They were used to produce various kinds of accessories and clothing ornaments. Along with lace and flowers, they adorned dresses according to season and occasion, changing the character of the gown. Devoid of those season adornments which were clearly represented in fashion magazines, the gowns which are now kept in museums may create a misleading image of the epoch’s taste. The fashion for feathers was so widespread that there were companies that specialised in manufacturing feather decorations, for example the firms of Ms Hałaczkiewicz and Ms Gliwic in Warsaw. Decorations were made of the feathers of various bird species, both domestic and exotic, with exotic feathers counting as luxurious. Among the most popular were feathers of farm birds, such as peacocks and ostriches, but ornaments were also produced from the feathers of birds-of paradise, lyrebirds, cassowaries and marabous, as well as from stuffed hummingbirds. Particularly fashionable were the feathers of the Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus), called ‘lofofor’ in fashion magazines. It was even suggested that the bird should be bred on farms. As to domestic birds, most popular were the feathers of turkeys and geese, but also of cocks, magpies, ravens, bustard, wood grouses, herons, eagles, partridges, pheasants, cuckoos, jays and swallows. Feathers were present in fashion designs stylised to resemble Polish national costumes (e.g. Czesław Jankowski’s design of a fur kalpak with an aigrette) or folk costumes (e.g. Czesław Jankowski’s and Herse Fashion House’s designs modelled on Zakopane mountaineers’ dress and Czesław Jankowski’s designs modelled on Bronowice peasants’ dress). What feathers were worn depended not only on the financial position but also on the marital state of a woman of fashion. Luxurious exotic feathers were only appropriate for married ladies. Unmarried women had to settle for more modest decorations made of domestic feathers. Young girls wore demure berets, hats and muffs covered with little feathers. It seems that the practice of killing birds, including wild species, to satisfy the dictates of fashion did not bother the elegant women of the time. The insignificant number of articles critical of the practice in women’s magazines proves that ladies did not bother about the fate of the birds. For an fashion follower a pair of kissing stuffed hummingbirds was just another decoration which did not induce sympathy. The vogue for feathers that had to be obtained through killing birds was almost gone by the end of WW I, due to improvements in the technology of colouring and forming easily accessible ostrich feathers, which became particularly fashionable as material for fans in the inter-war period. The article is based on materials from two Polish women’s magazines, Bluszcz and Tygodnik Mód i Powieści. It is illustrated with drawings published in those magazines and with photographs of items from the collection of the National Museum in Cracow.









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