Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The madness for feathers has reached a point of excess

Montezuma's headdress

From The New Yorker:
...After the [Spanish] conquest, Cortés sent crates of Aztec feather-work to the king of Spain, along with codices tallying the birds and the down collected. The most beautiful pieces made their way across Europe, enthralling Albrecht Dürer and the Holy Roman Emperor, among others. In France, a taste for feathered hats took hold under Louis XIV and quickly grew into a craze. Ostrich feathers were shipped in from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, and Madagascar, and dyed black, green, lilac, rose, sky blue, and yellow; heron feathers were brought from Germany and Turkey to adorn the Knights of the Holy Spirit. “The madness for feathers has reached a point of excess one never could have suspected,” the journalist Louis-François Métra wrote in the winter of 1775. “Hats that would have seemed ridiculously tall a few months ago no longer suffice.”

Prompted by Marie Antoinette, who doubled the height of her feathered hat for a ball thrown by the Duchess of Chartres, women were soon wearing hats as high as two and three feet. Arguments broke out at the opera, where viewers could no longer see the stage, and the finest ladies were forced to kneel in their carriages to clear the ceiling, or else stick their heads out the window. “When a woman thus coiffed dances at a ball, she is compelled to continually bend down as she passes beneath the chandeliers,” the Count of Vaublanc noted in his diary. “It is the most graceless thing imaginable.”

Paris had twenty-five master plumassiers at the end of the seventeen-hundreds. A century later, it had hundreds, making fabrics for Hermès, the Folies-Bergère, and the Moulin Rouge.

In London, the feather market went through nearly a third of a million egrets in 1910 alone. In New York, Hanson writes, a bird-watcher named Frank Chapman counted more than forty species of feathers on women’s hats on a single walk, and those were only from native birds. Some ladies had taken to wearing whole birds on their heads by then - an economical choice, given that feathers were more costly, by weight, than anything but diamonds. Among the treasures that went down with the Titanic were more than forty cases of feathers, worth upward of 2.3 million in today’s dollars.

I think today should be a "Say Something Hat" day!

Don't you?

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Mi struggo e mi tormento

The sad news today that dear Dame Kiri te Kanawa is to hang up her crinolines and retire from stage performing made me think - I am so pleased we got to see her live at Proms in the Park back in 2010...

Read my previous tribute to the great Dame on the occasion of her 70th birthday.

Friday, 1 September 2017

This weekend, I am mostly dressing casual...

...like "Lucrece", one of the many stars of Madam Arthur's French Fun House!

Read more about Madam Arthur's at the wonderful (and sadly now no longer being updated) Queer Music Heritage

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

This is the theatre

“Once an actress went overboard with notes to me about how she doesn’t wear pink. I told her, ‘Well, don’t wear it home then, sweetie. This is the theatre.’"

Award-winning designs for La Cage Aux Folles, The Great Gatsby, Addams Family Values and Dreamgirls by Theoni V. Aldredge (22nd August 1922 - 21st January 2011)

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Eternal Yootha

There was, and will ever be, only one Yootha Joyce, who would have been 90 years old today...

As I said five years ago on the occasion of her 85th anniversary: "We miss her".

We still do.

Yootha Joyce (20th August 1927 – 24th August 1980)