University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
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Goldstein Museum of Design
College of Design

Flights of Fancy: A History of Feathers in Fashion

June 12-September 12, 2010, Opening June 11, 2010, 6-8pm,
Opening Program by Adam Barnett, interpretive naturalist from the Raptor Center, 6:30 pm.
Guest Lecture by Amy Scarborough Wednesday, September 8, 3:00 pm

Curated by Goldstein Museum of Design Assistant Curator Jean McElvain, Ph.D. and Research Assistant Angelina R. Jones; Organized in conjunction with The Raptor Center and the Bell Museum of Natural History.

Historical and contemporary use of feathers in western fashion, including the origins of feathers commonly used in clothing, the international feather trade, activisim and laws designed to protect endangered bird populations, and the psychological appeal of wearing feathers

Flights of Fancy is a colorful and thought-provoking exhibition that explores the historical and contemporary use of feathers in western fashion. Visitors will be invited to examine the function of feathers in nature, the historical feather trade and activism against it, and the psychological appeal of wearing feathers. Feathered apparel from the late 19th through the 20th centuries from the GMD collection will be on exhibit including garments designed by Bill Blass, Sonia Rykiel, Victor Costa, and Oscar de la Renta.

GMD is partnering with the Bell Museum of Natural History and The Raptor Center to provide an ornithological foundation for the feathered apparel. Study skins of birds from the Bell’s collection will be included as examples of birds whose feathers were commonly used in the fashion industry. Two Audubon prints from the Bell will also be on view, one depicting a heron and the other a pheasant. Historically both were hunted for their plumage, and pheasants are still used in fashion today. The Raptor Center will lend diagrams of feather structure to illustrate the unique qualities and functions of feathers. Adam Barnett of The Raptor Center will give a presentation on opening night and bring live birds to illustrate his lecture.

Visitors will gain an understanding of feather structure and the types of birds that have been hunted for feathers. Visitors will be invited to examine the history of feather use in dress and the environmental activism it sparked. They will also be presented with information on the social connotations associated with feathers in historical and contemporary dress.

Wednesday, September 8th, Amy Scarborough will present "Bird Protection and Millinery" Exploring the Role of Fashion Media in the Debate". During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century women's hats and hair accessories featured feathers, wings, heads, and whole birds. With the conservation movement,formation of the Audubon Society, and women's clubs, the use of birds in millinery became a concern. In this lecture, Ms. Scarborough will explorehow bird conservation, the Aububon Society, and millinery was discussed and presented in fashion and women's magazines.

Click here to download the press release.