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From Neanderthal Fashion to Haute Couture: The History of Feathers in Fashion

Feathers in fashion have been making a comeback on catwalks this spring, and it’s no surprise. Whether it’s adding a fun flair to your work outfit or wearing a flirtatious feather extension, it’s clear that feathered looks are no longer just for costume wear. But do you know how this fabulous feather fashion trend began?

Feathers in Fashion throughout History

Fashion forward Neanderthals

Feathers in fashion started as early as our caveman days. Believe it or not, anthropologists have found evidence that feathers were plucked, scraped, and used by Neanderthals as accessories. In 2011 and 2012, archaeologists at several different dig sites discovered evidence of birds and Neanderthals living side by side.

At three different dig sites in Gibraltar, anthropologists found 604 bird bones clearly showing cuts that could have only been made by Neanderthal tools. Most telling is that more than half of the bones found were wing bones—which are not particularly meaty or edible. These findings echoed those found in Italy in 2011, where anthropologists found similar markings on bird bones that had no food or nutritional value.

Going native

As you may know, the tradition of accessorizing with feathers was also popular amongst Native tribes in the Great Plain region. The most well-known of these are the large and often colorful headdresses (also called war bonnets). They were actually worn by men instead of women and were reserved for tribal ceremonies or battle.

Native women, on the other hand, wore more understated roach bonnets made of animal hide and decorated with feathers. They also wore feathered headbands that were decorated with the feathers of eagles and other majestic birds of prey.

Welcome to the Masquerade

The glamor and mystery of feathered looks truly began to be explored in Italy during the 16th Century, particularly in Venice, which was teeming with Italian aristocracy. Although feathered masks were sometimes worn in everyday life, the rise of the masquerade ball brought feathers in fashion to the mainstream as a part of the celebrations during Carnevale.

Feathery flapper

Feathers once again made their debut in America during the 1920s, also known as the Age of the Flapper. Dresses and headbands made entirely of feathers were the height of fashion while Hollywood’s celebrity elite enhanced their stage and film performances with long, romantic feather boas.

Glamorous Feather Earrings from Shanoski Collection

Whether it's a nod to an iconic look of yesteryear or a new, glamorous take on a staple of art and fashion, the right feathered look is guaranteed to attract attention. Browse our collection of feather earrings to find the right look for you!

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