Feathers have been a focal point in fashion for centuries– and for good reason. From accessories to feather trim on jackets and blouses, this made-to-move trend has graced countless runways from top designers in the fashion industry.
When it comes to the use of feathers as a fashion statement, we didn’t invent the wheel– we reimagined it. At Brackish, our very first core value is to respectfully repurpose the beauty of nature, and we continue to uphold that tradition by handcrafting wearable art from sustainably sourced feathers. As our innovation continues and we strive to create new and unique pieces, we are taking a look back at the history of feathers in fashion.
The first known instance of feathers being incorporated into apparel dates back centuries, when they were often used as sartorial decoration. It was commonly thought that the act of adorning the body with elements of nature, like feathers, was a way of honoring the land in which the people lived.
Feathers continued to be worn in admiration for centuries, and they became a symbol of pristine elegance among early fashion trends. Over time, feather-adorned garments infiltrated a variety of styles including hats, jackets, dresses, headpieces and of course, the iconic feather boa. The mesmerizing movement of the feathers continued to reign supreme in the fashion world for decades to come.
As the landscape of the fashion industry has evolved, an emphasis on sustainability has moved to the forefront. This has created opportunities for more intentional and approachable uses of feathers in fashion, which ultimately led to the feather trend regaining momentum in the 20th century.
Bold styles of the ’70s and ’80s included an influx of flouncy, feathery looks from notable celebrities like Elton John and Cher. Elton John was notorious for wearing flamboyant outfits involving feather decorated costumes while Cher was seen flaunting feather headpieces or dresses as she took center stage. Feathers continued to add a sense of magnitude to fashion looks continuing into the subsequent decades. On the ’80s and ’90s runways, we saw a bigger-is-better mentality in retrospect to earlier ages.
The new millennium brought even more ways to incorporate this element of mother nature into fashion. We began to see an expansion of feather-adorned accessories such as feather hair extensions and earrings. The trend then exploded making feathers the quintessential 2010s accessory. More recently, modern iterations of feathers have returned to the runways, appearing in collections of luxury designers such as Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, and more.
From statement-making feather hair extensions and distinguished jewelry, to feather-centric prints and textiles– ceremonial costumes and haute couture are no longer the sole domain of feathers in fashion.
Timeless Classic Reimagined
Up until this point, the history of feathers in fashion was geared toward women's styles. That was until our co-founder, Ben Ross, found a way to bring his love and admiration for the outdoors to the luxury fashion statement of the classic bow tie.
One night, Ben had a lightbulb moment as he was admiring turkey feathers in one hand and held a bow tie in the other. He noticed that night that the natural shape and tapering of the turkey feather fits the silhouette of a bow tie perfectly. This groundbreaking idea then turned into a full-blown fashion movement, fueled by respectfully repurposing the beauty of nature.
It was not long before Brackish garnered the attention of top celebrities. Bill Murray took the red carpet at the Oscars in 2014 sporting the Original bow tie. From there, celebrities such as Andy Samberg at the 2015 Emmys, Thomas Rhett at the 2017 Country Music Awards, and many more.
Beyond Feather Bow Ties
This year at Brackish we celebrated our 10-year anniversary and the immense growth that our brand has seen since the first year. What started with bow ties, has now blossomed into a full men’s and women’s accessory line that honors the beauty found in nature.
How will we continue to utilize feathers in fashion for years to come? Well, as Ben has always said “We deal in feathers, the sky isn’t the limit, it’s where we soar.”