The feather boa
could be one of the most versatile cultural style icons of our time.
It can symbolise what ever you want it to. Vamp, tramp, trash, camp,
must have designed the first feather boa at some point, but I have no
idea where or when or who. I like to think it’s origins are lost forever
in the smoky, perfumed mists of fashion history, but it was made famous
by flappers in the 1920's like Isadora Duncan. It is rarely at the cutting
edge of fashion, the last word of sophistication and style. It is more
about fun, irony, dressing up and the art of disguise. Those feathers
may seem floaty, frivolous, insubstantial - but you can hide behind
What is it then?
One suggestion is a kind of feather duster you can wear, but this is
missing the point. The name comes from the boa snake. It is a long snake
of feathers, soft and clinging. It can be draped through arms for elegance,
or flung dramatically over the shoulder. It has loops sewn in at each
end, invisible when worn, through which you can hook a finger if you
need the security of knowing the boa will stay put (they have the incurable
habit of slipping from the shoulders), or they could be used to hang
it in the wardrobe by those of us who are so organised.
The feather boa
shopping site, www.angels-flight.com describes it's products in loving
terms; all the boas are two yards long. Marabou and Chandelle boas are
made from turkey feathers. The Ostrich feather comes from the Ostrich
and the Schloppin boa is made from rooster tail feathers. Personally,
forever PC and short of cash, I favour the fake synthetic Topshop versions
in various unnatural colours, for around £8. I own two, one is black
and the other lavender blue. The black one was a present to myself on
my eighteenth birthday, thinking it would mark my ascent into the world
of sophisticated clubbers.
I am yet to enter
into any sort of elite, hedonistic lifestyle, unless you count student
life, which if you had seen the piles of washing up and late night essay
crises which curse the kitchens of this countries halls of residence
you wouldn't, but I still have the boa, as proof that like the scout
movement I am always prepared.
It is completely
impractical. It doesn't keep you warm, it quite often scratches, it
gets in the way when you’re trying to eat and gets trapped in the doors
of taxi cabs. When you are wearing it you leave a trail of feathers
for everyone to see exactly where you’ve been. Maybe that's the whole
point. Simply, it is a well designed flirting accessory. You can wrap
it around yourself, or around a man, or around yourself and a man. And
men do like them. I have too many photographs to prove that if you give
a man a boa and point a camera he will pose.
Off duty the boa
can be allowed to fall in a heap of feathers on the floor, or be draped
over wardrobe doors or mirrors. Either way it should never be constrained.
I learnt this when I had my black boa posted to me. Opening the innocuous
looking brown envelope I recoiled and cast it to the floor, really thinking
for one moment that someone hated me enough to send me a dead crow in
the post. Since then I have always favoured the more colourful variety
of boa. What the boa is never about is minimalism. It is more about
the little girl dressing up in front of the mirror in her mothers too-big
high heels and badly applied lipstick; or it is the accessory of choice
for clubbers in the best-dressed queues, along with glitter and false
eyelashes. Or it is used to give a plain dress an extra something’ by
anyone attending a ball and looking for a quick fix of glamour, something
to make them stand out from the crowd.
Here we have the
essential function of the boa, the thing it was designed to do. With
a cloud of brightly coloured feathers about you, you will never fade
into the background. In this way the boa fulfills it's purpose in life