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GOOD PLUCK: Phoenix Small Feather Earrings from Alex and Ani are eco-friendly and feature nonendangered bird feathers wrapped around them.


Fashion Flap

By Jessica Fromm

FEATHERS are being used in so many fashionable facets lately that women can deck themselves out from head to toe in plumage, if they so desire. Pheasant, ostrich and chicken feathers are lending themselves to delicate details, and even feather prints have been flying around the fashion world.

While the feather comeback began with the hippie Indian vibe of last summer, the trend seems to have shifted for winter into dainty, elegant pieces that conjure the Roaring '20s. Vintage-style plumes are adding a soft, feminine air to outfits, invoking images of flirty peacocks, flitting fairies, graceful swans and delicate, jewel-toned hummingbirds. This holiday season, stores have seen an influx of feather-adorned party dresses, hemmed and decorated in bits of wispy ostrich that will no doubt lead to preening.

Seen in small, often jewel-clasped bunches on shoes, purses and jewelry, fluff is also being used to accessorize. Plumed hair clips, headbands and hair combs are all over the Urban Outfitters crowd. These hair ordainments give a dash of the flapper with large, exquisitely textured pieces meant to curve up against the head.

With their natural ruffles and swishy movements, feathers also make great dancing embellishments. Seriously, what says old-school glamour more then that fabulous white-feather-draped evening gown Ginger Rogers wears while dancing cheek to check with Fred Astaire in Top Hat?

When still attached to their original owners, feathers give birds flight and add mojo to mating rituals. It's no surprise then that man has used them for centuries as spiritually symbolic objects, as well as items of vanity. Like fur, feathers are a pricey natural material made from animal parts. But unlike fur, flashy feathers don't have quite the same bad rap for some reason, so your PETA-friendly acquaintances probably won't be flinging flour your way when you sport it.

Avoid getting drowned in a feathered look by shying away from flamboyantly dyed fringe that screams showgirl—fluffy boas are still verboten unless you're trying out for the Pussycat Dolls.

Remember that though feathers are a sumptuousness lightweight material, they can also be bulky and add width, not to mention high cleaning costs. Accessories are a safe way to try out a feather statement at first, but make sure they use high quality plumage—sad, scraggly accessories will look like you're wearing a cat toy, or something you'd dust off your snow globe collection with.

Finally, unless you're planning on attending a costume gala sometime soon, steer clear of going Victorian and wearing a fully stuffed fowl anyplace on your person. In the Sex and the City movie, poor Sarah Jessica Parker had to suffer through a whole unwedding scene with a teal bird monstrosity strapped to her head, and it still makes me cringe.Think delicate tufts, not dead parakeet.

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