Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Princess Farhana by Clint Marien

 Oh, we  dancers love us some feathers!
 Whether you’re rocking a showgirl  headdress,  a lusciously fat boa, humongous  Sally Rand fans, or  wearing  a costume trimmed with feathers, they always look  sensational onstage. They waft through the air looking elegant and ethereal or flirtatiously accent every shimmy; the phrase “shake your tail feathers” comes to mind! 

Beautiful, high quality  plumed costumes, props and accessories are also expensive.

In order to keep your costumes and props in tip-top shape, should definitely know should know how to maintain them.  One of the first things you need to remember about caring for your feather boas and fans  is that they  pick up oils from your skin quite easily. Your  natural sebaceous oils will stick to the feathers and attract more dirt.  Always wash your hands before using your fans or wearing your boas. Also, don’t wear any  potentially sticky or oily body lotions when using these props. And remember…lip gloss is literally  The Kiss Of Death onstage – not just cause it will mess up your feather  props and costume pieces, but because you’ll spend the entire show spitting errant fluff out of your mouth!
Here are some tips on maintaining your feather props and costume pieces:
Store your  plumed beauties in one of those long, sturdy locking plastic containers-Rubbermaid makes a terrific, rectangular  giant sized one…you can usually fir a couple of sets of fans in these without cramping them. Make sure to lay the feathers into the container  with the plumes facing up so you won’t break the spins.  These containers are easy to find at places like Target and Walmart. Before sealing the box for storage, make  sure to add in cedar chip sachets or  plenty of cedar balls to prevent insect infestation- moths adore fans!
Stubby Screwdrivers
 Check and maintain your fans thoroughly before each performance. Keep a  Fan Emergency Kit with you in your bag  whenever you’re gigging. It should include an extra  hex bolt  in case the one on the butt-end of your fan blades gets stripped,  a tube of  crazy glue in case your feathers start releasing from the staves,  and some pliable craft wire and a jewelry pliers. You’ll also need  a “stubby screw driver”- an adorable teensy tool that often comes with both a straight  head and a Phillips ( star-shaped) head. They’re really  inexpensive  and even come in bright colors like purple, pink and aqua!     You can even add a 3rd string to the other two, closer to the screw end of the blades.  
I have a specially made carrying case for transporting  my Sally Rand  fans to local gigs, but  a long  document tube or Fed Ex box would work just as well! For  air travel, your fans will undoubtedly need to be checked ( they’re usually too long for the  storage bins in the cabin) so  make sure you pad whatever container you’re using well and include your little tool kit.

Store your feather boas in the same way  you would your Sally Rand fans or smaller feather fans- in a tightly sealed  plastic container, with cedar chips  to keep moths away.  Depending on the size of the boa, you can use a  round container, the type made for large cakes.  Coil the boa up like a snake ( a BOA snake, of course!) and   close the container. Larger boas might not fit into a cake container, so some gals store their boas in round old-school hat boxes.  When I do this, then I  seal the boa in  a  large plastic bag  with the cedar chips  before putting it in the hat box-  just to be extra careful about insect infestation. 
To store  your headdresses,  I have found that the  easiest way is to place them on a Styrofoam wig stand, and pin them securely onto the wig head itself. I then wrap the headdress in plastic wrap, sealing  it firmly around the bottom of the wig-head, and store the entire thing on a shelf.
 Again, throw in a sachet of cedar chips. If your headdress is large, you can also stick an opened-up wire hanger  or two into the Styrofoam, to  create a “tent”, holding the plastic up so it won’t break or bend the feathers.  You might also have to weigh down the bottom of the stand to prevent it from toppling over due to the height and weight of the headdress.
Feather boas and feathered headresses are simply  the height of glamour- but since feathers are basically an animal ( or rather, avian) product,  they tend to dry out over time  and can become droopy or flattened out and limp. To restore your  boas to  their brand-new fluffiness,  you’ll need to care for them and  maintain them occasionally. 
Grab your boa and briskly but gently  feathers  between your hands. This will shake off any dust as well as  fluff  up the “nap” of the feathers,  making each one  perkier.

Princess Farhana by Maharet
You can also clean the feathers on your headdresses the same way- but instead of using your entire hand, fluff each feather individually with your fingers.

For a costume that has feathered accents, do the same – just fluff the plumes with your fingers.

 Next, steam your  boa or headdress. If you have a  clothing steamer, you can hang the boa up  by one end and steam it this way, being super-careful not to get the  tip of the steamer too close to the feathers- you want the fine mist to cover the  boat, but  you don’t want it dripping wet!  Steam each section of the boa only for a few seconds, until the feathers have opened up.  For a headdress, do this while the headdress is sitting on it’s stand.

If you’re cleaning feathers  that are sewed or glued to a costume, use  your steamer in the same way.

 If you don’t own or have access to a steamer, you can also use a tea kettle or  a large  pot full of  boiling water  to steam  your  boa, holding it horizontally over the  pot or kettle, steaming it in sections.  For headdresses, just make sure to hit  the tips of the feathers with steam- try not to get the crown wet.   I wouldn’t recommend this method for costumes with feather accents, though.

Be very careful not to burn your hands or fingers- steam is just as hot-if not more so- than boiling water!

 Make sure to turn off the flame on the stove burner off while doing this or you’ll be courting disaster… BOAS AND FEATHERS ARE HIGHLY FLAMMABLE!


 If your boa has become really dirty, you might need to wash it. In this case, make sure  you really  agitate the feathers to get as much dust or dirt off them as possible!  I use lukewarm water  because many dyed fathers are not colorfast.  I use  baby shampoo or a very gentle  dish detergent- nothing too harsh.   Swish the feathers around very lightly in a bathtub that’s about a quarter full. A sink is usually too small for a boa, and you definitely don’t want to break the spine of the feathers by  cramping them into a small basin!    Make sure to dry the boa  naturally,  hanging it by one end from a clothes line of a shower curtain rod.   Once in a while, I’ve hit them with a blow-dryer, but  always on the “cool” setting only.  Also, most boas are twisted when they are manufactured.  Heavier boas, such as ostrich or turkey  ruff  can lose their  twist with use ( or, of course, through washing!)  and should be periodically re-twisted to maintain their appearance.
Princess Farhana by Michael Baxter


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  2. This clothes Steamer from Bizarkdeal is an awesome device to keep around and use to clean anything you can think of in your house! It truly is professional quality steaming too and is very simple to use. Just fill it up and make sure it's plugged in and you're ready to go...couldn't be any easier. I've used it on a ton of different clothes so far and all the curtains in my house...they have come out better than I could have expected. Very happy with this! Make sure you get one as soon as you can. A+

  3. Great article, brilliant advice for caring for your pretties!

  4. I have pretty new fans and they aren't staying open now that I have played with them a little. What can I do?

  5. How do you keep feathers from malting? :) Thanks!