Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Photo by Lapis

Feathers look absolutely sensational onstage. 

Whether you’re using huge Sally Rand fans, rockin’ a lusciously fat boa, or wearing a costume and/or headdress  trimmed with feathers, they always look  glamorous and amazing. The plumes waft through the air looking elegant and ethereal or flirtatiously accent every shimmy. They also make the audience swoon like nothing else. But beautiful plumed costumes, props and accessories are also expensive….so you should definitely know how to maintain them!

 The first thing you need to know is that plumes pick up oils from your skin quite easily. Our natural sebaceous oils will adhere to the feathers and attract more dirt.  
Always wash your hands before using your fans or wearing your boas; please don’t wear any  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:

Feather Fan Storage
 Store your   large ( or smaller) plumed fans  in one of those long, sturdy locking plastic containers. Rubbermaid makes a terrific, rectangular  giant sized one… but you can find several types at places like Target or Walmart, too.

You can easily fit a couple of sets of  Sally Rand fans- and more, if they’re smaller- 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 spines.   Before sealing the box for storage, add in cedar chip sachets or  plenty of cedar balls to prevent insect infestation- moths adore fans! You can also use good old mothbalss, but I dislike them for two reasons:  they stink like chemicals, and more importantly, they’re toxic to pets.

 Fan Maintenance
 Check and  if necessary, repair 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,  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 or star-shaped head. They’re really inexpensive  and even come in bright colors like purple, pink and aqua

Fan Transportation
I have a specially made carrying case for transporting  my Sally Rand fans to local gigs, but  a long, wide   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.

 Storing and caring for  Boas, feathered Costumes And Headdresses
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 abig 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 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 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 look perky again.

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,  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  boa, 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 the wig stand.

If you’re cleaning feather accents  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, make sure to hit  only  the tips of the feathers with steam- try not to get the crown wet.   I do not  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 you maintain your gorgeous feathered costumes and props well, they’ll look great for years!


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