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Free Content Birds of paradise: Feathers, fetishism and costume in classical Hollywood

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This article aims to investigate the reasons for the prolific use of feathers in 1930s Hollywood costume. Instead of positioning them merely as a spectacular tool of glamour in the Golden Age, it will focus on feathers as a form of material culture and specifically on their fetishistic nature in order to pose an alternative explanation for their sartorial popularity in a decade marked by the introduction of the Production/Hays Code. I wish to demonstrate that by shifting the methodological emphasis on feathers from object to subject, we open up an autonomous narrative for the material that would be missed when focussing only on its contextual reading. This in turn potentially offers a new dimension as to their use, in particular as a metaphor for female sexuality and therefore as a vehicle for reading 1930s cinematic sexuality.

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Keywords: censorship; classical Hollywood; feathers; fetishism; glamour; material culture

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The University of the Arts and The Royal College of Art

Publication date: 01 March 2014

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  • Film, Fashion & Consumption is a peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an arena for the discussion of research, methods and practice within and between the fields of film, fashion, design, history, art history and heritage. The journal seeks to stimulate ongoing research on these topics and to attract contributions not only from scholars researching in these areas but also from practitioners, who are traditionally excluded from academic debate. The journal thus aims to unite and enlarge a community of researchers and practitioners in film, fashion, consumption and related fields, whilst also introducing a wider audience to new work, particularly to interdisciplinary research which looks at the intersections between film, fashion and consumption.
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