29 April 2009

New York: Ostrich feathers, Jewish chic, May 7

Ostrich feathers were once the epitome of fashion statements.

The American Sephardic Association in New York will sponsor a program on the Jewish history in the worldwide feather trade from the 1880s with author Sarah Abrevaya Stein and museum curator Dr. Valerie Steele at 6.30pm, Thursday, May 7.

"Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce" is the title of Stein's book and the talk. She is a history professor and holds the UCLA Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies, with director and chief curator Steele of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology.

"Plumes" examines the thriving global trade in ostrich feathers from the “feather boom” of the 1880s to the economically devastating “feather bust” that coincided with WWI.

At that pivotal moment, the exotic plumes that adorned the hats of European and American women - especially the elusive Barbary feather from Sudan, coveted the world over for its “dazzling fullness” - fell precipitously out of fashion. Drawing on archival material from three continents, Dr. Stein brings to light a remarkable portrait of Jewish enterprise, and tells a rich story of a boom and bust market, global commerce, and the rise and fall of a single glamorous luxury item.
Admission: ASF members, free; others, $5. For more information, email the ASF or call 212-294-8350 for reservations.

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