Fashion saves the birds

You might sometimes think that fashion has gone to the birds, but in the 1920s, it actually saved a few species.

You see, in the late 1800s, large, ornate hats were all the rage. Adorned with lace and pearls and feathers, some even had entire bird nests or cages incorporated into them! And a Victorian lady never left the house without a hat.

plumed hat

Hunters descended on the Florida Everglades in search of spoonbills, flamingos, herons, and egrets. These birds were favored for their plumes so they were killed by the millions. Conservationists tried to stop the massacre (around this time a few of them formed the National Audubon Society), but still the demand grew.

Eventually, feathers were worth more than double their weight in gold! That meant it was more lucrative (and easier) to kill birds than to pan for gold. In a time when a month’s rent was $10, the plumes of four birds would fetch $32.

birds shot for their feathers

Hunters shot every adult bird they could find, leaving orphaned chicks and unhatched eggs to die. Two generations of birds were wiped out because of a fashion trend.

Even after hunting was outlawed, the slaughter continued. One of the country’s first game wardens, Guy Bradley, was hired to patrol southern Florida and prevent poaching. He was murdered by a hunter while protecting the Everglades. Two other men–a game warden and a deputy sheriff–were killed soon after.

Egret

It seemed like nothing could save the birds and end the senseless bloodshed of human and animal life.

Then, the Jazz Age hit and flappers abandoned large hats for bobbed hair and smaller hats or headbands. As the demand for feathered hats diminished, bird populations began to recover.

bob cut

Perhaps the flappers didn’t choose a new style because they thought of the birds, but the shift in sartorial trends made a huge impact on animals. All it took was for people not to buy feathered hats. It’s a simple strategy that we can do today: decrease the demand to stop questionable practices.

Animal ingredients are in many articles of clothing. When you shop, you can look out for (and avoid buying) products containing fur, leather, wool, feathers, silk, coral, horns or bone.

Every time we buy something we’re voting with our dollars. Industries thrive or wither away because of consumer choices. That’s a powerful thing.

References:

5 thoughts on “Fashion saves the birds

  1. Happy that fashion changed the fate of these beautiful birds, but sadly, there are still people who don’t care about the suffering of animals by wearing fur. I hope we see the day that humanity will see the needless suffering of animals and wear cruelty-free clothing. 🙂

  2. An interesting read as always,….my memory tells me I have read (much) the same before…..
    Your fashion blog or Carmen’s blog?

  3. Pingback: I don’t mind faking it! | fashionable over 50

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