Since prehistoric days a head-dress cora-posed of trophies from the feathered community has always held a foremost place in popularity - indeed, satirical folk can at times trace a strong similarity between fashionable millinery and the feather coronet of an Indian Redskin.
Curiously enough - though, perhaps, amateurs will not agree on this point - there is nothing more difficult than the skilful arrangement of ostrich feathers, and the same difficulties apply to the various aigrettes and wings that are so much worn as fashions come and go.
The first essential is to get a firm foundation on which to fix your feather, and this foundation - which has been referred to in a previous article - is technically known as an "ear." (See page 527, Every Woman's Encyclopaedia.)
Made of a small piece of stiff net or spartra, an ordinary sized "ear" measures 3 inches long by 3 inches wide, and it is wise to wire it all round the edge. (Fig. ia.) At times milliners find it preferable to round off the square edges as i 1 lust rated. (Fig. ib.)
Place your feather on to the centre of this " ear" and stitch firmly, using No. 16 cotton. (See Fig. 2A.)
Sometimes the " ear" is apt to show, therefore either a little fold of trimming is arranged to hide it, or milliners sometimes "turn"' it to avoid the use of further trimming. (Fig. 2B.)
Now the milliner has to choose the angle, varying with the fashion of the hour, at which she will set her trimming, and this is the test of the individual genius of the worker. The arrangement may have to be varied to suit particular wearers, but the usual mode is to place the "ear" somewhere on the crown and stitch through.
Occasionally, an extra "ear" will be found necessary to steady the feather in the centre. If this be the case, the ear is sewn on to the inside of the feather, and then fastened on to the crown at the height required.
A loose stitch at the tip of the feather will perhaps be found necessary, but this stitch must be inserted carefully, only the thread being taken from the back - there always being a thread at the back of every feather - so as to leave the stitch quite loose and make the feather look natural. In no case need this stitch damage the fibre.
Fig. la. A millinery "ear" made of spartra
It is always a matter for discussion as to whether the use of the aigrette is justified on humanitarian grounds, but, as a matter of fact, the amateur milliner need rarely trouble herself with the question of cruelty, as the real aigrette is mostly used on models from fifteen guineas upwards, and does not affect the majority of amateurs.
As a trimming, the aigrette is treated in the same way as the feather. The stem is sewn to the " ear " and then on to the hat.
Fig. 1b. The "ear" with the corners rounded off feather attached to the "ear"
Fig. 2a. An ostrich
Fig. 2b. The "ear" folded