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The Regency Wardrobe collection - research & making - The White Peacock - A fan-parasol


The White Peacock

Collection: The Regency Wardrobe Garment: Woman’s fan-parasol Materials: Quilling paper strips, FSC accredited paper tablecloth, Japanese rice paper Mizuhiki rice paper cord, cartridge paper, quilling paper strips, printed paper, lacquer

This piece is inspired by the splendor of the white peacock and the shape of its raised tail, as well as the popularity of feathers, used for ornamenting wigs, hats and headdresses during both the Georgian and Victorian eras.

The White Peacock is one of the pieces in The Regency Wardrobe collection that most looks forward to the era that is to come. For whilst eighteenth and nineteenth century upper class British audiences would certainly have been familiar with the Indian Blue Peacock the first known white color variation is said to have appeared in 1830.

Whilst white was one of the most popular colours for Regency period garments the shape and double use design of this piece is inspired by a black lace Victorian fan-parasol held in the Fidm Dress and Textile Museum in Los Angeles. The White Peacock, similarly to its 1854 ancestor, is a parasol that folds down into a fan.

© Fidm Museum


Though it's dated to the Victorian era I was so struck by this black lace fan-parasol when i came across an image of it that I knew I had to attempt to make something similar. I'd been plannning to make fans and parasols, this was both. So clever, so beautifully engineered and crafted, so elegant.

The way it opened and spread, made me think immediately of a peacock's tail.

I've still only been able to find one other picture of a similar piece:

It seems folding handles however were not unusual.

© V&A Museum, London


I'd also long loved this image and been hopeful that at some point I'd know how to work with it. I love images drawn with white in particular on a beige/coloured background and even though this peacock doesn't have it's tail spread yet the image captures it's height and grandeur.

Peacocks are of course native to India but when the British Empire conquered India they spread peafowl all over Eurpose and America. This is when the noticeable colour white began to appear in peafowl. It has been speculated that a few white peafowl must have bred naturally in India but it's not known for sure whether that is true or whether they began to appear only after the britsh discovered them. The first known white colour variation appeared in 1830. They are now bred for the white colour in captivity.

"Peacocks were actually a delicacy in medieval times. They were even displayed on plates for guests, though it has been reported that peafowl meat is not very tender".

I knew that in the Georgian, Regency and Victorian era feathers were fashionable decoration, most especially on items meant for the head area:

As this parasol was going to accompany the three white promenading outfits it had to be white itself but what an excuse this also was to employ the image of this beautiful bird.

As an aside a bit of background peacock research: The White Peacock is frequently mistaken for an albino, but it is

actually a colour variant of the Indian Blue. It's white colour makes it magnificent/elegant. The white peacock

particularly has been said to symbolize both everlasting life and also narcissism. In fact only the male possesses

the extravagant tail used during courtship. The female is dull brown, green and grey. An old Anglo-Norman, Osmont,

writes: "The eye-speckled feathers should warn a man that never too often can he have his eyes wide open, and gaze

inwardly upon his own heart."The Ancient Egyptian goddess Ma’at was believed to reside at the crossing place between

this world and the after-life and she was said to evaluate/judge each soul at death by weighing it against the weight of a Peacock feather. The peacock is a symbol of immortality (the ancients believed that the peacock had flesh which did not

decay after death and peacocks have been known to eat poisonous snakes with coming to harm) and renewal (peacocks naturally replace their feathers annually). As such, early Christian paintings/mosaics show peacock imagery. Peacock

feathers were also once used during the Easter season as church decorations. Pythagoras wrote that the soul of Homer

moved into a peacock to establish the respect and longevity due to the Greek poet’s words.


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