From the 1850s to the 1910s, feathers were the height of fashion – worn by royalty, military men, debutantes and fashionable women alike.

Featuring examples of ‘feather finery’ and bird-beak jewellery where visitors learn how feathers played an integral part in women’s fashion internationally.

Feathers sourced from birds across the globe – including Aotearoa New Zealand – formed an integral part of a fashionable woman’s wardrobe throughout the second half of the nineteenth century.

At the height of ‘feathermania’ in the late nineteenth century, an international fashion commentator even went as far as commenting that ‘A well dressed woman nowadays is as fluffy as a downy bird fresh from the nest’.

Curated to coincide with Claire Regnault’s forthcoming book Dressed: Fashionable Women’s Dress 1840 to 1910 (Te Papa Press), Feathermania features feather-adorned mantles, fans, muffs, and matching collars and even jewellery from the national collection.

This exhibition is presented in conjunction with Threads: Textiles Festival. With more than 15 free exhibitions and a roster of workshops, talks and tours at venues spanning Lower Hutt, Petone, Thorndon and the central city, Threads sheds new night on contemporary textile practices in Aotearoa and beyond. The festival will take place across Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington from 16-20 March 2022, read more here.

Opening Hours

  • Daily, 10am—6pm


  • 55 Cable Street
  • Te Aro
  • Wellington