Fancy Feather: The Flourish Behind the Fan Dance
As any burlesque aficionado knows, feathers play a huge part in our history. Most performers’ repertoire includes, or has included, feather fans. The minute Sally Rand stepped out at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and made her name, she popularised fan dancing for burlesque performers of the future.
We recently caught up with Cindy Garland of FancyFeather.com to find out about her passion for burlesque and feathers of all shapes and sizes.
“In 2002 we started working out of a house dying feathers,” Cindy begins. “Then in 2005 we had an appointment booked in with the reigning Miss Exotic World, Michelle L’amour.
“Michelle taught me all about burlesque, and not just the history. She informed me on what performers wanted from their feather suppliers. I remember her saying ‘They want more colours, more options, more layers – and fans have to open right and left’. I really hadn’t a clue.
“She taught us how to make fans that were as elegant as the performances they are used in. The magical gals that dyed and made the demo fans in 2005 are still with me now, and we’re one of the last companies in the USA who still dye to order.
“Burlesque is very close to my heart,” Cindy continues. “I’ve been attending the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend since 2006, and last year I had the honour of being a judge for the Saturday night Tournament of Tease. It will always be a truly magical night I never forget.”
You famously made Michelle L’Amour’s Sally Rand Tribute fans – could you share a little about how this came about and how tricky it was?
One of the many reasons I adore Michelle L’amour is that she always bends the boundaries. To start with I Googled Sally Rand and blew up the images, then I wondered how they got those feathers so long back in the day. In one particular view, I thought I could see a boa rather than a feather.
We experimented A LOT and then once we came up with a prototype, Michelle came to the office to try them, but even the showroom wasn’t big enough so we ended up outside! There she was, in all her glory, making it look effortless and oh so graceful, even though they were the bulky prototypes. I wanted her to go on forever, but the sun was shining brightly that day and she wasn’t fully sun screened!
Over the years you’ve worked with big names in burlesque and beyond; it must be great to see so much of your work out there.
It’s an honour to supply so many wonderful performers with feathers and always a treat to see posts on social media of our work – or when we recognise it on stage. A lot of the time it’s a surprise as many orders come through from legal names rather than performer names.
I think I have worked with most of the best and I’ve even become personal friends with legends and newbies alike, and everyone in between. Mariah Carey even used some of our products this year on New Year’s Eve. We did the fans for the 2010 movie Burlesque, too, with Cher and Christina Aguilera, and we even feathered Big Bird!
Finally, if you could narrow it down, what’s your favourite current product?
It’s so hard to choose just one as we have so much on offer, but if I did have to choose one it would be our extra-long boas. Standard boas are six feet in length, but these extra long boas come in 7.5 feet lengths. They’re so plush, feel great against the skin, and obviously that extra length gives extra tease power and a lot of twirl!
Fancy Feather interviewed by Ivy Wilde.