Monday, January 26, 2009

Wrapped in a Boa

Another striking piece from the Byzantium show (see also below). This 5th-century Roman ivory depicts not Eve (as you might imagine from the serpent) but Hygieia, daughter of Asklepios. These figures were worshipped by the ancients as healing demigods (and today the snake persists as a symbol of medicine when entwined around a staff).

Still . . . there's something not entirely hygienic about the way Hygieia's slithery friend is draped. All the more so in the Christian version, when the snake's Garden of Eden cousin is shown adorning Eve. The message is unmistakable. Behold temptation: a girl who cannot resist.

In fashion terms, over the millennia, the reptilian boa evolved into a feathery one, but the message is unchanged. Here's Sophia Loren, working one to the hilt . . .

It's a bit tragic, isn't it, that feather boas have been largely relegated to the Halloween/Mardi Gras/Valentine's-Day-if-You're-Lucky aisles of the costume department, because really, they're great. The downy waft around the neck captivates the eye of the beholder, adding a high-voltage glam factor to a simple LBD. 

One way to revive a boa and make it wearably modern: loose the excess by clipping it down to collar length. Toulouse-Lautrec shows how it's done here (ignore the absinthe-crazed model). 

Here's mine, an ostrich-feather version that hooks at the neck. Try a boa on this way, and see how it charms.

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