Here Comes the Bride, All Dressed in Turkey Feathers

Turkey Feather Dress 1948
Charles E. Steinheimer—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Caption from LIFE. "Bride shows off a prize carcass."
Animals
'40s

If you thought most bridesmaids’ dresses were hideous, imagine having to wear one made of turkey feathers. For the 1948 wedding party of one Barbara Orr Ehrhart, Oregonian and turkey enthusiast extraordinaire, this unlikely scenario was, in fact, all-too-real. As the Feb. 9, 1948, issue of LIFE magazine made plain, in an engaging article titled “LIFE Goes to a Turkey Feather Wedding,” turkey was the theme of the evening at Ehrhart’s nuptials—not merely on the menu, but turkey on the attendants and on the happy bride herself.

Turkey Feather Wedding DressEhrhart (left, with a friend) had a longstanding fascination with turkey feathers, for years using this unconventional fabric to make hats and accessories before spotlighting it in her own wedding dress. Half a century before Lady Gaga hit the red carpet in her infamous meat dress, Ehrhart displayed her feathered creations at local poultry shows.

After obtaining permission to get married at the Far West Turkey Show in California, the bride gathered 37,500 plumes for her dress, which was constructed over the course of several months. Her bridesmaids’ dresses were also crafted out of feathers, which she dyed pink, blue, yellow and green.

Instead of throwing rice, guests showered the newlyweds with—what else?—feathers as they exited the ceremony. And after all the talk of and emphasis on turkey had whetted their appetites, guests chowed down on a turkey dinner to cap off the night.

Today we might consider Ehrhart an early pioneer of the now-trendy “nose to tail” cooking philosophy, which seeks to eliminate waste when butchering an animal. This turkey lover clearly made good use of the birds’ feathery raiment in addition to the meat. Ehrhart did not slaughter the birds specifically for her own sartorial gain—she asserted that the 300 birds she plucked feathers from were already dead or fatally wounded.

LIFE reported that the morning after the wedding, even newlywed bliss couldn’t keep Ehrhart away from her beloved birds. She traveled to a movie set for her part in a short movie, in which she would be filmed standing amid what LIFE called “a sea of turkeys.”

Finally, if today’s readers have any concerns that Ehrhart’s proclivity for the birds would somehow overshadow (or even undermine) her marriage, they need not fear. The original LIFE article points out that the groom, Fred Ehrhart, who was a lumber grader in Oregon, gamely helped his fiancée create her gown. Birds of a feather, it seems, do indeed sometimes flock together.


Allison Berry is a contributor at TIME.com. Follow her on Twitter @allisonrberry.


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