Feather boas are most commonly made from turkey feathers (Chandelle) but other feathers can also be used- marabou or ostrich are the most common alternatives, but these are more costly. Boas are usually made in long strings which are cut to length at the production factory- most standard boas are between 1.8m and 2m long, but there are other variations also, including shorter versions for children. Most boas originate in China, although the feathers can be sourced from the USA and sent to China for processing. Feathers are bleached and cleaned to get rid of any nasties which might be lurking, and then woven onto the string, after which they're dyed and dried. When the string is cut to length, there are obviously loose ends, and these are either knotted, or looped into Thumb Loops. Thumb Loops are a simple loop at the ends of the boa string which are hooked over the wearer's thumbs- these allow the boa to move with the hands, and help prevent the boa from falling off the shoulders.
While boas vary wildly in terms of quality and specification, there are several ways to determine what you're buying. The first is the length of the boa- as mentioned most boas for adults are between 1.8 and 2m long, with 1.9m (2 yards) being a common size. The second thing to look at is the weight- boas are usually specified by weight from the manufacturer, and the heavier the boa, generally the larger number of feathers and therefore the fuller the body. Typically there are three common weights- 25g, 40g and 80g. If you consider that the length of each boa is the same, then the weight refers to the variation in the number and length of the feathers (and the weight of the string). A 25g boa is usually the cheapest model as it has the least number of feathers- ideal for basic uses such as a couple of hours at a hen night, it's not usually suited to more constant wear. 40g boas are more popular as they offer a better trade off between value and weight- they're more like one expects a boa to be! The 80g boas ( here\'s an example of an 80g boa) are often worn as part of stage outfits by amateur dramatic companies and burlesque artists- they're also often used as raw materials for feather skirts, costumes, etc. The last thing which affects the price is the feather type- the vast majority of boas are made from Chandelle feathers which are a short Turkey feather. As you go up in price you may start to see Ostrich or Marabou, or longer (non Chandelle) turkey feathers.
There's a couple of other things to note- firstly all Chandelle boas (and most others) shed feathers! It's unavoidable that in the production process loose feathers and feather sections will become trapped in the boa, and these will fall out when the boa is opened and removed from a packet. We recommend you open your boa outside! Feathers will also come out of the boa in use, although the number should not be huge- if your boa continues to shed feathers you should contact the seller and discuss this with them as it may be faulty. Secondly, most boas are heavily dyed to achieve the richness of colour you see in the images. This colour may not be completely colour-fast- we've seen some boas leach colours when they're damp (in a nightclub for example) which has led to clothes and skin being discoloured. It's definitely worth checking if the boa you're thinking of buying is colour fast if this is a problem.
So, when purchasing, consider the following questions:
1. What's my budget?
2. Am I going to use this more than once (if no, then consider a 25 or 40g boa, if yes, then a 40g or ideally 80g or above)
3. Do I want thumb loops?
4. Does my boa need to be colourfast?
5. What colour do I want?
Once you've decided on these, you can use this information to narrow down your eBay search- for example you might search for an 80g Feather Boa or a Purple Chandelle Boa, rather than just a feather boa. Whatever you end up with, we hope you have a wonderful time, and that this information has helped you make the correct purchase!