A Word on Fur

I know we’ve had the great fur debate before, but something happened that has made me want to talk about it again.  Recently, my friend, Courtney was dining at a restaurant in Paris and had her purse stolen. Her purse was this beautiful ocelot…

I beg you, please, if you see this purse, please make note on the Ooh La La Vintage Swap and Sell post regarding the theft, or contact Courtney.

Now, this is where our fur story begins.  This purse is vintage.  It isn’t new, nor did Courtney go out and hunt down an ocelot and make the purse herself! She found it at an antique shop in her home town.   When she saw the purse, she just fell in love, “I’d never seen anything like it before, it was in sad shape, and I knew no one else around there would give it the same respect I would. I knew it was special and rare, and for being a wonderful endangered animal I feel like someone owning it who understands both sides of the tragedy and wonderment of the piece, that could only be the best thing to do. And because it was just amazing in general,” She shared.  Courtney was also a vegetarian for ten years and adores animals.  When she began working in the vintage clothing industry, her attitudes toward fur changed, “As a vintage buyer I can’t let my personal taste and feelings affect how I buy, and so I had to gradually become friendly with fur and the like for the sake of my job. Then I realized I loved it, it looked good, it was cozy, and the closest I’ve gotten to having a pet of my own since I moved out of my folk’s house when I was 18.”

For those of you who are about to raise up your PETA signs, and lash out by typing with your keyboard on caps lock, will you just listen for a moment?  What can you actually do about this piece? What can you actually do about vintage fur in general? This is something that bothers me the most about people who get upset about fur, even vintage fur.  They will sit there, on their computer, angrily typing and moaning about animal rights, but offer no solution.  What good is that? The anti-fur group just appears to be angry that the fur exists.  As of this moment, the only “ethical” thing I know to do with vintage fur (aside from wearing it) is to donate it to Coats for Cubs, where you can donate fur, that will then be used as bedding for rehabilitating animals. If every piece of vintage fur were to be donated to this cause, they would literally be drowning in fur.  Most of the time, you cannot walk into a vintage clothing shop, thrift shop or antique mall without seeing fur in some manner or another.  It’s everywhere.  So what else is there to do?  Throw it away?  Throwing away perfectly good vintage fur pieces is one of the worst solutions.  I wouldn’t even call it a solution.  First, you’re creating waste. That’s just not good for the earth, and if you care about animals, then let’s assume you also care about the earth too.  Also, don’t you think throwing it away is disrespectful to the animal?  This leaves the only other solution – wearing it.  Courtney concurred, “How I look at the topic of fur is more of a respect for the animal that wasn’t given a choice for it’s sacrifice for fashion. I know it’s a terrible thing to think about, and I certainly don’t want to encourage further production of fur products.  But what can one do about something that’s 75 years old? I think it’s more shameful to just throw it out or cry on it, what good does that do?”  Like Courtney, I don’t care for the current fur industry.  I see no need for it.  There is plenty of fur already out there, and it’s not difficult to find.

Some people have problems with fur with faces (Such as this purse, or my Algernon and Earnest who tagged along the the last Fur & Feathers), but I adore them because they have personality. “I take the time to think about the animal I’m wearing, and that’s also why I don’t shy from wearing furs with faces, I think it’s more honest to be able to look that animal in the face, rather than shrink away from that reality of what went down,” Courtney shared on the topic.

When you buy vintage fur (or vintage in general), you are recycling, which is good for our planet.  You aren’t giving your money to the current fur trade, you’re putting it into your local economy too, which is good for your city and/or country.  You’re also not supporting big-box stores who, in all likelihood, use child/slave labor.  So really anti-fur people, you’re going to criticize a gal for choosing to wear fur over a sweatshop coat, purse, etc.?

Please note, comments do allow for open discussion and it is encouraged.  However, please be respectful.  Courtney didn’t just have this purse stolen from her, but also the contents of the purse were taken as well.  Furthermore, rude, disrespectful, and anti-fur comments which provide no alternatives to wearing or donating fur will be deleted.

25 thoughts on “A Word on Fur

  1. I’ve always loved fur and leather because in 50 years, someone else can use it because its still going to be around. It doesn’t fall apart like the synthetic, cheap products we have today. I’m pretty new to vintage buying, but its hard to find a fake fur coat from the 50s, I’ve looked. I adore animals but I completely agree with you, buying vintage fur and recycling it by taking care of it and using it, instead of creating a new demand for it, is much better than just throwing it away and causing a load of other problems. Great post and I really hope your friend finds that purse!

  2. Oh, Janey. So beautifully written and so well said. I had not heard that Courtney had this amazing piece (and all of it’s very necessary contents) stolen, and I’m heartbroken to hear of its loss, as well of the reception she got when trying to find it. What a sad state, when people would put the well-being of a long dead animal over the well-being of a living individual – one who now has to change all her debit/credit card numbers, watch her credit score for signs of fraud or identity theft and replace irreplaceable belongings.

  3. Great blog post, Janey – I really hope your friend finds her purse and its contents. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece and I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it would be to lose such a thing.

    I don’t own any vintage fur myself, but I have no problem with people wearing it/carrying it/re-purposing it. I’m also generally fine with hunting non-endangered animals, but a big thing for me is using all or almost all of the animal, including the fur. Canadian seal hunters get a ton of really bad press, but I support the industry as long as it continues to hunt seals sustainably, because they consume/sell the seal meat, use the blubber as fuel and pretty much every piece of the animal is used in some way.

  4. Man I read some of the commentary of her post. Some of those people were awefull! I’ve commented here before about how I agree with all of your points on why you and other people chose to wear vintage fur and I understand, I still don’t own a piece of vintage fur…I may yet, still but every time I try one on in a shop, I feel guilty and put it back. I dream of one day being able to wear a lovely vintage fur..

    However that bag is gorgeous and such a rare item I’d be heartbroken if it was stolen too. I hope she finds a replacement, or gets her original bag back.

  5. I want to clap crazy loud for this post! It completely sums up how I feel on the issue! Kudos on a well thought out and respectful viewpoint on a touchy issue.

  6. I don’t wear fur because the texture of it is creepy to me but I totally agree with this post. There is no point in throwing away something that has been around for 50 years or more. Plus, like you stated, there is nothing you can do about it. That animal has been dead for 50+ years and throwing out the fur doesn’t change anything. Fight hard to stop future animals from dying instead of being angry about vintage fur.

  7. Hi Janey,

    I’m personally fine with vintage fur. I don’t wear it much because I don’t really feel at home in it, but I LOVE the look on other girls, and I try to pick up fur pieces here and there to sell in my little vintage shop. I definitely believe that wearing it is very “green” and honors the animal. However, I have seen the argument made that wearing vintage fur still perpetuates the fur trade by keeping it visible, and perhaps helping to legitimize the wearing of fur amongst people who may not realize you’re wearing vintage, and/or who don’t understand the horrors of the fur trade. I’m still not sure what I think of this. What are your thoughts?

    If you’re interested, I questioned my comfort with wearing vintage fur in a post I made on my (now defunct) blog 3 years ago, and received some very interesting and varied comments: http://misshiccup.blogspot.com/2010/11/in-which-i-look-like-snotty-rich-lady.html

    Thanks for the post; it’s a topic I find fascinating as I’m always trying to evaluate my thoughts. So sad that girl’s purse got stolen; people can be so horrible!

  8. This is a great post! Well written and fact driven…good on you! I call all my vintage fur pieces “my recues”. We can’t let the animal’s lives have been for not. We have to appreciate that the has already damage is done (in another time and era) and not let what is left of them be undervalued.

  9. Great article Janey, thanks for putting down in words the same things I tell my customers. My grandmother worked as a furrier for a short time before her marriage…different attitudes and different perspectives for a different time. If one had a piece of clothing that could be identified as having been made in the factory in Bangladesh that collapsed (and I am sure some people out there are wearing one now) how are you supposed to feel about that item? Some of the same people who hate vintage fur have no trouble oohing and aahing over victorian lace which was made by children working 16 hour days for five cents a day. And there are so many examples of contemporary clothing related to terrible environmental and human impact that people who hate vintage fur might be better off trying to save people and the environment in the”now” while they can still be saved.That being said, just want to note that I do not support the contemporary fur industry either. Oh, oh, look, is that anti-vintage fur person wearing leather shoes with their leather bag?

  10. Thank you very much for this post. You express what I am thinking myself. I would never, by any means, enter a modern fur store. But I buy Vintage fur (I can’t imagine wearing a fur coat, I simply don’t like them, but I own a wool coat with a fur collar, I am not quite sure if it really is leopard fur or a printed substitute). I am Vegetarian, but I wear Leather. For me, it is all about ecological living and that doesn’t include fake leather aka plastic.
    I used to be one of those fur-haters a few years ago, too, but I have realized that it is short sighted to ban fur only because it wasn’t ok to produce them. I am still against the production of fur, but all those beautiful furs that have already been produced are there, are wearable and can keep us warm without the need of producing more plastic microfibre padded jackets. It would be just stupid to throw them all away.

  11. I hope that your friend gets it back…it’s so unfair to loose not only it but the contents. I totally agree with everything you’ve said regarding vintage fur…there is no need for a modern fur industry. I know a lot of people are creeped out by the “fur with faces” but, like you, I think they add to their character. I wish your friend the best of luck! xx Shauna

  12. Excellent post! And fur is how our ancestor kept warm. American Indians used the hides to keep warm. I agree in this day and age it is different. But vintage, I feel, is different. I have a vintage fur that my stepmother gave me. Living in the Chicago area at the time I wore it. One evening I was on my way to pick up my cousin and a young couple waved at me to roll down my window. So I obliged and I got the “Do you know how many animals were killed to make you coat?!” After I responded with “It’s fake” (though it is not) I got a “Cool!!” and a thumbs up.

    What scares me are the folks who will act first and damage another persons property without trying to find out anything about the person or item. There are so many materials out there that look realistic to the untrained eye.

    Once again excellent post!!!

  13. As a vegan, I do not wear fur or leather or anything else that comes from an animal, vintage or not. That’s just the best choice for me. I don’t even like faux fur. It’s just not my style! 🙂

    I don’t have a problem with other people wearing vintage fur or leather because it would just end up in a landfill anyway. We don’t need any more garbage in this world. I guess the only logical thing for someone who was against even vintage fur would be to bury it in the ground like you would any other dead animal? I don’t know, to be honest, I don’t think there is an obvious answer. Wearing it seems to be the only practical idea.

    I also just want to put it out there that not all vegans/animal activists are like PETA, even though we do share some of the same values. I am against using animal products in my own life, but I would never try to force someone else to see it my way. I never really understood why anyone thought it was a good idea to throw paint on people wearing fur or to berate them publicly. All that does is make people defensive. When people are defensive, they rarely listen to what you have to say.

    • As a fellow vegan, I have to say I completely agree with what you wrote, Katie! Peta just gives most vegans a bad reputation. I have yet to meet another vegan who even likes that organization.

  14. I agree with you completely! I enjoy the one fur capelet I have because not only is it warmer than most of my modern coats, but it’s been in the family for years and years.

    I sincerely hope your friend can find her purse and contents. I’d be heartbroken because that is a very original piece.

  15. Thank you for writing this! I love to see that everyone’s being respectful and insightful in their comments. I agree with you wholeheartedly (this you already knew), and you did it without sounding making it sound like a moral imperative. I always get defensively judgey towards others when they criticize me wearing fur. Like “well, let’s talk about how your modern clothes are made (insert some horror here)” judgey, which never helps the situation, nor furthers an actual dialogue. It’s something I need to work on.

    So maybe this outs me as the macabre weirdo I am, but I’m a big believer in clothes holding on to energy. Just like buildings hold on to the energy of events that happened there, I think clothes do too. In particular fur, because it’s not just a matter of something inanimate… It was a living being, brutally killed for the vanity of a woman who probably never even sat down and thought about where it came from. It breaks my heart. I always feel like I need to ‘save’ the little critters, even though it’s at least 60 years too late. So I bring them home, wear them, love them, and hope I can put good energy back into it. To me, it’s beyond disrespectful to the animal to just toss it. It should be adored, cared for, and treated with the upmost respect, for it’s something the animal never got while alive.

    I’m glad you touched on Coats for Cubs too, they are sooo wonderful. Wearing vintage fur isn’t for everyone, because everyone should wear what they feel comfortable in, and what aligns with their own moral beliefs. It’s a great organization to donate to! I think there’s a drop box at every Buffalo Exchange. There is *the most adorable* youtube video on coats for cubs, with some purring raccoon babies that make my heart skip. (Just search for “Coats for Cubs”!) You should definitely go check it out and get your daily squee in.

    ❤ Sara

    P.S. Congrats on your new job miss lady!

  16. Great great completely agree. Seeing the faces makes me sad personally so I couldn’t see me owning fur with a face. But I will respect it. Saw the same post on Oh La La… I hope she at least gets her goods back.

  17. Ironic that you posted this. Not only do I love Vintage but I am also a historical re-en-actress. I am a member of a guild that portrays the Renaissance in Scotland. Not only do we go to Scottish games and Renaissance fairs but we also have a few schools that we visit while the 7th graders are learning about the Renaissance. Most of us wear fur, all of it is vintage. A guild mate and I were teaching this past weekend in Truckee, California and were asked a lot of questions about our Zibellini’s, which are decorated critters we wear on our shoulders, Mine happens to be a Stone Martin. We explained to the kids why they were worn in the 1600’s and where we get ours today, that none of us support the current fur trade. When I bought my fox to wear, I thanked the animal for its sacrifice and for helping to keep me warm and teach history.

  18. I for some reason feel shy about wearing fur and not because of the stigma or if its right or wrong. I guess I feel like I can’t pull the look off. I agree vintage fur should be worn rather than go to waste. You however, can wear anything and look fabulous. Your muff and stole look like they were made just for you.

  19. Superbly, wisely said, Janey, I’m with your views on vintage fur 100% (as is Tony). I’d never buy modern fur, but I will happily help keep any vintage garment alive and going strong for as long as possible, no matter if it’s cotton, rayon, fur or any other material if I’m able to give it a good home in my wardrobe.

    I’m so sorry for Courtney’s loss. If I should ever see another similar purse online, I will let Coutney know right away.

    ♥ Jessica

  20. I respectfully disagree. I think that wearing fur promotes fur purchase, just as wearing a certain trend promotes the trend. YOU might know it is vintage, but the women on the street don’t know that the animals weren’t skinned a month ago. I am a big animal rights supporter, and while I do appreciate the beauty and ‘glamour’ of vintage fur, I think it is best to appreciate from afar. I am sorry, I don’t have a solution aside from Coats for Cubs either, but I do want to share another perspective in the most respectful way possible. 🙂

    Well written, and did provide some great points to contemplate!

  21. This post tells me my own views on fur, it’s like looking into my own mind, only this morning I was having a debate on why it is so offensive to wear an item from the 20’s or 30’s because it’s fur yet be fine with wearing something made less than a month ago by children in sweatshops. It baffles me. When I was younger, maybe 5 or 6, my grandma had this beautiful fox wrap with face, paws and tail. When I saw it for the first time I didn’t see something that may have been a fashion statement at one point in history, I saw a beautiful fox that I could hug and wrap around my neck to keep me warm, I wasn’t thinking “I look good in this” or asking myself “am I evil for falling in love with this?” I was simply thinking that it was beautiful, it was my grandmas and maybe I’d have my own one day. The innocence I had when I was that age I really wish people had now, they wouldn’t see the animal that had been killed fir fashion as a fashion item, they’d simply see it as beautiful. And I’m not going to be ashamed by sharing this because it is one of the best kept memories I have when staying at my grandma’s house as a child

  22. I was really pleased to read this post. I’m an animal lover who adores vintage. I own a single fur: a beautiful sheepskin coat that belonged to my mother. It’s 40 years old and the warmest coat I’ve ever owned. I had a friend who used to give me so much grief every time I wore it, and this is exactly what I would say to her. What am I supposed to do with it? Chuck it in the garbage? That does nobody any good. At least by wearing it the poor animals didn’t die in vain. I’d never buy a piece of modern fur because I don’t want to fuel that industry. But wearing something that was made four decades ago? I just see it as recycling.

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