Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The dilemma of vintage furs...

When is it ok to wear a fur?

Last weekend we went to AutumnFest in Taree, and did an op-shop sweep of the surrounding towns.

We found the amazing Wingham! Well, its amazing for having a small population but able to sustain a yummy local produce cafe called 'Bent'. (guess why we ate there)

Wingham has a great Vinnies op-shop on the main street, and just as we were leaving my friend Kim asked if they had anything out the back that they thought we might like.

The helpful shop assistants came back with three racks of vintage furs (real and fake). The fake ones were a bit matted, but the real ones (all circa 40s-50s) were in pristine condition - i've never seen real furs that well looked after.

And they were all $25-$30 each. Shops in Sydney sell vintage fake fur for $80+ - these were the real deal.

Ethical crises ensued.
I'm a vegetarian, and feel that farming and killing an animal just to wear its skin is wrong (i'm not talking about indigenous populations or feral pests here). Modern fur is pretty hideous (Lara Bingle, i'm looking at you), we should know better. Fake ones look authentic and glam.

But vintage, thats a different kettle of fish. 

Circa Vintage says "whilst I do not support animal cruelty or factory farming, I have no trouble with vintage furs because the animal has died long ago. The demand for vintage furs is much less than the supply and so I consider valuing and preserving them to be a form of respect for their sacrifice and the aesthetics of our fore-mothers. Besides: many vintage furs are being saved from landfill, as they are little valued these days, compared to the past when they were a great symbol of status."

But then a friend told me about 'vintage' shops in the UK recreating vintage looks with modern furs - is that true? I'm pretty sure it doesn't happen in Australia as our desire for fur isn't that huge, but the thought it may happen is a bit stomach churning.

"Somehow having a beautiful vintage fur coat cut-up and used for animal beds or seeing it clogging up a landfill doesn’t seem to honor either the animal who gave its life or the designer or seamstress who toiled for hours to create the garment" - Ethical Style.

I bought two of the Wingham furs - a fox stole and a wallaby (i think?) capelet, both from the 40s/50s. When I put them on, I thought of the woman who owned them 60 years ago - how they might have been a present from a husband who's always away but adored his wife.
I wondered how they ended up in Wingham! I bet the owner looked glamorous (if not overdressed) at the Country Women's Association Christmas Ball...

Vintage wallaby capelet
Am I just trying to create reasons to make it ok, is it really a major vintage sin? Or is vintage fur ok?
Do things ever become de-tainted?
What do other people think?


Camelia Crinoline said...

I'm a vegetarian too and would never buy new fur but recently I had the same dilemma- I found an amazing vintage wool coat in perfect condition had a real fur collar. I decided to buy it anyway for much the same reasons you posted. I also wear leather shoes which are second hand or bought in my pre-vegetarian days so I would feel like a hypocrite if I was anti vintage fur but willing to wear vintage leather shoes.

Citizen K said...

I personally don't have a problem with purchasing vintage furs (or with cutting them up for animal beds). I would never buy a modern fur because it would be a vote to keep producing new fur clothes.
I don't really buy into the whole "we're honoring the poor creature" by wearing the vintage fur. However I see it as vintage is already out there, better it serves a purpose and stay out of the landfill.

Lara said...

No judgment here, but my take is that by wearing fur, you are perpetrating the style. Most people who see you won't appreciate the nuance of your ethical dilemma, they will just say, "oh, fur". And if they like your look they may try to replicate it, with no thought to WHY you are wearing it.

Ultimately I think you just have to simplify, and ask yourself if you think it is ok to wear fur?

Mind you I post this as a completely lapsed vegetarian, I figured that I would become ethical again at some point in the future, and if anything entitles you to a free pass it is having 2 dead babies. So please feel free to ignore my comments completely :)

Moxie Tonic said...

It's totally a personal decision, there's no 'right' way to be a vegetarian.
For some reason, as human beings, we seam to get a real charge out of passing judgment on everyone else.

I think you look beautiful and confident: so I say wear your vintage furs and to heck with the naysayers.

Brittany_Va-VoomVintage said...

wearing fur, vintage or modern is a very personal decision. There are many in the vintage world who would say it's fine and just as many would say it's not okay. In my opinion, you should do what you want to do, regardless of what others say. It's your life, your style and if wearing fur keeps you warm or makes you feel glamorous or happy for saving that piece of history, go for it! Some people will look down on you and some may make rude comments so do be prepared for that kind of thing. Personally, I own a vintage fur wrap and a vintage coat with a real fur collar. I don't have a ton of fur and probably wouldn't start a huge collection or anything but every once in a while, I find a piece that I really love and I would rather save it and preserve that piece of fashion history than have it rotting away in a pile of garbage somewhere. You look gorgeous in your new coat! :)

sweet jane. said...

hey, love your blog ... never commented before, but as a non-vegan vegetarian who loves vintage fashion, I've also thought about this issue quite a bit!
In the greater NYC area where I live, the demand for vintage fur is at least equal to the supply so I've never purchased it. I'd HATE to find out that I'd unwittingly purchased a 'vintage' fur that was really newly created. I'm also on the fence about reconciling the look with my personal ethics. Even though I think they look fabulous, I agree with the above comment that random passers-by have no idea if it's new or old and why the distinction matters to me. (of course, I do have some old leather shoes, which I bought used. Truly vintage footwear doesn't come up much for my enormous feet, but I have no problem with it. Maybe because it's less obvious than fur? I'm not very consistent, I guess.)

Personally I think buying a pre-owned vintage fur is probably better -- in an environmental sense -- than a new fake fur. At any rate, you look fantastic!

The Charity Shop Fairy said...

To be honest I'm in the not-ok camp - even in my pre-veg*n days! For a start I just don't really like it, I've always thought it felt icky and looked weird. And as others have said, wearing it perpetuates the glamorous association, vintage or not, and others may be unable to make the distinction between old and new - or not care and go and buy it new to 'get the look'.

Some commenters have made parallels with wearing second-hand leather, but there are entirely new depths of awfulness in the way animals farmed/caught for fur are treated. There was a good article in the Daily Mail (though that combination of words sticks in my throat, normally I'd rather stab myself with knitting needles than open the Daily Mail) about a new wave of pro-fur fashionistas, it's online here:

And as for it ending up in landfill - well, as these apparently ethical pro-fur designers say, it IS biodegradable, after all...

Kate said...

Heres my two cents: I'm a vegetarian and would never real fur. It just makes me uncomfortable (same with leather). That being said, I don't have a problem with other people wearing VINTAGE fur. No excuse for new fur, but vintage fur is a piece of history. It already exists and I don't believe in censoring history. I would rather see someone wearing a vintage fur and acknowledging the past than see that piece of history end up in a landfill.

Bex said...

Wow - thanks for all your input/thoughts!

As The Charity Shop Fairy says, a muggle might not make the distinction between modern and vintage.
I *think* its going to be a case of specialised wearings only - i.e. to vintage events. And keeping them well looked after as genuine historical pieces...


Andi B. Goode said...

I'm just going to reiterate that it's a very personal decision. I don't wear fur, vintage or otherwise, because I personally can't stand the feel of it and certainly not close to my skin. But I'm a very textural person (I also can't stand the feel of newsprint). I'm vegetarian, too, but unlike some others I don't think there is a right or wrong way to be vegetarian. It's your personal journey and I think you have to be comfortable with what you wear and how you wear it.

Also, you look amazing.

-Andi x

Eleen Fashions said...

I too have gone through this dilemma. I am not a vegan but I do not wear fur. At the same time I will wear leather as the cow is eaten and I believe the entire animal should be used.

I have personally passed up some beautiful fur collared vintage coats because it was real fur. After reading this I may reconsider if I see one that I'm in love with.

Very insightful post! Coat looks great on you too!

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