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Is it OK to wear vintage fur?

Vintage fur

Is it morally acceptable to buy and wear real fur just because it’s vintage? This is a question I’ve asked myself quite a lot recently without really coming to a conclusion.

To set the record straight, I feel strongly that wearing real fur is un-acceptable. I can’t conceive of any situation where it would be right to kill an animal purely so that you can look fashionable wearing it’s skin. I’m not a vegetarian, and nor do I have any problem with wearing leather (which I realise you might find completely hypocrytical), but I’ve always felt very strongly about the fur industry.

Having said that, back in the 90s while I was a teenager wearing Lynx anti-fur campaign T-shirts I had my grandmother’s coat (with it’s rabbit fur collar) hidden away at the back of my wardrobe. My grandmother died when I was very young, and the coat is one of the few things I have passed down from her, so the sentimental value alone suddenly made it feel acceptable to have a piece of real fur in my wardrobe.

I only ever wore that coat once because of the fear that people would somehow know it was real instead of fake fur, and guess what? One day I did pluck up the courage to wear it.  I was on the train to London and a lady came up to me, felt my collar (she was clearly no respecter of personal space) and said ‘oh, there’s nothing like the feel of real fur is there?’.  I could have died! I had visions of the other train passengers suddenly producing red buckets of paint and throwing them over me in disgust. I never wore the coat again, I was just too ashamed.

Since that episode, I’ve never really come across anyone who wears real fur. Fake fur is so beautiful and so readily available that I had assumed that nobody wore the real stuff any more.

I was quietly horrified when I went to my first vintage event and was suddenly surrounded by ladies draped in pelts: from floor-length fur coats to fox-fur stoles (complete with dangling head, legs and tail) the majority of women were wearing fur and it was undeniably real!

The question I suppose, is whether it’s any more acceptable to wear vintage fur?

Just because you don’t buy the coat brand-new, does it mean that you can wear it guilt-free? After all, you’re still wearing a dead-leopard/fox/mink, and by doing that you’re perpetuating the trend. BUT on the other hand by buying a fur coat which is decades old you’re not supporting the contemporary fur industry, although a lot of furriers seem to sell both vintage AND new fur in the same shop so that’s a bit of a grey area too…

It’s true that real fur can look fantastically glamorous, and feel wonderful (although not as nice as stroking the rabbit when it’s alive) but do I believe that all vintage fur coats should be burned? Probably not.

However I am surprised at the amount of vintage fur on display at vintage events. Britain (I thought) was a predominantly anti-fur country, after all The RSPCA did a poll and discovered that 93% of the British public are against wearing real fur, and fur farms were banned in the UK back in 2003 after it was decided they offended ‘public morality’.

Sadly though, I seem to be in the vintage minority. What are your thoughts on vintage fur? Would you wear it? After thinking this issue through a little more, I can definitely say I would not.

Vintage fur

Vintage fur

Vintage fur

Vintage fur

33 thoughts on “Is it OK to wear vintage fur?

  1. Manc_Vintage

    It’s a tricky one I know. I wrote about the very issue in a blog post last year http://mancunianvintage.com/wigan-vintage-craft-fair-haigh-hall/ and most readers were in agreement.
    Vintage fur is seen as kind of ok, but modern day fur is a no-no due to the fact it perpetuates the use of fur farms and with such quality synthetics there’s no need it for it these days.
    Saying that, I still feel a little odd wearing that particular coat… but I’d rather get some use out of it rather than it wasting away at the back of the wardrobe.
    Gah – so tricky!

    Reply
    • Mary, WHV

      It is a really tricky issue isn’t it? It certainly isn’t as clear cut
      for me as wearing modern-day fur… and while I don’t think it’s
      something I would feel comfortable wearing myself, I wouldn’t take issue
      with other people wearing vintage fur.
      Love your blog by the way. Have you thought about adding it to my new vintage directory? http://weheartvintage.co/vintage-directory/

      Reply
  2. whvblog

    Manc_VintageIt is a really tricky issue isn’t it? It certainly isn’t as clear cut for me as wearing modern-day fur… and while I don’t think it’s something I would feel comfortable wearing myself, I wouldn’t take issue with other people wearing vintage fur.
    Love your blog by the way. Have you thought about adding it to my new vintage directory? http://weheartvintage.co/vintage-directory/

    Reply
  3. papermothballvintage

    What an interesting hot topic. My husband is Japanese and I really like their way of respecting and appreciating the environment. They have this word “Mottainai”, which is hard to translate so Ive included a Wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mottainai. Its the idea of expressing a feeling of regret for waste.
    While I do not support raising or killing animals in an inhumane or unsustainable way, I believe that the spirit of the animal and appreciation of its life is better filled by understanding their sacrifice by properly appreciating the fur. I preserve vintage furs in a celebration of that animal’s life.
    Luckily, we now have good synthetics, so it is no longer necessary to use fur, but at that time, it was what was available. I would not support the fur industry today, as I am also mostly vegetarian. If you eat chicken, its no different to support rabbit farming for fur. I dont understand why people eat chicken and consider the chickens life to be sub-important to a rabbit or beaver.
    If you do not support vintage fur, you must also consider vintage violins and string instruments, leathers, corsets… a whole list of animal use in products. I was an Anthropology major in college and this is a common topic for debate. Further to this idea, you must really consider the consumption of all of your products. Anything containing palm oil, this includes cosmetics, is killing endangered animals. You just cant see it directly in your face. In order to have a palm plantation, you must clear the rain forest, right off the bat killing countless animals and other species like plants. These plantations require the building of roads which cause primates and other animals to be constantly hit by cars. It causes islands of rain forest that cannot support the population that was once in that area and ultimately endangers the whole region. Really, chap stick containing palm oil harms more animals than one pelt in a coat.
    If you are a big proponent for doing away with furs, there are a few foundations which take the donation of fur coats and they turn them into beds for shelter animals. This is a better use than throwing them away.
    If you feel strongly about this topic, I encourage you to research more about the environment, sustainability and globalization.
    If you care about the lives of animals, I would also hope that you care about the lives of children. Most of the garments manufactured today and made by children in dangerous and inhumane conditions. Where as vintage clothing very commonly was made by a woman at home, but of course factories also existed. Buy from small independent designers, or those who make clothing in safe conditions.
    Laura

    Reply
    • Mary, WHV

      That’s a very good point about vintage violins, corsets etc. I came across the most wonderful chess set in an antique shop the other day which was made from ebony and ivory. I would have loved to buy it (sadly it was very expensive) but I wondered then whether I would be comfortable about the idea of owning something made from ivory. The fact that it was an antique made that seem fine to me… I’m not saying my views are right (or even logical all of the time), it’s purely a case of what I would be comfortable with, and personally I don’t like the idea of wearing real fur (even if it is vintage) :)

      Reply
  4. Emilys Vintage Visions

    This is tricky, to be sure. I know many people feel very strongly one way or another. I personally don’t have an issue with owning or wearing vintage furs. I have a several fur pieces in my collection and do on occasion have the chance to wear them. I am careful about where I wear them because I know some people are very against real fur of any kind. However, I choose to keep them for their beauty as well as their historical and personal value. A good example is the mink coat that belong to a family friend who passed away about a year ago. The coat originally belonged to her mother and it is just gorgeous. The husband offered me the coat because he knew I liked “old clothes”. There are many uses for vintage furs. I just can’t see tossing them in the trash.
    -Emily

    Reply
    • Mary, WHV

      I see your point Emily. I’d never dream of
      throwing my grandmother’s coat away, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable
      wearing it. (I know that makes very little sense) I know what you mean
      about judging the right places to wear them too. Goodwood Revival would
      have been a great place to wear them, most of the women were wearing
      real fur there! :)

      Reply
  5. whvblog

    @Emilys Vintage Visions I see your point Emily. I’d never dream of throwing my grandmother’s coat away, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing it.  (I know that makes very little sense) I know what you mean about judging the right places to wear them too. Goodwood Revival would have been a great place to wear them, most of the women were wearing real fur there! :)

    Reply
  6. Pearlio

    Hi.
    I have a Persian lamb jacket with 3/4 sleeves that belonged to my grandmother.  I can barely still smell the Tabu around the neck.  Anyway, I have worn it out in the winter without any comments or problems.  Actually, I don’t think anyone knows what Persian lamb is (maybe something to eat)??  It is gorgeous and I love it because I remember her in it looking glamorous.  It is the only true real fur I own.  I wear it and think others can certainly wear their antique or hand-me-downs proudly.

    Reply
    • Mary, WHV

      I’m not sure what Persian Lamb is either. Is it an equivalent to wearing sheepskin I wonder? I kind of see that the same way I see leather I think, it doesn’t sound like an animal which would be farmed purley for it’s fur… It’s all a very confusing grey area, and if it feels right to wear your grandmother’s coat then why not :)

      Reply
      • Pearlio

        Thank you for the reply Mary.. I just saw it today! Anyway, Persian lamb looks like a black dog with very tightly curled/wavy hair. Talk about warm!

        Reply
  7. Pingback: Just because it’s vintage, does that make it OK? « We Heart Vintage

  8. Augustus

    Hello Mary, I’m sorry but your reasoning is incorrect. Humanity is evolving gradually over not kill / exploit animals & plants. However, one cannot simply ban what has been done before, claiming that the current level of consciousness is dissenting. Would you stop buying a lot of dazzling old chairs because they were originally upholstered in real leather? Or a XIX century piano for his coated ivory keys? How many works of art, in museums or private collections, have as raw material forbidden stuff today? Ivory, Ebony (technically extinct) or rare animals skins were part of everyday life of past generations – it can not be disregarded. By the way, you know how were made ​​antique or vintage fur coats? True works of art … The major problem with people is extremism. Who opposes the use of a vintage skin also should never wear Christian Loubutin shoes: cattle and crocodiles do not deserve our mercy? Only foxes and stoats are pitiful …? Regards, Augustus.

    Reply
    • Mary, WHV

      I see your point Augustus, it’s just not something I would choose to wear myself. I have no problem with other people wearing vintage fur. Good to hear from you again! :)

      Reply
  9. JennyVintage

    This is something I ask myself every time I consider wearing real fur. I don’t generally have a problem wearing vintage fur because the fact that I have bought a vintage piece from a vintage or second-hand shop has nothing to do with the original demand for the product, and I don’t think we can (in many cases) apply today’s values and morals to society of 50 years ago. And I also think a garment like that should be looked after since the poor little animal was killed a long time ago and it should at least be appreciated now.

    However, in general I prefer fake fur and I love my fake fur coats. The quality and appearance of fake fur tends to be very good and just as warm as real fur so there really isn’t any need for me to seek out the real thing when I’m looking for second-hand bargains. I also tend not to like a lot of real fur because the super soft texture is just too beautiful and it creeps me out – that was once a beautiful animal and it’s such a stark reminder.

    But I did just buy a beautiful piece in a vintage shop in New York last week. It’s 1960s and in gorgeous condition. The collar and cuffs are mink, the rest is not fur. It’s currently the only real fur piece in my wardrobe and I intend to take excellent care of it and wear it well into my 60s because it should be respected.

    I did once buy a lovely real fur stole from Beyond Retro, telling myself I thought it was okay because it was second-hand. Really, it looked less than 15 years old and partly for that reason I only wore it once. I sold it on a vintage stall this year, happy it wasn’t my responsibility anymore and happy that someone else who didn’t have that problem with it would wear it lots and really love it.

    Jenny

    jennyvintage.wordpress.com

    Reply
  10. Princess Tatiana

    I personally am ok with wearing most vintage fur because it is after all recycled (I concur with Jenny’s views below), especially those animals that are considered pests here in Australia (eg, rabbits, foxes), or if they are a byproduct of the meat industry. In New Zealand, the introduced Australian possum is considered a pest as it interferes with their native animals, and I believe they use possum fur there; however, the same animal is protected here. (I have one that lives above my front door and drinks out of the bird bath every evening.)

    I would NEVER choose to wear a piece that has head and limbs dangling however. Those horrify me and I can’t understand why anyone would want that draped around their shoulders.

    I also work at a theatre company, and recently chatting with one of the wardrobe staff I learned that Persian lamb actually comes from pre-natal animals. I can’t recall whether she told me that the lambs were deliberately aborted for this purpose. I must say I was extremely horrified when I learned this!

    ‘Princess Tatiana’
    http://www.sonotaprincess.com.au

    Reply
    • Mary, WHV

      euw, that sounds particuarly horrible! I don’t like the idea of wearing fur which has head and limbs dangling either, but in a way it’s perhaps a more honest way of wearing fur. After all, it reminds you where the fur really came from, so why shy away from the fact? Not something I fancy doing though 😉

      Reply
  11. Rag and Magpie

    Great question, I asked a similar question in my own blog a while back (http://www.ragandmagpie.co.uk/blog/2012/01/the-vintage-fur-debate-my-two-cents/) and got more comments than usual, it really gets people going in way or another.

    Personally I would never wear real fur. I have declined my mother’s offer of her vintage rabbit fur coat. But then I’m a vegetarian so would predicatably take that stance. To me it is vulgar either with or without limbs and a head (although it’s definataly more shocking with).

    At the same time I think people carrying buckets of red paint to splash
    at strangers is out of order, it should be the decision of a well INFORMED individual to make their own choice about whether to wear fur
    or not without fear of assault.

    In addition to that I think if you live in a wild environment where you must catch, kill and cook your own meat to survive then you SHOULD use all of the animal so as not to waste or disrespect its sacrifice. However, in much of the western world that is not the case. I can’t beleive many of the people wearing fur at vintage events would do so if they had to skin it themselves.

    Some say ‘wearing fur is perpetuating the trend or the manufacture of fur’ and some say ‘it’s vintage, the animal was killed years ago, why waste it’, but consider this; If you wear a vintage fur out in public (even if you only wear fur that’s vintage) do young people who might be influenced my your outfit know the difference? Might they then go on unwitting thinking that fur in general looks cool?

    My online shop has a strict no real fur policy. There has been excellent
    faux substitutes since the 1950s so if you wear fur only to try and stay within the theme of your prefered era why not encourage good faux repros
    within the vintage scene instead?

    Although I can appreciate the historical significance of fur’s popularity as a fashion item, I think that’s where it should stay; reserved for period dramas and historical exhibitions.

    Bella ♥

    Reply
  12. Pingback: The Fur Box | It's not Old, It's Vintage

  13. Franziska Pfleum

    Vintage furs are very nice for me, I also have some of them. Previously, the animals were not hidden, they were worn openly and freely. Today, the skins are dyed, cut and sewn together to form a fur. I honor the deceased animal, if I can show it completely, it deserves it.

    Reply
  14. samantha anastasiou

    Hello,
    I have always encountered this question, and as has been quite eloquently stated below, wearing vintage fur is recycling, and we use animals everyday. Do I believe endangered species or animals in the wild should be trapped and killed? Absolutely not! Wearing vintage fur reduces demand, and mink farming is as dairy farming, cattle farming, etc.
    What I do object to is people imposing their views on other people, and being rude and even violent. I worked in San Francisco, and witnessed little old ladies who would get dressed up on Sundays, or the Holidays to go shopping in Union Square, only to have their furs have paint thrown on them by rabid PETA members. I did witness this, and more. Mean, hateful things during these gatherings and protests. This is not a free and tolerable society by any means, and to be rude to other people for their choices is hypocritical. Give Peace a Chance, right? I’ve yet to see a person in fur key a vegans Prius and ruin the paint job because of their refusal to eat meat. We have become a very unkind and uncivil society, all the while proclaiming to protect this and that, and shouting peace for all. How hypocritical!
    So, I will wear my vintage furs, minks and in the freezing cold where I live, there is nothing man made like them, and it is my choice. Please respect it, as I respect yours.
    Kind Regards,
    Samantha

    Reply
  15. Julia

    I choose not to wear vintage fur because even though it may look good on a garment, it still tells other people that wearing real fur is OK. Anyone seeing me in the garment would either hate me because, like me, they are horrified by the fur industry, or on the other hand they would think it looks great and possibly go and buy a modern fur garment themselves, which is something I definitely don’t want to inspire someone to do. Also, although it is vintage and technically a “recycled” fur garment (meaning the money doesn’t directly go to the fur industry) this does not change the fact that an animal was killed (often brutally) for the sake of that garment. I don’t think I want to be connected to that even if it was done over 50 years ago. So basically to wear fur, whether modern or vintage, is to support the fur industry, and that industry is a horrific and inhumane one.

    Reply
  16. Eric Stott

    For younger people it should only be worn as part of a historical costume ensemble and not for ordinary wear – if you are reproducing the Downton Abbey look a fox stole with the head hanging off of it would be perfectly acceptable- but don’t wear it to keep the chill off in a restaurant.

    For older women who own them, go right ahead and do it – a woman 50 or older should have the right to look some young PETA member in the eye and say “This animal has been dead longer than you’ve been alive”.

    Reply
    • Teresa

      That’s ridiculous. How is it okay for older women to wear old furs but not for younger women to wear old fur? Wearing a vintage fur from the 50s etc makes absolutely no difference whether you are 20 or 80.

      Reply
      • villagethinking

        I”m an older woman now, but ever since I was young, I coveted my late grandmother’s platinum mink stole (which is of a quality that you will simply not find in modern furs) as well as her mink scarf, made of several full mink skins, heads, paws and all. I’ve also purchased a number of other vintage fur pieces, including an ermine stole, a fox stole, a 1940’s mink swing coat (with straps inside so you can wear it over your shoulders), a monkey-fur muff (oh, did that ever keep my hands toasty warm until it wore out) and a few collars. I don’t wear them often, but as I often dress in vintage or vintage-inspired clothing, they accessorize beautifully along with my vintage jewelry, and stoles are great to keep the chill off your shoulders. I also have a more recent full-length sheared rabbit coat that my late mother bought in the 90’s, which I wear on the coldest of days, because real fur is like armor against below zero air.

        I’ve only once had someone remark negatively about my real fur, and I just smiled and said something like “good for you” and kept on going. Most people want to just touch my furs, because they are soft and beautiful. And rare. I have a friend who referred to my mink coat as a “feely coat”.

        Wearing fur is a personal choice, and if you don’t believe in wearing it, don’t. But if I’m out and about bundled up in my ankle length coat against an Alberta clipper in January, or keeping the chill off my shoulders with grandmas mink stole, or rocking my swing coat over my shoulders a la Joan Crawford and feeling fabulously vintage, I prefer that people mind their own beeswax, because I don’t feel any more guilt about wearing my furs than my mother or grandmother did.

        Reply
  17. Dave

    The decision to wear a fur coat is a personal one, just as the decision to become a vegan is or wear leather shoes from animals that did not live their natural lives. The amount of hypocrisy by some of the posters astounds me. Do you eat chicken, eggs, milk, veal, lamb, wear any kind of leather (shoes)? If so then please get your head out of the sand; all those products are from animals who weren’t volunteers. I respect one’s right to choose, but I respect no one who wishes to force their views on others publicly by insulting, assaulting (throwing paint) or making any comment. People are not interested in your thoughts on what they have chosen to wear. As for fake fur, no thought is given to the people that are manufacturing these items in third world countries, working incredible hours for meagre pay and no rights; children even. Some of the fake furs are also not environmental and made out of petroleum products. PETA does not agree with anyone keeping fish in a home aquarium for their enjoyment or for that matter pets. It’s viewed as yet another tragedy. This minority group has been extremist in the past in my view and should not be used to shape any guidelines for society. Aboriginal peoples have been wearing furs for millennia to keep warm. It makes sense. You want to help wildlife? It’s an honourable cause. Do something meaningful about truly serious problems like global de-forestation, urban sprawl, and pollution of the air and water.

    Reply
  18. Ariel Isble

    Like the above poster said, not all coats are created equal and I for one would feel better buying a fur coat crafted in Europe from a small family company than mass produced jackets at the department store that were probably done in some exploited third world nation. Not only do fur coats leave less of a carbon print on the world, but faux fur and other synthetics are not biodegradable while a real fur coat that is well cared for can last decades… sometimes longer than the original buyer. So while trying to avoid animal suffering, we create more waste to burden the planet with.

    Everyone on this earth lives in a grey haze when it comes to animal rights, whether they be omnivorous or a vegan. We all kill animals, indirectly, from the foods we eat (vegetable farmers kill small animals during harvesting) to the cars we drive to the houses we live in. At some point, we have to learn to find peace with ourselves and our choices.

    Reply
  19. Sam_Iam

    I love, love, love wearing fur! Vintage and preowned is what I am able to afford, so that is what I buy. Those who prefer new fur, should buy it. I’m so tired of the anti-fur rhetoric. If you don’t like fur, simply choose not to wear it!

    Reply
    • Helen Michaelides

      I fully agree with you, I too have furs from my mum and I like buying vintage furs that I have remodelled myself to comptempory styles, I love them! We will just enjoy wearing our beautiful furs, right! YES!

      Reply

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