Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Vintage Fur - Yay or Nay? My Ethical Dilemma.

Hello Lovelies! Okay so this may be my most divisive post yet and is inspired by a vintage fur coat that I bought in the local antique/junk ]market /car bootie where I also score my vintage sewing machines.

Sartorially my coat does nothing for me but when these photos were taken it was about -4 degrees Celcius outside and I was totally toasty.

The coat itself is a lovely Musquash fur in pristine condition and is actually a little too big for me. Since vintage things rarely come large enough and I was in need of a new winter coat for this year, I snapped it up swayed by its loveliness. However, now that I have got it home I am having feeling a bit of inner turmoil. As a vintage loving clothes-a-holic it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to the siren song of a "good" fur coat. No fashionable lady of yesteryear, with a yearning for glitz and glamour, would have been without her fur - a real status symbol at the time - and the vintage/second-hand shops are awash with them. However, I am a committed animal lover and find the idea of wearing modern farmed fur abhorrent. So where does vintage fur lie in this ethical debate?

First a little history.......

Who wore it best? Source

Musquash fur is derived from the Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) which are found all over North America and Canada. Musquash fur was very popular as a cheaper alternative to mink and could be found sheared and/or dyed to more resemble other pelts. The darker the colour of the musquash the pricier the fur.


At the time that this coat was made in the 1930's it is likely that the pelts used would have been sourced at a fur sale such as those of the Hudson Bay Company who sold vast quantities of skins from an unbelievable variety of animals such a squirrels, raccoons, mink, beaver and fox. These skins would have been obtained from animals trapped in the wild and brought to trading posts all over Canada, where they would be collected and shipped to places like London and Paris.

For fox' sake! Couldn't find the source but this is a HBC trading post, apparently.

 Unfortunately, the impact of the fur trade reached beyond wildlife and had a huge, and could be argued highly negative, effect on the indigenous aboriginal peoples of Canada who abandoned traditional ways of life in favour of trapping fur in exchange for bartered goods. Due to the large costs of shipping and handling the wild-trapped skins the latter part of the1930's saw the advent of farmed fur, especially for high-vaue pelts like mink. The fur trade died out somewhat with the popularity of the animal rights movement in the 60's - 90's but has never really gone away. In the last few years it could be considered to be having a bit of a renaissance with many designers showing fur again.

Where the Wild Things Are

So where does this leave me? I love animals and always support animal charities. In my time I have taken in countless stray cats,  abused rabbits and all manner of little lost furries and given them a lovely life. However, I am not vegetarian, although I used to be for many years  and we eat mostly veggie/vegan in our house. I would never dream of purchasing modern fur. However, I am in two minds about the vintage variety. I know that this is still a(n) (dead) animal product, even if it is about 90 years old, and that muskrats died for this coat but I am very much against things going into landfill and like to reuse/recycle as much as possible. Many millions of animals die every year for the production of food. Why are the (leather) by-products of the meat trade more popularly acceptable, or are they? Is the wearing of vintage fur ever justifiable? Does it have the same impact as wearing a modern fur? Could reuse, reduce, recycle ever apply to fur? Do you find fur culturally acceptable and think that this is just first-world angst?

I may be hanging my head in shame

So what are you thoughts people? Am I a completely morally reprehensible homicidal animal slaughterer with my ethical compass set to serial killer or do you think that wearing vintage fur is acceptable as it is a kind of recycling? Do you even care? I am feeling terribly guilty and torn about my purchase. I do own a couple of 60's vintage sheepskin hats. Is this any worse?

Please feel free to comment but play nice people. I know that this is an emotive subject but we should respect everyone's views.


Kxx





23 comments:

  1. You didn't go looking for a new fur coat; buying a new one would indicate to the industry that there is still a market for such things and that is what fuels the fur farms. Your coat is 30+ years ago. While it's not likely, my dad may have trapped those muskrats in the wild and that coat provided income to a family, not just a faceless industry. I think by buying a second hand coat you prevented something that still has a lot of wear from going to the landfill. I don't think you should feel guilty at all.

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    1. Hi Sox, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Trapping must have provided an income to a great many people, not just in Canada but all around the globe, from trappers to couturiers. It is very easy to dismiss something if it does't affect you firsthand and we all do what we need to to survive. I think that it is definitely better than running an intensive farm and I have hunted, shot and fished in my youth. :) I am very much against anything of use going to landfill and try to recycle or donate everything that I can. I don't think that I should feel guilty either but I still do a bit. :) Xx

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  2. I think it's fine! I know that norther Canadian communities are asking for donations of vintage fur that they can cut and sew into traditional-style clothing, mitt, mukluks etc, because new fur is so expensive and sometimes hard to find. So if you ever decide to give your coat a third life, perhaps that's an option! I think the only drawback is making fur look cool, and people wanting fur as a result - and is that really a concern? I don't know.

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    1. Hi Gillian, thank you for the comment. That is a pretty cool way to recycle vintage fur. It is kind of full-circle and I love that. Vintage fur was made in a time when people in general were less concerned about where it came from versus the status of owning a fur - new fur, well everyone has seen the pictures of fur farms and I don't know how anyone would want to endorse that with their money. Think I have a long way to go before I can be accused of glamorizing fur. It is a bit of a brain twister thought. :) Xx

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    2. Uh, you look pretty damn glam in your fur! You are working it!
      All that said, I HATE touching fur and it gives me the heebee-geebees!

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  3. Firstly, I don't have the money to buy a fur coat, but if I did, I just wouldn't. However, this is my choice and I do not force my beliefs on others. I have seen too many videos on animal cruelty, and it is not just for fur, sometimes it is just for 'sport', or so some call it. I don't consider it a sport, as in my view, a sport consists of two willing participants. The animal is not a willing participant. And I really believe that people are allowed to have their own opinions and voice them, I just wish that everyone can do it with respect and kindness, not in a nasty way or by condemning others. Your photos are lovely. :)

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    1. Hi Linda, Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comment. I don't have a lot of money either so this coat was a good buy for me as it was about 1/5 of the cost of a new woollen coat. I agree with your comment on hunting animals for sport. Although I was vegetarian, and still eat very little meat, I don't mind so much when people hunt to feed themselves but things like fox-hunting make me very angry and some footage from slaughterhouses and factory farms is heartbreaking. Animals should be treated with love and respect. Xx

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  4. First of all you look fab in your fur! Gorgeous is how I'd describe you and the coat. Secondly, you bought the coat second hand. Thirdly, what's the alternative - fake fur?

    Anna of Anna's Island Style recently blogged about the cost to the environment of fake fur - horrendous. It has led me to conclude the most ethical thing is to buy vintage fur - too late as I had already bought a fake fur coat!

    I'll send you the link to Anna's article when I get home and on my laptop.

    Xxx

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    1. Hi Veronica,thank you very much for your kind comments and for pointing me in the direction of Anna's blog. I really enjoyed her post on fake fur. I have a few real fur pieces too but a whole ton of fakes from 1950's leopard to modern fun furs. when I was reading about fur I think that I stumbled across the same article that she had read and I was stunned at just how bad fake fur was for the environment. Although I would never advocate buying a modern fur it certainly makes you think about vintage in a much better light. Xx

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  5. Well, first of all I think you look a real Hollywood Glamour Puss (as they used to be called, it would be considered inappropriate now on so many levels!), it really suits you. Secondly, it would be hypocritical of me to condemn anyone wearing real fur when I wear leather shoes and eat some meat, though I do only eat free range sourced from my local butcher. I like to think that the animals had a happy life. Naive or what?
    And like you, I am an animal lover, have rescued cats, support animal charities locally too. And I also hate waste, so rather than go to landfill, anything that can be used again, should be. I would have happily worn your coat many years ago, and not given a damn or a second thought to what people thought of me. Nowadays, although I still have that attitude to some extent, I seem to be more mindful of others feelings in a way. Also as a Buddhist, not sure where they stand on such matters!
    Do you like wearing it? Does it keep you toasty warm? Does it make you feel sexy, good about yourself? If there are more positives than negatives to how you feel about it, just wear it and don't overthink it. You could always just drape it over your bed, or garden in it, keep it away from public scrutiny! And, animals died for that coat, wouldn't it be wrong not to wear it, or else they died in vain. For the vanity of others originally. Now it's you doing your bit for recycling, not vanity. Even if you do look hot in it!!!

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    1. Hi Edwina, Thank you for your lovely comments. It is not so naive about meat, some farmers really do try to give their animals the very best lives that they can. I know a few people with small herds and they are treated extremely well. Funny that you mentioned you are a Buddhist. I asked my friend who is one but they didn't seem perturbed by it. I do feel good in my coat, although it would really be pushing it to say "sexy". :) I bought it because we were due a very cold winter and it was minus 4 degrees when those pics were taken. I was really toasty which was great as I get cold easily. Now we are having sunny days and none of the deep snow that was forecast. You can't win with the weather! Xx

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  6. Meant to ask if you are on Facebook?

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  7. No PM from you, but if you want to send friend request - Edwina Lawson is me on FB

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  8. My thoughts on this are:
    a) it looks fabulous on you.
    b) it's not in landfill.
    c) you're shopping within your budget.
    d) if you're happy to wear it, then that's good enough for me.
    e) if I'd seen, it I'd have bought it, and would wear it at every given opportunity!
    f) did I mention you look awesome in it. It's just the perfect colour for you.

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    1. Thanks Evie for your vey kind comments. I do love it and it was way cheaper than a new winter coat. I a such a miser when it comes to buying stuff for me and I like buying vintage as I love the idea that clothes get to live many lives. It is just a pity that since I bought the it has only really been cold enough to wear it a couple of days. I has been so unseasonably warm here. I absolutely love the colour of the fur. It is like Autumn. Xx

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  9. I had one and never wore it because I was worried about people's reactions, so ended up giving it to a charity shop. But you never know how someone came by one, and I would assume most people got theirs secondhand - I don't know anyone who can afford the new stuff, much less want to support fur farming nowadays - so I'd never say anything to someone who did wear it.

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    1. Yes, I agree Mim and thanks for the comment. I know people with them too and they are all second-hand. I definitely couldn't afford the new stuff and wouldn't want to buy it either. You don't see them as often as you used to in the shops or at vintage fairs. I wonder if it because people worry about how they would be perceived wearing a fur? I once knew a charity shop that used to get them all the time but they weren't allowed to put them out on the shop floor They did keep them though and had a bit of a black market going with them if you asked. Xx

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  10. Phwoar! You look absolutely stunning.
    It's a tricky one, isn't it? Normally I give fur a wide berth but if I saw you at a vintage fair I'd have no hesitation in telling you how good you looked in yours.
    I dithered for ages over a 1930s black fur capelet I spotted in a charity shop for a fiver before Xmas but in the end decided it was too beautiful to miss and a crime to leave for landfill. When I sell it I'll donate the profits to my favourite India street dog & cat charity. xxx

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    1. Hi Vix, Thank you for your kind comment. Yes, I felt the same way about this and it is a bit of a circular argument for me. I couldn't leave it behind but am still a bit conflicted. I do donate a fair bit every month to an independent cat shelter and take in all manner of waifs and strays. That is really kind of you to donate to the Indian street dog and cat charity. I hate thinking of poor wee stray animals. Do they have a website? Xx

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  11. I can't believe I've only just worked out how to look at your blog - I'm such a doofus.

    Anyway onto the coat - I've got a similar dilemma. I inherited a beautiful fur coat from my Grandma which I love but I'm cautious about wearing it out and about. I believe it was her grandmothers so quite likely they were wild caught animals as opposed to farmed. I have no issue with fur coming from ethical sources - I eat meat, I wear leather, I drink milk. However as a zoologist I tend to be overly pragmatic than some.

    My worry is generally over where I can wear it - would it offend someone if i walked down the street in it and would that result in something horrible happening? As it is I tend to wear mine at posh functions like Army balls to avoid confrontation.

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    1. Hi Lesley, I am such a Luddite so feel your pain. : D Thanks for the comment. I don't know if there is such a hoo-ha about fur as there used to be. Yours sounds lovely and if it is pre-1930's there is a very good chance of it being wild-caught. I am assuming that you will be trekking round the streets of Edinburgh in yours? I went for a wander in Stockbridge, near Mum's house in mine. All I got was a "Class!" from an beaming older chap on St Stephen's Street. I do wonder if anyone would do something too but vintage furs usually look vintage and I assume that people would realise that it is not dripping with the blood of freshly slaughtered furries. It is a bit of a dilemma though, that's for sure. I never go to posh anythings so resorted to wear it out shopping. Only problem has been that it is far too warm. Xx

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