Vintage Fur Stoles: Your Questions Answered

Pin up Karen Lovegrove models a vintage fur stole for us. Note her use of color and texture contrast so that the stole enhances her style.

Pin up Karen Lovegrove models a vintage fur stole for us. Her clever use of color and texture gives her vintage look contrast and depth. Photo by David Rowe Photography.

It’s late autumn in the Northern Hemisphere – fur stole season. Time to wear your vintage fur stole, or, if it isn’t for you any more, time to sell it. I came back from a trip to an in box PACKED with fur stole queries. With this post, I’m doing my best to answer the most popular questions for the Internet.

What is a fur stole?

A fur stole is a large scarf, wrap, or capelet made of fur and lining, designed to be worn over your shoulders.

Most fur stoles from the 1920s through the 1970s have three layers: the exterior fur, an interior shaping layer made of felt, buckram, or horsehair fabric, and a satiny lining that was worn next to the skin. These different layers and types of fabric make it challenging to dye a fur stole and get good results.

Fur garments, especially accessibly priced stoles, were very popular in Western culture from mid-Victorian times through the late 1960s. Then, styles and ethics changed drastically (this article on the history of fur is excellent)  and the fur piece was no longer the equivalent of an It bag or iPhone. Because of their long association with value and luxury, we still associate high value with furs – even when most people are now carrying technology in their pockets that costs more than most vintage furs.

How do I choose a vintage or faux fur stole to wear?

Simple guideline: wear one that contrasts with your hair. Dark hair? Light stole – white, grey, champagne brown, pink. Light hair? Dark stole. Mid-toned hair? I recommend going darker, very dark brown or black. Or pick a fur that has a contrasting element to your own hair.

Shaped and tailored stoles look best with styles from the 1920s through to the late 1950s. They also work well for crinoline-wearing Victorian costumers.

Our stylish friend Fandangle Fabulus shows us one way to wear a radical limbs-and-all fur stole. Guaranteed to attract attention.

Our stylish friend Fandangle Fabulus shows us one way to wear a radical limbs-and-all fur stole. Guaranteed to attract attention.

A lot of people are revulsed by vintage stoles that have the heads and feet still included. Others are fascinated. If you wear one, people WILL react! The entire-fox-fur stoles are compatible with today’s bohemian looks, if not with today’s bohemian morals. They’re also flexible for cosplay.

How can I tell if my fur stole is real fur or fake fur?

It’s so easy. Trim a tiny snip of the fur from a spot you won’t notice, and set it on fire! If it’s real fur, it will burn cleanly, with a little pale smoke and a distinctive burning-hair smell. You’ll be left with ashes and carbon. If it’s fake fur, it will melt and smoke and smell synthetic. You’ll be left with a black synthetic blob.

Is the furrier who created my fur still in business?

I get this a lot, and I don’t know why, since…people can Google this for themselves. 95% of the furriers of the past are now out of business, particularly in the United States. Many of them, back in the day, acquired furs wholesale and sewed in their own labels. They provided fur care, cleaning, and storage. If your stole has a vintage furrier’s label in it, Google the name, and if nothing significant comes up, your stole is still enhanced by the vintage label and provenance.

How much is my vintage fur stole worth? Can I sell it?

Model Sandra Mabey shows us a silver fox stole. The tipping on the silver fox contrasts with her blue-tipped hair.

Model Sandra Mabey shows us a silver fox stole. The tipping on the silver fox contrasts with her blue-tipped hair.

With furs, older doesn’t mean more valuable: condition, quality, and color have more meaning. Embroidered/monogrammed linings are a plus, as are labels from vintage furriers. Tears in the fur, tears in the lining, or fur that’s thinning/falling out all detract from the value. White or cream stoles are the most valuable. These are often sought for weddings.

Here are some approximate sale values for vintage fur stoles in 2015. If you are selling your stole directly on eBay or Etsy, you will get close to these prices, once you find a buyer. If you are selling via a consignment store, you will get 50% to 60%, but your chances of achieving a sale are far better. People like to choose furs in person much of the time.

  • White/cream/tourmaline mink or fox – $300 – $500 average, $800 – $1000 for something really good.
  • White/cream rabbit – $1oo – $200. Maybe $300 if there’s a matching hat or cuffs.
  • Brown mink, high quality – $300 – $500.
  • Fox fur with head/feet – $150 – $350.
  • Average stoles – medium quality brown mink, squirrel, nutria – $75 – $200.
  • Unusual furs – skunk, dyed, shorn, chinchilla – varies based on fur type and quality. Skunk furs were popular, then “worthless”, and now they have novelty value again.
  • Spotted cat, leopard, ocelot, seal, monkey – CANNOT be sold, see my article about furs from protected/endangered animals.

To sell your fur, follow the advice in my article Selling Grandma’s Vintage Fur. High-end vintage emporium Ziggurat in Wellington noted, “We don’t sell one every week, but the fur stoles sell more often than fur coats. Many people feel more comfortable wearing the stoles, nowadays.”

Here’s an example of two different fur stoles. One is a high value stole. The other is of average quality and value. Compare them and come to your own conclusions….


A high-value vintage fur stole. Light color, tailored shaping, beautiful condition. This is also by a designer still in business today, Oleg Cassini. On sale on Etsy for about $900 US.


An average value fur stole from a standard furrier. Dark brown mink, less detailed shaping, still good quality, glossy fur. On sale on Etsy for $120 US. No designer label noted.

Can I donate my vintage fur stole to a museum?

Only if it has seriously interesting provenance. Because fur stoles were extremely popular from the 1930s through the late 1950s, museums with costume collections often have enough fur stoles.

See my article about donating vintage clothing to museums for more information about this, and to learn how to donate successfully.

There you have it, curious Internet denizens. Good luck with your vintage furs.

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Friday Follies: Get Fleeced

World of Wearable Arts winning costume - WoW tickets are now on sale, by the way!

World of Wearable Arts winning costume – WoW tickets are now on sale, by the way!

It’s that time of year again: time for fleece lined tights! Four years ago I was sending away to Korea for these, but now you can buy them in NZ, even at The Warehouse.

Now that the cold has hit, I’m looking back fondly at a post I did for another blog. Rug Up, Mate at It’s A Wellington Life is all about how we dress in the winter here. “Who would buy a tissue-thin merino cardigan? A ¾ sleeve unlined wool coat? A chunky but sleeveless gilet? Layer Lady, that’s who.”

What happens to your clothing when you donate it to a thrift store? A glimpse behind the scenes.

What happens to your clothing when…you die? Two years ago, after a dear friend died, I helped her daughter sort out the “good vintage” in her wardobe. Here’s a thoughtful piece about a woman responsible for her grandmother’s wardrobe. Link courtesy of The Dreamstress.


Friday Follies: Fury Road Edition


Jennifer Culp blogged about her Mad Max inspired looks at

I had a wintertime warmers post planned BUT THEN I saw Mad Max: Fury Road and I’m ready to start the post-post-apocalyptic-feminist-steampunk-leftover future now. So join me for some Fury fandom fun.

The mastermind behind this Tumblr has written a superb post about Furiosa, active women, and disabled characters. And she has gone a step further as the world’s most accurate Furiosa cosplayer. Click to WITNESS!

Another mastermind was Tweeting as Nomenclature Joe, giving out Mad Max names…and comedy gold.

There’s acres of cosplay possbilities, brought to you by the Daily Dot. As noted in that piece, cosplayers have discovered edible silver cake decorating spray. And they have taken over the Amazon reviews section for Wilton Silver Color Mist edible spray. Hilariously.

What’s that, my war-girls? You want Mad Max style for every day? Well, white is already happening for the summertime in North America. Outside the pleasure vault, the only clothing tough enough to truly survive the apocalypse came from 1990s hardcore gigs. So, beat-up jeans, boots for days – the truly stylish wear two boots – and leather jackets. Feeling not-quite-right in a leather jacket? Even though it technically fits? Break it in and show it who’s boss! Leather jacket aficionados swap suggestions for this, and it also works really well with wool or wool-blend coats and blazers.

I have fond memories of Delicious Boutique in Philadelphia and they have the wasteland-steampunk gear that we all need right now.

For some inspired makeup, someone came up with “Ridiculous Mad Max Makeup You Can Only Wear in Private” but…why only in private? She looks great!! Forehead blackout is going to be A Thing now.

One final recommendation: drive safe! After seeing Furiosa shove that big rig around, I noted I was driving daringly myself. Maybe just take the bus home, or pile everybody into a cab. Two cabs. Welded together. With spikes on! Imperator Sadistic Scrumptiosa signing out!

Valentino museum exhibit, image via Creative Commons courtesy of Emilio Labrador

How – and When – to Donate Vintage Clothing to Museums

Over the past several years, I’ve been advising readers to donate unwanted vintage furs to museums. But how do you donate vintage clothing to museums? It’s time to look at what it really takes to have a vintage garment accepted by a museum.

When I was volunteering at Whanganui Regional Museum, I had a word with the chief acquisitions curator, Trish Nugent-Lyne. She gave me some excellent guidelines about what museums want for their collections – and what you’d be better off taking to the vintage clothing store or the thrift shop.

First, it’s important to note what museums don’t want.

  • Museums are often glutted with traditional antique garments, especially bridal gowns and baby items. One regional museum has over 100 antique infant dresses.
  • Museums are picky about furs, especially shoulder stoles from the 1930s through the 1960s. There’s a glut of those “brown furs”, as they’re called!
Jaguar fur coat from the 1970s at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because it is made from big cat fur, this coat could not be sold today.

Jaguar fur coat from the 1970s at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Because it is made from big cat fur, this coat could not be sold today.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t donate a bridal gown or a fur to a museum. But it helps if it has some of the other qualties that make it valuable to museums. Museums are interested in:

  • Items that have a history. The more history documentation there is for the garment, the better – receipts, boxes, photographs of the garment being worn, letters mentioning the garment, etc. If you wanted to donate your grandmother’s fur, you could write up this history yourself, and include photographs of her wearing the fur in her younger days.
  • Vintage classics. The things that make a vintage item saleable also make it easy to donate:  excellent condition, vivid color, attractive detailing, very “typical of the time” look and cut, a designer label. Best of all, size doesn’t matter – a divine extra-extra small vintage dress that might not sell as vintage resale is perfect for a museum collection.
  • Local/regional designers. These are both fashion history and area history, and therefore valuable to museums.
  • Contemporary clothing. Such as blue jeans, popular sneakers, and recent designer clothing. Clothes from the 1970s – 1990s are lacking in many collections.
  • Vintage everyday garments. Clothing that was worn to work or for everyday tasks is in short supply, because it was often worn until it was thrown away. Some museums have specialist collections for this. The American Textile Museum keeps an eye out for the printed cottons that were integral to 20th century rural wardrobes in the USA.
  • Don’t overlook shoes, hats, undergarments, and costume jewelry. Again, size doesn’t matter! A full ensemble outfit is also excellent.

Items are not accepted by museums automatically. They go through an “accessioning process” where their historical or design value is considered. NEVER just show up at a museum with your items, expecting to leave them there! You must contact the curators in advance and ask if they can consider your donated items. Museum curators are very busy and it can take them a while to consider your donation, so please be patient. Here is an example of the donation process from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and they note:

Items are accepted or rejected on the basis of historical and artistic significance, as well as condition and the strength or weakness in that area of our collections. The Collections Committee meets twice a year to consider donations. A preliminary, pre-selection process is conducted more frequently throughout the year. You will be notified via email or phone if your donation is accepted for Collections Committee review. At that time, the donation should be available for viewing.

Whew. It’s a process, all right.

But for the donator, it’s not so onerous. Really, it’s just three steps. To prepare items for donation:

  1. Write up a list of what you have, and, if possible, take pictures. If you have a desirable item that is stained or slightly damaged – leave the damage alone for the moment. Textile curators will know what to do if the item is accepted.
  2. Check the museum’s web site and see if their policy is encouraging about accepting clothing/costume items. Then, email them a description of your items. You can give them a call in two weeks to follow up, but leave it at that.
  3. When it’s time to go to the museum, pack the items up in a non-cardboard box or set of non-paper bags and go in for the discussion!

After preliminary discussions, I brought a set of items to Whanganui Regional Museum in a laundry basket – I had quite a few items, including an insane 1980s leather jacket. The curators accepted 90% of the items. I helped them complete the paperwork, and then the items were the property of the museum. They had a new home – and I hope that they will be useful, amusing, or interesting to someone.

Image at the top is by photographer Emilio Labrador, reused via Creative Commons.

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Friday Follies: Some Gems for You

MulticoloredsapphiresA literary recommendation: this substantial essay by writer Ellis Avery, The Sapphire and the Tooth. It’s a short, heart-opening read about difficult family, survival, and selling jewelry in the Diamond District of New York City. Many of you will also love her novel The Last Nude, set in the jaded milieu of 1920s Paris, packed with lush dressmaking, transgressive romance, and the paintings of Tamara de Lempicka.

Two sites to sell your jewelry, or find a gemological bargain: Loupe Troop and Diamond Bistro. Both of these sites are linked to large jewelry discussion boards, so the quality and vendor reliability is far higher than eBay.

What is the future of blogging? Especially for blogs in the feminine sphere? Short version: to make money, grab your camera and hit Instagram: to express yourself, relax and do what you like.

Winter is burlesque season! Bundle up in your retro finest and come out to the cabaret. I’ve got a busy burlesque schedule as an emcee – do come out to Caburlesque: A Trip Through Time for a classic show and to DIY BurlesKiwi in June, a hilarious competition that focuses on burlesque creativity on a budget.


Baking in Translation: NZ Ingredients for US Recipes

Two weeks ago, I started a riot on my personal Facebook page with this photo:

Boston_cream_piesThat’s two homemade Boston cream pies. Vanilla cakes filled with vanilla-bean pastry cream and topped with a dark chocolate glaze. They look delicious, but there was a problem: when I used the US recipe for the cakes with New Zealand ingredients, the cakes didn’t come out light and fluffy, as they are supposed to be. Instead, they were almost as heavy as pound cake, squeezing out the vanilla-bean custard when the cake was sliced and served. This varied outcome is a good example of what can happen when you try to bake US recipes with New Zealand ingredients.

So, this post is here to help you adjust US baking recipes for the NZ kitchen. And it focuses on baking from scratch. This isn’t just a baking challenge for Yankee expatriates in New Zealand. If you are entranced by images on a popular culinary blog overseas, you might try to recreate the recipe…and run into some problems, or find that the result doesn’t have exactly the taste or texture you expected. This post is here to help.

As I learned when I tried to find a Boston cream pie recipe, many US baking recipes now rely to an alarming degree upon mixes and packaged items. If you want that artificial baking-mix flavor, it’s waiting for you in the baking aisle of a large NZ grocery store. But that’s not going to help you make challah bread, St. Louis butter cake, flaky pie crust, or…the list goes on.[Read more]


Friday Follies: A Steel Hand in a Lace Glove

Image courtesy of Michelle Civelli.

Image courtesy of Michelle Civelli.

Congratulations to our Karen Walker giveaway winner, Isla!

Today’s Friday links all share three things: fashion with an overlay of femininity and an underlay of steely business efficiency. Giving women what they want to wear can be excellent business.

Villager and Me – More preppy floral-print childhood trauma. Oh, girl, I feel you. “I myself, at age eleven, passionately desired a complete wardrobe of floral cotton—a wish not devoid of many ironies. I was actually an unwitting part of the social revolution: a skinny little Philadelphia girl who was one of the first black students to attend a famous girls’ private school in Bryn Mawr, a bastion of high society where, in the past, the only black faces had been in the kitchen. ”

Nobody’s Looking at You – the paradox of the designer Eileen Fisher’s success in creating a uniform for “women of a certain age and class—professors, editors, psychotherapists, lawyers, administrators—for whom the hiding of vanity is an inner necessity.” I love this little exchange: “Weren’t you making a lot of money?” Eileen: “Yes. Absolutely.” “That isn’t something associated with the feminine.” Eileen: “To me it was very intuitive.”

A more chipper alternative to Eileen Fisher is my discovery of the week, Birdsnest, an Australian online retail empire. Pros: Highly wearable contemporary clothes, $12.50 flat rate shipping to NZ, and an intriguing look at both Australian style and the quasi-personal online marketing and recommendations that can be enabled by juggling data. Cons: Looking at the site once activates some metrics that turn any online ads you come across into Birdsnest ads. Activate a good ad blocker and go have a look.


Karen Walker Fragrance Launch & Interview Excitement!

Karen Walker launched three new fragrances, starting in New Zealand – and Ever So Scrumptious was invited to try the scents and meet Karen Walker herself.

For international style-lovers, Karen Walker brings fresh, wearable Antipodean quirkiness, especially with her successful eyewear line. For style-conscious New Zealanders, Karen Walker is the gateway to investment style with “accessible luxury” – I note that Karen Walker jewelry is often the first silver or gold piece a young woman owns. And now the brand has branched out into another area of accessible luxury with fragrances.

Fun out front at Karen Walker for Kirckaldie and StainesThe fragrance launch event in Wellington was everything fabulous about style in New Zealand. Cheerful redheads flourished giant balloon letters to greet us, making our day more surreal. Inside, several stands with the three perfumes awaited us, with vivid cards for spraying samples. There was a sparkle of excitement amongst the handful of people, always renewed, who waited in a loose queue to meet Karen Walker in person. Where else is a globally famous designer going to be so accessible?

Karen was polished and relaxed, pausing to grab shopping bags to package up inflatables, or to hand out macarons to astonished fans.

Karen Walker serving up macarons at the launch of her new fragrances in Wellington

Karen Walker clearly felt at home in Wellington

A little rough-voiced after chatting with well-wishers and fans for two and a half hours, Karen made the time for a short interview with me about the fragrances.[Read more]

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Friday Follies: Tipping Points!

LilyA certain style ennui is rising, like sea levels. Along with several local boutiques closing, Wellington Fashion Week was cancelled a week before it was supposed to open. We’ve only had it since 2011 and the event was having financial problems in 2012.

Grumbling about failure to support local design overlooks The Neurological Pleasures of Fast Fashion. Which is part of why everyone is so mad that Target ran out of their Lilly Pulitzer spin-off line in something like an hour.

Why Are So Many Dresses Sleeveless? Answer: because sleeves are hard! Comments thread outrage gold here.

How Much It Actually Costs To Look Like You’re Not Trying – She just woke up like that. And had a shocking beauty budget.

How To Optimize Your Flesh Prison – Every style blog post you’ve ever read, run through a post-post-postmodern blender. Between this and our style guide from Fandangle you are now set for style advice until the end of time.

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Unpardonable Chartreuse

“You needn't wear 'greenery-yallery' gowns, you know." said George, laughing; "that's the one unpardonable thing.”

“You needn’t wear ‘greenery-yallery’ gowns, you know.” said George, laughing; “that’s the one unpardonable thing.” -From Sir George Tressady, by Mrs. Humphrey Ward. Me, in a “greenery-yallery” Edwardian gown by The Dreamstress.

There’s a color that, like a silvereye bird – or is it a waxeye? – flits in and out of style without anyone agreeing on what to call it. It meanders around the overlap between yellow and green. Citron, celery, lime, acid yellow, neon green, ochre – let us call it chartreuse. Now that winter is coming, I crave it for my winter wardrobe.

It’s tactfully described, even in acknowledgements of its fashion moment, as “one of the most difficult colors.” The other day, a friend looked at two purses sitting on my sofa, and said, “I like your bag! Um, NOT the lime green one…” Feel free to hate chartreuse, because that leaves more for me. I find it a great vivid/neon to add to a New Zealand wardrobe, a fine high note against all the black, grey, and dark tones. Like hot orange, it plays off against the colors found in nature in New Zealand. And, like hot orange as chronicled by The Dreamstress, it has a fascinating history.

Chartreuse’s last major moment was its association with the British Aesthetic movement and the intellectual-yet-seamy side of the late Victorian period (1870-1900). Both the movement and the color were famously mocked as “greenery-yallery.” The notorious Yellow Book with Aubrey Beardsley’s then-radical illustrations, the movement’s fondness for sunflowers, and the yellow-backed trashy novels of the period linked the colors yellow and greenish-yellow to raffishness and intellectual pretension. The blog Babylon Baroque has a great entry about this alone, including this immortal snippet from Gilbert and Sullivan:

“A pallid and thin young man

A haggard and lank young man

A greenery-yallery, Grosvenor Gallery, Foot-in-the-grave young man!”

Looks like a great night in!

Giving chartreuse its bad name: The Yellow Book, illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley, a bottle of Charteuse liqueur, and a scandalous “yellow-backed novel.”

Chartreuse returned nearly a hundred years later, as a a fine avocado line running through the 60s and 70s, especially in the home – in the 1970s yellow-green was seen as uniting nature and futurism. And, just as “greenery-yallery” was soon mocked in the 1890s, avocado, like macrame, soon became a byword for the era’s aesethetic extremes.

Chartreuse kitchen from the August 1975 issue of Australian Homes and Gardens.

Chartreuse kitchen from the August 1975 issue of Australian Homes and Gardens.


Cover of Vogue, May 2013. Not only is this the most difficult shade of chartreuse to wear, but the dress itself was forwarded to me as a “you’ll like this” image several months earlier.

Vivid greens were part of the fad for neon in the 1980s, but the color was dropped like uranium in the 90s. Yellow tiptoed back into fashion in the late 2000s, often paired with gray, and chartreuse followed soon after. Primary, Big Bird yellow remains hot, but it’s difficult to wear – even for these models. And, difficult as chartreuse is, it is more forgiving than that crayon-box yellow.

The past two summers in the Northern hemisphere were as chartreuse as an Aesthetic salon in 1893. Especially in Philadelphia, I saw it adding punch to black and white ensembles. Here in New Zealand, I like to style it just like Sirocco the kakapo does; with darks and neutrals, and a well-defined beak – I mean, mouth. For a cheerful and different pin-up or Scandinavian take, chartreuse plays beautifully with red and orange, too.

As much as I love chartreuse, I’ll put it down if I’m tired or having a complexion-challenged day. I wouldn’t have to do that if I had a delicious caramel or coffee complexion.

Style chartreuse as Sirocco the kakapo parrot does: with neutrals like black, grey, beige.

Style chartreuse as Sirocco the kakapo parrot does: with neutrals and with either a defined lip or eye. Sirocco goes for the eye.

Here are some of the ways I wear chartreuse:

  • Chartreuse top and gray jeans or trousers.
  • Chartreuse scarf- mine is soft and translucent, reducing the color intensity slightly.
  • Enameled chartreuse pendant to liven up black and cobalt.
  • Chartreuse eyeshadow as a dash of color with my hazel eyes.
  • Chartreuse paired with tomato red for a special occasion!