Article
2 comments

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....
Stole-OlegCassini

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.

Stole-Averagefurstole

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.
Valentino museum exhibit, image via Creative Commons courtesy of Emilio Labrador
Article
2 comments

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.
Oh my God don't make coats from these cuties.
Article

Furs You Can’t Sell: what to do with vintage endangered animal fur clothing

What do you do with a vintage fur item when it turns out that it is from an endangered or protected animal? I've provided this as a reference to try and help people brought here by my two previous vintage fur posts, Grandma's Vintage Fur: Is It Valuable? (general overview) and Selling Grandma's Vintage Fur (sale focused advice). There are no comments available on this post. If I had any information, it's in here. If you decide you want to contact a local museum (more info on that here) or wildlife refuge about your fur item, you are in a better position to do that than I am, because I am in New Zealand. The links further in this article may help you.[Read more]
Article
96 comments

Selling Grandma’s Vintage Fur

Dear Internet, you are asking me a LOT about how to sell a vintage fur coat. Because I love you and want to help you out, here is a follow up to my piece on Grandma's Vintage Fur. This is for everyone who wants to sell their vintage fur coat, stole, or other item. I'm also posting public answers to some of the more interesting questions that have come my way. The Step By Step Guide to Selling Your Vintage Fur[Read more]
Article
0 comment

Furs And Money, Part II

1920s arcade card featuring Fannie Ward and a sable coat ready to run away on all those feet!Some past posts have been particularly popular - here's some follow up on them. Grandma's Vintage Fur...  Recent comments show that people are getting ready to sell their vintage furs. I did the rounds of the vintage/resale stores in Wellington this past weekend. Furs I'd noted there a month or two prior were sold, and ladies were trying on furs. Yes,  sightings of vintage store customers trying furs. So if you're going to sell, this month and next month are prime. Also, thanks to the super-stylish Alison for this tip - the last full-service furrier in New Zealand is Mooney's in Dunedin. Remakes and repairs, take them there! Alison and I also agreed that the Antipodean retailer Cue is, in fact, a stealth petites store, and their partner retailer Veronika Maine is for taller women. Living In NZ, Shopping Overseas... Had a fascinating discussion with an international retail maven who pointed out that one item leading to higher NZ prices is that "suppliers in NZ pay the GST tax every step of the way. In other countries (such as the US) wholesalers are exempt from sales tax." But don't the suppliers here get their GST tax paid back, eventually? "Yes, but they do have to provide the cash up front." Retail Maven also agreed that, because Kiwis are used to paying the higher prices, retailers in NZ go ahead and charge them. Cupcakes Against the Abyss  Oddly, the same week that the Very Vintage Day Out was a huge hit in Auckland,  I was asked a lot, "So when is the retro trend going to die? When will it stop?" Plenty of people are going ahead and starting the stylistic future (hello, Black Milk and your galaxy leggings) - I'm particularly impressed with older women's contemporary style in Wellington. On the other hand, retro has never been more accessible, more fun, and more widely understood. Retro overall has joined Goth, Steampunk, and Rave/Electronica as an alternative lifestyle choice centered around events, dance, and music, with a significant style/dress component. Real life has been keeping me away from the computer, including lots of freelance work, burlesque hosting, and outdoors winter preparation. Coming up soon: thoughts on color and style, how to get the most out of a photo session, a page on emceeing/hosting, heretical thoughts on red lipstick failures, and some house/home posts.
Article
142 comments

Grandma’s Vintage Fur: Is It Valuable? Is It Ethical? How Do I Sell It?

Now for a much more seasonal post: vintage fur. UPDATE! After oodles of queries I have created a new post, Selling Grandma's Vintage Fur. This includes a vintage fur price range list for the winter of 2012/2013. You may find answers to fur price questions. I have also created, in January 2015, a second post, Furs You Can't Sell: what to do with vintage endangered fur pieces.
Vintage fur calls for one's most demented smile. Moment of madness captured by Digitalpix.

Another image courtesy of Digitalpix!

I am dealing with a spate of questions from people about vintage furs. I love both taxidermy and vintage clothing - the stuffed dead animals in my retroish living room make me a go-to person for this. I know that fur is not a neutral topic! People have strong feelings about it! One time, my fur-clad stepmother had paint thrown on her by anti-fur protestors outside a New York furrier. But, still, the old furs endure, and they are emerging from closets as my friends' grandmothers pass away, and what do you do with them? I’ve put together some vintage fur basics, compiled from what I have seen online, what I have seen selling and not selling at vintage clothing stores around the world, and the furs I’ve had through my hands lately. Lots of information behind the cut about what makes a vintage fur valuable, how to keep your fur, ways to recycle it, and how to sell it. [Read more]