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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.

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

Sarge gave his life for fashion. -salutes-
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Fur of Mystery, December Burlesque

Sarge gave his life for fashion. -salutes-I have acquired a vintage fur of MYSTERY! Look at the chevrons! Seems to be a 1960s Mad Men era fur scarf, probably mink’s less expensive cousin, weasel, aka “summer ermine.” But, the chevrons!  I can’t tell if it was sewn, or dyed. Perhaps it was made from one of the sergeants of the Weasel Patrol?

More vintage furs at Lady Violette. Note the skunk set!

The end of the year is getting busy on Wellington’s burlesque stages.  I’ve got two December emceeing gigs.

  • Have Yourself A Very Merry Caburlesque, December 8th – Move over, panto, Christmas isn’t complete without a Christmas themed burlesque show! We’ve got all kinds of naughtiness planned for this one, and an amazing line up.
  • Bare and Back Again, A Burlesque Journey to Middle-Earth, November 30th/December 1st – Not only am I emceeing this piece of Middle-Earth madness, I’m producing it. A friend of mine said, “I heard about this and I was horrified…how can you make it work?” We think we’ve got just the right mix of humor, loving irreverence, and truly amazing acts to both evoke the magic of Middle-Earth and to help us all blow off steam after a movie-premiere-saturated week in Wellington. Tickets on sale here!

Poster art by fantasy artist Hope Hoover

 

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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]

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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.

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When decor is up for debate

In early January, my guest room got repainted with a cream ceiling and palest ashes-of-roses walls. But at my house, the post-repaint luminosity and the new gate latch goes unnoticed. People are too busy reliably flipping out about three or four decor elements.

At the end of the day, the details of our homes are there for us, not for our visitors. The things we love give us daily pleasure when we live amongst them, just as the spin of a Tibetan prayer wheel generates good energy. “Your apartment, it’s like your skin,” a friend of mine once said. And just as we are encouraged to care for yet reclaim our own bodies, we should feel equally comfortable doing whatever we want with the spaces we live in. Whether that’s the right wall color, a coffee table balanced on an engine, or the Victorian taxidermy turtle dish placed just so.

Taxidermy

Taxidermy is one of my long-term fascinations. In my living room, there are two pieces of taxidermy: an assemblage of birds and a red deer fawn, known as the “Fawn of Satan” due to its evil, knowing expression. Small children go right up to the fawn, begging to pet it. Adults get stuck examining the birds. Revulsion, fascination, and questions of legality come up. A tastemaker I know declared, “Two pieces of taxidermy is all right. Any more is creepy.” If I ever find one of those Victorian turtle dishes at the right time, I’m afraid the room will officially become creepy. You may find it so already…

If you put flowers next to the taxidermy, it's less evil

The birds are all, I was told, Australian interlopers to NZPoignantly, people didn’t pay half as much attention to the taxidermy when my cat was alive. Living nature trumps the dead. But when it comes to human attention, even dead, preserved nature trumps the 8 pictures and two shelves of bizarre objects that are also in this room. Evolutionary psychology in action.

After a visit to my house, if somebody likes me, they forward me taxidermy links forevermore. Keep ’em coming, my lovelies, especially to sites like Ravishing Beasts. And just as Bon Bon Rocher receives boudoir-themed gifts, I get “mad naturalist” ones. Stingray spines, boxes of shells, souvenirs from the La Brea Tar Pits museum, Neil Pardington’s Vault exhibit catalog for my birthday, to my delight. Last year a friend of mine gave me this carefully preserved weta, which I have placed temporarily in this bell jar, like the treasure it is.

The bell jar used to have a clock in it. I'm working on the base.

Nude Photos

Are nude or pin-up photos ever tasteful? Are they tasteful when they’re nudes of yourself, of your lover, or of a stranger or friend? What about full-color baroque-frame pin-ups compared to artsy black and white? There’s a huge discussion on the topic here at Metafilter. For the time being, I’ve applied the “Rule of Two” to the nude photos…even though a third one is framed up.

Do you notice the subtle warmth imparted by the slightly rose-hued wall? Or are you all OMG NAKED PHOTOS?

If you are worried about children seeing your nude/pin-up photos, there’s an easy solution. Just put some taxidermy in the same room, closer to a child’s eye level. Your nude photos are now invisible to anyone who hasn’t reached puberty!

Dan McCarthy Print

Poster art and screenprints are another of my long-term loves, and lots of my visitors share the love for this Dan McCarthy print. Which surprises and delights me. I never knew so many people shared my taste for skeletons, bees, and dinosaur skeletons, combined into a gracious statement on environmental decay and extinction. I got this for $30 online when it first came out.

Dan McCarthy print, "Shared Memory: Pollinators", 2008

There are two testaments to this print’s power: the many discussions about bee colony collapse we’ve had at my dining table, and the fact that nobody has ever commented on the fact that the room that has this print is missing its skirting boards/baseboards.

Since Dan McCarthy made this print, his art has gone in a completely different direction – his web site is here, but a lot of his earlier prints can be found through third-party sellers.

Some day I’ll do a post on my retro kitchen, but that’s another story…

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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]