Fur Tips: Buying Vintage Fur

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Vintage fur is a great alternative to new fur, as the designs can be very unique, and it is often a lot less expensive. But vintage furs need to be carefully selected, as it is easy to buy a “bad” vintage fur. I bought a beautiful vintage leather coat with chevrons of white fur (I believe it was fox) and one of the chevrons tore when I was out at a party. Within hours, the coat had torn in about eight more places. I freaked out, as the coat had cost me $100, and this was the second time I was wearing it. I took it into Pappas Furs, in hopes of getting it fixed. Unfortunately, I was told “Dry rot, throw it away.” They told me it wasn’t even worth making into a blanket. I won’t ever make that mistake again.

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Here are some tips I got from Walter, the master furrier from Pappas Furs, about what to look for when buying vintage fur.

  1. Look at the fur, if it is oxidized, you shouldn’t buy it. If the fur has a yellow tinge, then it means it is oxidized. Look for the yellow tinge on the areas that are exposed to the sun, for example the shoulders, and the sleeves.
  2. Touch the fur and its leather, if it is brittle, forget it. The fur should have a soft, supple feel. If it is brittle and crunchy, it means it has dried out, or has dry rot.
  3. vintage fur, fur coat, fur tips, buying vintage fur, fur care

  4. Another way to test for dry rot is to pull on the leather a bit (the underside of the fur.) If there is no elasticity, then the fur is nearing end of life.
  5. Another sign of dry rot is rips, If there are several rips in the coat, chances are the fur is dried out. Check areas like the arm holes, shoulders, and neckline for rips.
  6. If the fur is shedding quite a lot, it might be infested with moths. Keep in mind that some delicate furs can break (for example rabbit or chinchilla) and most furs shed a little bit but if there are a lot of hair coming off the garment, or the hairs are coming out in clumps, then do not buy the coat.

Thanks to Walter from Pappas Furs in Vancouver, who kindly supplied me with these useful vintage fur buying tips.

Read more fur tips:
Repairing Tears
Dealing with Moths
How to Store a Fur Coat

Images from here, here, and here.

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Fur Tips: Dealing with Moths

It goes without saying that moths are probably the most evil creature in the world when it comes to fashion. I’ve lost a great deal of coats and sweaters to moths, and I hate that they always go for the most expensive stuff, like cashmere. What’s even worse is that they love to eat fur.

I once went into a great furrier in London with a little fur blazer that was shedding. The furrier politely asked me to remove the jacket from the premises, and suggested I throw it away, as it was infested with moths. I sadly went outside and shoved in into a garbage can. Very depressing.

A moth eaten fur coat. Sob!

After losing a fair number of garments to moths, I began to be very vigilant with my closets. I spray cedarwood oil in the closet (away form the clothes), or place cedarwood oil-soaked cotton balls in the corners of my closets and drawers. I freeze all my knitwear in September or October (48 hours in a freezer should kill all the moth eggs, and keep your sweaters safe for another year.) I also tend to give my closet contents a good shake as frequently as possible and I try not to stuff them too full, so that no critters can make themselves comfortable in there. Lavender can also be a great moth deterrent.

When it comes to moths and fur, there are a few things you need to know. Here’s what Walter, the Master Furrier from Pappas Furs, told me about what you should do if you catch one of those hideous critters trying to make a meal of your favourite mink jacket.

A sign of moths is if the fur is shedding. The hairs will come loose from the leather, and fall out. Don’t confuse shedding with breakage. Delicate furs, like rabbit and chinchilla, are prone to breakage with heavy wear. And don’t become overly paranoid about shedding, some furs will shed a little. My first moth experience in a fur was the above mentioned blazer, and the fur was coming out in clumps. It was beyond shedding.

Don't let moths eat your precious furs.

Isolate the infested garment. And keep in mind that the moths may have moved onto your other clothes as well. Now it is time to sort out your house. Fumigation is one solution, but I’ve dealt with moth problems by simply cleaning and/or killing the moths on my clothes, washing and/or freezing everything, and then bleach cleaning the entire closet like a madwoman, followed by an overdose of cedarwood or lavender, to keep them away.

Fur, unlike wool and cashmere, cannot be frozen to kills the eggs, as that will ruin the leather. Unfortunately, the only way to remove the moths is to get a professional fur cleaning. If it is a jacket you bought for $50 from a vintage store, you may want to consider getting rid of it, instead of cleaning, but that is of course your choice.

The aforementioned London furrier, after he let me back into his studio once I had discarded the moth-ridden coat, showed me a $80,000 Russian sable coat that had been moth infested. He has removed the lining and all the “dead” fur, and cleaned it. What was hanging were the scraps of what was once a sublime fur coat. About a third of the coat had been consumed by the moths. He was going to fix it by replacing the skins he had removed. Not only was it a huge job, but I imagine it was quite expensive too. And sad.

Thanks to Walter from Pappas Furs in Vancouver, who kindly supplied me with this useful moth tips.

Images from Beautifully Canadian, except moth-eaten fur coat from here.

100 Days of Fur: Day 8

My first 8 days of fur wearing have been completely hassle and abuse-free. However, the past few days have ended up being a fur learning curve for me, as my last post about my fur problems resulted in some very educational responses from people working in the fur industry.

Rather than recap what I have learnt, I am quoting one of the lovely people from the fur industry, who shed (pardon the pun) some light on my fur problems.

The first one was the shedding, last week I left a trail of hairs everywhere I went…

“Your coats are shedding because they are vintage, but also (especially) because RABBIT is one of the most FRAGILE (and least expensive) of all the furs.  Fox can also be quite fragile.  You wouldn’t be having the same problem with mink or beaver or raccoon or other stronger furs.  So it’s great that the price of rabbit is accessible (and it is soft, and fun, and a by-product of food production), but the price you pay is that it is quite fragile and often sheds (although I hear that some of the rabbits now being sold are dressed differently and are stronger….especially the “Rex Rabbits” — which can mimic chinchilla  — which is another fragile but expensive fur.)”

And with regards to worries about wearing my bag on the shoulder, and therefore destroying the the fur on the shoulder…

“As for wearing out the shoulders….same story.  One has to be very careful with fragile furs; not really for mink, beaver and stronger furs.”

My grandmother's beaver coat.

I wasn’t surprised to find out all of my coats were cheap and old, I figured this would be the root of my fur problems. So I told my mother I was desperate for a beaver coat, and she whipped out the number above. It belonged to my grandmother in France. It is very heavy, but has a great cut as it nips in at the waist. And it is WARM. I will be wearing it this week.

However these past few days have also a very sad time for my fur collection. I have a beautiful fox and leather coat which I love dearly, and which is now falling apart. The coat is black leather and has chevrons of white fox. I wore it work on Thursday, and one of the chevrons tore. I managed to patch it up long enough to get me through the day, but the rest of the chevrons were beginning to tear as well.

The following day I took it to Pappas furs, and showed it to Walter, the Master Furrier there. He told me to throw the coat away (SOB!) This was not the first time this has happened, in England a few years ago I was told by a fantastic furrier there to throw away a gorgeous mink blazer as it had been infected by moths. Walter told me my chevron number had “dry rot.” We then discussed the dangers of buying second hand furs (I had paid $100 for that coat, and I have only worn it twice) and so I have decided to follow up with a  guide on buying second hand furs. Watch this space.

Fortunately the Pappas trip was not all disaster. I left them with a beautiful fox skin which Walter is transforming into a scarf for me, as well as a blue and a fuchsia fox tail which will be transformed into trinkets I can hang off a handbag. And I took home the beautiful number above. This tent-shaped grey coat has incredible volume and beautiful puffed sleeves. I can’t wait to debut my two newly acquired furs this week!