Some of us are lucky enough to be given a treasured fur coat by a grandmother, others find one in a vintage shop or market, either way it's very exciting to come home and hang such a special piece in the wardrobe. Then after the initial excitement, you can sometimes be left thinking 'How and when do I actually wear this fuzzy thing?'. You love the coat, because of the story of how you found it perhaps, or because the fur seems so decadent, but because the style is a bit outdated or the coat doesn't fit well, you wonder what to do with it. Here are some of my tips...
Whatever happens, you need to make sure you are taking care of the coat by storing it in a way that preserves it. Fur can last 100 years if it's looked after, but if neglected it can loose its suppleness and colour, moult or worse, become a victim of the dreaded moth! Store your coat in a cool, dry cupboard and attach a moth repellent tag to the hangar. The coat needs to breathe, so don't pack it away in a plastic bag. If you have a moth problem, you need to get the coat out of harm's way until you have resolved the moths, store the coat in a safe and sealed room in the meantime.
Chances are your coat is mink if it comes from a grandmother, this was the luxurious fur of choice a few generations ago. Mink fur is soft with short, spiky 'guard' hairs with a shiny, almost wet look. You should also be able to see fine lines where the individual mink pelts have been joined together. Another likely option is fox fur, a dense and fluffy fur with longer hairs than mink. You should not be able to make out individual pelts. Another common possibility is rabbit fur, this is softer and more mouldable to the touch, you won't be able to see the individual hairs as well as with mink. Not sure what your coat is? Email me a photo and I'll try my best to identify it! (Email below).
If your new fur looks visibly dirty or smells (of smoke for example), you should clean it to remove anything that could cause it long term damage. If cleaned incorrectly, the fur and skin can be permanently damaged, so fur requires specialist cleaning. The best option is to find a local furrier and ask them to do the cleaning for you. It probably won't be cheap, but it will ensure you preserve the fur in its best condition.
You may have noticed that your new fur coat is now the warmest thing in your wardrobe. There's nothing quite like a fur to keep the cold and wind out, you'll be surprised how toasty warm it is, so go on and head out for those fireworks even if it is sub-zero! Also, fur doesn't mind the rain, it is a totally natural product after all, the wet fur just needs to be shaken out when you get home and allowed to dry naturally (not over a heater).
If you just aren't sure about the coat style, or the fit, then you should consider remodeling it to create something you will love to wear. Coats can be shortened and made smaller to fit a smaller frame. Alternatively the sleeves can be shortened to create a different style jacket or removed to create a gilet. You will need to find a furrier to do the work for you, and it will be a bespoke order. Ask them for a cost beforehand and then expect a fitting to ensure the updated coat fits you like a glove. If you are looking to do this, please feel free to email me, I'd be happy to share local local furriers names who could help you (email below).
Another option is to up-cycle the coat into something else entirely. A large coat could make several scarves or headbands or hundreds of pom-poms to attach to hats, handbags, shoes, you name it. At Tallis, we use vintage fur coats for the up-cycled pom-poms in our collection. You can either do the up-cycling yourself, or for more complicated pieces ask a furrier to do the transformation. I can send you instructions on how to make pom-poms out of vintage fur scraps (email below).
That's all from me, if you have any other ideas I'd love to hear from you so please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope this was an interesting read and helps you make the most of that special coat that has come your way.
- Lilly Milligan Gilbert, Tallis Founder - Geneva 5 November 2015
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