I have a theory you are either born loving fur or you’re not. Like red meat. Or smoking. Or chocolate. The first time you encounter it you just know.
I have a distinct childhood memory of standing in my grandmother’s front closet amidst her many fur coats and being supremely happy. The furs smelled faintly like mothballs, and to this day anytime I come across the scent I associate it with luxuriousness and sanctuary.
My grandmother was a child of the Depression and it was only later in life I understood that her furs, along with her perfumes, and her coiffed hair, which she had done one a week at a salon, and the shiny green Cadillac in the garage that she never learned to drive, were all markers or safeguards of a sort that stood between her and the various hardships of her upbringings.
She was not alone in associating fur with a life of privilege and respect. In an article published earlier this year at Collectors Weekly author Lisa Hix credits Hollywood’s influence during the impoverished Thirties with America’s love affair with fur as a token of glamour rather than necessity:
“People would go into the cinema, and live in that scene. They’d get to feel like they were one of those wealthy people for a few hours, then go back home to their normal lives. The same can be said for fashion. You can see it as a voyeuristic experience.”
There is some speculation that the resurgence of fur on the runways these last few seasons is connected to the current rough economic times. I would argue, however, that in many ways it is simply another manifestation of the current craze for nostalgia as a way of life.
“I loathe nostalgia,” said Diana Vreeland in the opening sentence of perhaps the greatest word exercise on the subject.
But fashion doesn’t. (And presumably if you are on this site, neither do you!) When Cherie listed two, new, glorious furs on the site last month (this striped one is especially covetous!) she noted that their cuts were strongly referencing the Forties, despite being made in the Seventies. (The same, of course, can be said of so much of seventies fashion, a trend Yves Saint Laurent kicked off with his wildly controversial 1971 collection.)
Their appearance on the site coupled with the recent temperature drop in New York City have happily sent me into the far corner of my own (too-small) Brooklyn closet to retrieve my little collection furs, which I stored there last May (sadly my Grandmother’s passed out of my reach many years ago while I was away at University).
All the furs I own are vintage. (Again, if you are here you presumably don’t need to be convinced of the supremacy of vintage fur over new, though this piece provides some good arguments on the subject.) Two I bought off eBay for less than twenty dollars and frequently wear when riding my bike around the city once the temperatures really drop and the cold winter wind becomes deadly. Nothing is warmer than fur, after all! The other two which were purchased here at Shrimpton. They are glorious. Naturally.
Seeing them also sent me into my digital closet where I keep a collection of my favorite furs (and their wearers!) from decades past.
Here is a tour through some of my favorites.
Myrna Loy as Nora Charles in ‘The Thin Man’
If I had to pick the greatest fashion film of the Golden Era of Hollywood ‘The Thin Man’ would get my vote (the legendary Dolly Tree was the costume designer). Can a person ever get enough of Myrna Loy? I can’t. Every scene she’s present in in this film is its own glorious moment of fashion. But this fur coat, a Christmas gift from her fictional husband Nick Charles, is a particular showstopper. LOOK at those sleeves!
This is might be my favorite photo of Hepburn, which is saying a lot. Hepburn was nothing if not thoroughly modern and if you take away the hairstyle you could easily conclude this photo, which dates to the Thirties, was taken last week on a side street in Williamsburg.
Elizabeth Taylor as Gloria Wandrous in ‘BUtterfield 8’
Taylor won her first Oscar for this movie, which was based on the Thirties novel by the same name by John O’Hara. In it she plays scandalous, girl-about-town Gloria Wandrous (O’Hara famously based his heroine of real life ‘society girl’ Starr Faithful). In the opening scene, pictured here, Wandrous wakes up (after a wild night that has resulted in some torn garments…among other things!) in her married lover’s Park Ave apartment only to find he has already departed to join his wife and children on holiday. To add insult to injury he leaves her a note with $250 inside. To exact her revenge, Wandrous plucks a full-length mink out of the closet and wears it home, with nothing underneath.
I came across this marvelous photo of Horne in a post about famous furs in the Twenties through the Fifties. It’s undated, though I’m guessing it’s from the late Fifties/early Sixties. Regardless, I love how Horne is able match it with a turban and gloves and not only look so chic but also amazingly modern.
Hardy was a French singer, actress, contemporary of Jane Birkin and a style icon in her own right. I am a longtime devotee of Kate Moss but it’s hard not to look at pictures like these and conclude that Moss was maybe not the original Moss. Related: The cut and length of this coat reminds me a bit of this striped sheared Beaver, which was purchased for me from Cherie last year.
Speaking of Jane Birkin and Kate Moss ...
I mean. Words are not necessary, I don’t think. They both transcend words.
I think it’s safe to say no one currently wears fur better than Kate Moss. I mean, that’s been fairly obvious for the more than a decade now. And while everything she shows up in is pretty spectacular, this particular fur capelet (?) jacket (?) is my especial favorite. (I can’t back this up with any official reference, but I’m fairly certain it’s not vintage.)