Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My new winter coat

vintage fur coat, fur coat, nutria coat Fur is a difficult call to make. I've been a vegetarian for 22 years, a militant one to start with but, as I've grown, learnt and mellowed, I'm a lot more relaxed now. I happily cook meat for all my friends, would raise children to eat meat, don't freak out if I find some meat in a dish I'm eating, taste my gravy, wear leather - and vintage fur.

Yes, as you're realising, consistency isn't my strong point. But I went vegetarian not because I am anti-meat, but because I was anti-cruelty. If free-range, organic meat had been available way back then, I doubt I would ever have considered vegetarianism. Nowadays, there's no personal reason for me to remain vegetarian and I suspect I may not be for very much longer.

But I always buy free-range and try to lead an ethical life. Where fur is concerned, I only buy vintage, from the 1950s or earlier. I like the idea of recyling, of not adding to the clothing mountain, or pumping chemicals into the atmosphere through producing artificial fibres. I also like being warm. (As my sister points out, in countries where there is a real risk of dying from cold, the fur debate doesn't exist.)

Few of us are consistent in our attitudes towards animal cruelty, bar vegans. After all just how many battery hen-eating, anti fox-hunting people are there? Tens of thousands, I know. Along with all the anti fur people who happily wear leather, sheepskin or shearling (which very often are not the by-product of the meat industry, whatever you may think). I think the point I am trying to make is, before making knee jerk criticisms of other people's ethics, perhaps we should all examine our own actions a little more carefully?

When I was considering how to keep warm in the New York winter, I looked at these, but disliked all the artificial fibres, and resented paying for something so unaesthetically unpleasing. Then on one of my regular eBay trolls, I came across the coat pictured here.

Not only was it inexpensive at £20/$40, I loved the waisted shape, flared skirt and knee length. Like all good vintage coats, it is beautifully finished, with an embroidered satin lining, braided seams, wonderful buttons, hidden furriers hooks, secret pockets in the lining, reflecting that this once was a very, very expensive coat. So, I bought it.

Indeed, before she died, my grandmother had difficulty getting her head around the fact that a mink jacket with glorious diamanté fastenings that might have cost the equivalent of two or three thousand pounds as a status symbol back in the 1950s could now be picked up for £30 on eBay and worn, as I did, with jeans and Converse.

(I think in the 21st century fur jackets only really work dressed down with trousers or denim, otherwise you can run the risk of looking trashy. I saw a girl on Fifth Avenue the other day wearing one with a pencil skirt and knee high boots, and the look had a whiff of streetwalker about it. Maybe if one was ultra groomed, with a salon fresh do, serious jools and Louboutins, a fur jacket could work with a smart skirt, but how many of us work grooming to that extent each day? So, with a wardrobe of dresses to cover up, and seriously cold knees, I am very excited to have found a long fur coat that doesn't fall from the shoulders in that Upper East Side/Russian/Mafioso/kept woman manner.)

vintage fur coat, fur coat, nutria coat
vintage fur coat, fur coat, nutria coat