The vintage fur (and feathers) debate a personal view

I carefully consider all the clothing I wear both for my work as a re enactor and in everyday life and make decisions on both based on ethical and environmental research.I wear fur  (real or fake)for work or in costumes when I feel it provides a valuable visual aid or imparts  accuracy to a costume .

elizabeth coro dressweb

However I care very much about both humans and animals which is why I  prefer to wear vintage fur rather than modern fake fur .I would recomend buying vintage furs for both everyday and re enactment use.I would not recomend in any way buying  new faux /fake /fun fur items. This does not make me less of an animal lover ,I would never buy eggs or fowl that wasnt free range ,nor do I eat meat or buy new  leather  goods unless I know they are cruelty free  and I dont in any way condone the wearing of modern new fur unless it is sheepskin or rabbit and came from an animal bred in cruelty free conditions  for food.
However I am a re enactor and for most eras in our history furs have a relevance and are a valuable visual aid .Often its possible to use fake furs for Tudor or earlier costumes and if I can buy second-hand faux fur  for those eras I do.

fur hood front

But I would prefer to recommend that people buy second-hand real fur rather than new fake fur as new faux fur  (like new real fur)has a substantial cost to the environment and is also produced in conditions detrimental to human workers and in very many cases fake fur production causes damage to the immediate environment of the factory’s involved in  producing them ,harming  water supplies and affecting air quality.In addition the countries producing these faux furs often have lamentable human rights records .I also suspect that many of the clothing companies producing faux fur items do not provide a safe working enviroment.For instance there will be many, many fake fur shrugs and scarves in circulation made by Primark a company  which has a lamentable record for providing unsafe and unhealthy working conditions and pittance wages.

http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/commentanalysis/corporatewatch/primark.aspx

Using vintage fake or real fur is my prefered alternative as this involves doing no harm to the living  either human or animal or their environment .
I don’t have a problem with  most vintage fur ,I personally wouldn’t wear Astrakhan or wolf  but that’s an emotional rather than moral issue .I have no problem with vintage rabbit fur items or furs resulting from our war-time culls of carnivores.I inherited and wear without hesitation a vintage rabbit fur coat as I know it’s the ideal way to keep warm  in a way that has  caused no harm to any living human or animal and caused no impact whatsoever on the environment.

cindy 40s weekendAll the feathers in the hats above are from pheasants killed and eaten by my friends ,their friends or ourselves ,I  belive the use of exotic  bird feathers is an unexamined aspect of the modern fashion trade which is often responsible for a great deal of animal misery .

http://www.crueltyfreefeathers.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Happy-Rooster-cruelty-free-feathers-and-MORE/201063958410

I  try whenever possible to source feathers from friends who buy and eat game or collect it  from road kill or I am occasionally given parrot and peacock feathers by friends who own exotic birds as pets.I buy vintage ostrich feathers  or maribou  feathers when at all possible though unfortunately that’s not always possible ,Cruelty free feathers are available but not always in speciality colours

https://www.etsy.com/listing/76186698/ivory-ostrich-feather-drab-pristine-diy

,I do however try to buy directly from developed countries were the ostriches are raised for meat and where a code of practice exists such as Australia

(http://www.publish.csiro.au/Books/download.cfm?ID=3526)

As a side note care should also  be taken when buying feather and down duvet and pillows http://www.peta.org/features/down-investigation.aspx)

 

All vintage clothing is likely to have a dark history and the further back in time ones goes the more likely this is to be the case.While some issues  involved in vintage clothing cannot be ignored both for the initial human misery involved but more so  for the symbolism involved in wearing them in the present eg the use of  original German uniforms (https://hathawaysofhaworth.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/1940s-re-enactment-and-the-hidden-horrors-of-those-smart-german-uniforms/

german black bull

Most vintage items do not make a modern human rights statement or have the immediate impact of furs  yet for the he most part the amount of human degradation or suffering involved in creating all pre 19thc clothing is horrendous. To give one example it’s not unlikely that those pretty early Victorian cotton petticoats or camisols or nightdresses   came from cotton produced by slaves and is trimmed with lace made by impoverished lace makers or in  dreadful  factory conditions  ,I still wear vintage cotton items however as the production of much modern cotton or lace  or garment made with them is not without a dark side .

http://www.cottoncampaign.org/2012/10/18/anti-slavery-day-cotton-campaign-calls-on-president-obama-and-mr-romney-to-speak-out-against-slavery/

http://www.antislavery.org/english/slavery_today/what_is_modern_slavery.aspx

I feel we have only two alternatives,we can ignore their past and if they are artifacts  use them to educate our selves or others ,if clothing then when possible wear them in place of new clothing  or we can burn or bury everything except items that we can be sure were made in a healthy place,by healthy people, in a healthy environment and thus destroy our heritage and plunder our planet  while  actively  perpetuating slavery by wearing brand new items ,as almost no  new item comes without having a legacy of  either environmental or human suffering somewhere in its pedigree.

For detailed information on which companies have good (or bad ) records ,there are some suprises ,not all the naughty companines are in the bargin basement  section of fashion eg Hobbs get zero our of five and Debenhams only get a one out of five ,,both come lower down the workers rights ladder than Primark

http://www.labourbehindthelabel.org/campaigns/itemlist/category/250-company-profiles

http://www.labourbehindthelabel.org/campaigns

https://www.oxfam.org.au/explore/workers-rights/which-brands-are-dodging-the-hard-questions/

http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/kralis/060719

http://www.johnlewis.com/inspiration-and-advice/john-lewis-policy-on-feather-and-down-products

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About hathawaysofhaworth

I am a Historian and author living in the north
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