Fur coats go way back in history. We’ve all probably seen photos of early humans wearing animal pelts and using animal skins to keep warm. Hunters would also wear furs to spiritually channel a particular animal during a hunt. From early Egypt to Greece, furs were believed to have spiritual powers that would transfer onto the wearer. Someone could gain strength, courage, power, even fertility, from wearing a particular fur.
The fur industry boomed in the middle ages. It made its first appearances in Northern Europe in the 10th century. The upper class would have their clothes lined in ermine or vair, and fur capes, wraps and accessories also became popular. Ermine, beaver and bear were among the most coveted furs, but the middle and lower classes had to be content with wearing garments made with inexpensive furs, such as lamb and wolf. During this time, fur quickly became a fashion piece, an item to be desired. It was a status symbol as well as a durable source of warmth before synthetic materials came onto the scene. The fur industry continued to boom throughout the centuries. It was a driving force of North American history, when European explorers would make fur trades with Native Americans. It was also a time when furriers recklessly hunted animals in the name of fashion.
The Victorian era ushered in the popularity of the fur coat. It became more popular to wear full-fur garments, with fur was on the outside instead of only used as a lining or decoration. French designers from the early-1900s, such as Jeanne Paquin and Paul Poiret, were known to use fur. By the 1950s, designers such as Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior experiment with different uses for fur in exchange for the declining popularity of luxury fur garments. Shorter jackets and thinner stoles were favored, and colored fur became popular in the 1960s. But around the 1970s, protests against the use of real fur began – animal rights activists would not stand for the harm of animals simply for their fur. A growing awareness of endangered animals gave way to the use of faux fur, which has become popular for both its vegan and low-cost qualities. Now, 85% of fur garments are made of furs from farms.
Fur and faux fur coats have made another comeback for winter, appearing on runways from Prada and Bottega Veneta to Alexander McQueen and popping up in stores such as Topshop, Zara and Marks & Spencer in a variety of styles and colors. Fur is officially on the streets, the trend carried on by high fashion and the masses alike.
1. Portrait of Giovani Arnolfini and his Wife, by Jan Van Eyck, 1434, wikipedia.org
2. Picture of European fur trader with Native Americans, ca. 1820, artist unknown, newberry.org
3. Socialite Louise Cromwell Brooks in 1911, wikipedia.org
4. Bottega Veneta Fall 2014 RTW, Style.com
5. 2014 Modern Faux Fur Coat from Whistles
Sources: Fashionintime.org and britishfur.co.uk
Image Layout: Second City Style
Haute Historian: Fur, The Forever Trend
December 1, 2014