MOUTON Fur: the smart choice

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MOUTON Fur: the smart choice
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Want a real fur coat but don't know which?  Struggling with the ethics of wearing fur?  You're not limited to Grandma’s ranch mink or a fake fur.  There IS a genuine fur that’s glamorous, affordable and politically correct.

Most people are familiar with the Big Three in fur- mink, fox and raccoon.  And most women have at least been tempted to own a fur coat at sometime in their lives; lured by fashion trends, for the feel of luxury or let’s be honest, the sex appeal of wearing fur.  But a growing percentage of people hesitate to buy fur because of concerns for animals' rights.  The ethical issue of wild animals being sacrificed for our fashion whims discourages many from buying furs and despite much-improved materials, fake furs just don't compare to the real thing.  But there is a sensible alternative that’s not well known and is under appreciated-  mouton fur.

The term ‘mouton’ (pronounced MOO-tawn) originates from the French word for mutton and in the fur industry, refers to pelts from lambs or sheep.  But if what springs to mind is the puffy, cotton-wool texture of a sheepskin rug or car seat cover, you're in for a shock.  Mouton is a high-grade lambskin that’s specially processed to mimic the density and radiance of sheared beaver or mink fur.  The wool fibers of a mouton pelt are straight, not curly.  Sheared to an even ½ inch depth, mouton is very plush and has a soft, velvety feel.  With its glowing highlights and natural sheen, high quality mouton can easily be mistaken for much more expensive type of fur.  It can be dyed in many shades, but chocolate brown is the most commonly found color.  And while fur coats from wild species may cost in the thousands, you can easily find a good, pre-owned mouton fur garment for less than $100.

The moral issue of wearing fur is negligible when considering mouton.  Any anti-fur advocate whose worn sheepskin slippers or has eaten a lamb chop can't complain about mouton fur.  Sheep are domestic animals raised for meat and sheepskin pelts used for clothing is accepted by all but the most extreme animal rights activists.  Because of its uniform depth and color, at first glance people often mistake mouton as being an imitation fur.  But the luxurious, silky feel of mouton is unmistakably genuine fur and irresistible.  More importantly, the wearer knows their garment is ‘the real thing’ and a politically correct choice.
There are also practical considerations for choosing mouton fur.  Because of its weight and density, mouton is hands-down, the coziest, warmest fur coat you can buy.  Other furs are made with an inner lining of wool or flannel for warmth; not so with mouton lamb.  Even the harshest winter wind can't cut through a mouton pelt.  Unlike mink and more delicate long-haired furs such as raccoon, mouton is a very sturdy, durable fur.  Get caught in a rainstorm wearing a fox fur and you could be in trouble.  That's not the case with mouton, because water tends to simply bead up on a mouton pelt.

Furriers advise that mouton and shearling lamb fur coats should be cold-stored to preserve the life of the coat.  Depending on how much you paid, it might be hard to justify spending $50-$75 each summer to store it.  My experience with mouton fur is that if the coat is stored in a cool, ventilated closet, you’ll easily get ten years of wear from it.  Fur cleaning presents a similar problem.  Because they can be difficult to clean and results are iffy, many fur cleaners won’t even handle mouton.  But again, if the garment wasn’t a huge investment to begin with, you can simply replace it after a decade and not ever bother with cleaning the coat.  Though not recommended by furriers, I’ve found you can easily care for a mouton fur yourself.  Usually, just brushing the coat with a wire, slicker-type dog brush is enough to keep it clean.  If cared for properly, even a coat with many years on the clock can last for decades.  All these factors mean that mouton is the most economical fur you can buy and gives you a lifetime of wear for your fur investment.

Now that you know about its advantages, how does one go about buying a mouton fur coat?  If you shop or call furrier stores, you'll learn many don't even stock mouton or find their prices are very high.  All the more reason you should look to eBay to purchase a genuine mouton fur coat or jacket.  The first thing you need to know is how to spot a fake fur from the real thing.  As this applies to all furs and is a critical factor in itself, I've written a Buyer’s Guide on the topic about how to distinguish real fur from synthetic fur:  REAL vs FAKE FUR
This should be a precursor to any fur purchase, but is particularly relevant to buying mouton.  That’s because the term ‘mouton’ is commonly misinterpreted as denoting  imitation fur.  So if it’s not stated in the auction, you should always ask the seller, " Is this genuine mouton, NOT fake fur?"  Because of this confusing misnomer, you may be the one informing the Seller that ‘mouton is a real animal pelt,  not a fake fur.’  The easiest way to ensure you're getting the real thing is to deal only with fur sellers who'll guarantee the item is genuine mouton and allows returns if you're dissatisfied.  Armed with a little knowledge and common sense, you can successfully master fur buying on eBay and procure yourself a top quality mouton.
As with any fur, there are vast differences in quality and price.  Oddly enough, a mouton coat produced in the 1950s may be of higher quality than some newer mouton furs.  During that era, mouton reached its peak popularity, was highly desirable and worn by all the celebrities.  Most of the used mouton garments you'll find on eBay will be vintage.  You can expect to find many short waisted jackets with neatly cut, rounded collars, often called opera coats.  Though vintage, these mouton jackets are a timely choice and still in style to this day.  The classic mouton jacket of Marilyn Monroe’s day will serve you well and coordinates with everything from blue jeans to cocktail dresses.
Your search methods are important as sellers use different terms to describe this fur.  Be aware that mouton fur may also be labeled as  shearling fur, sheared lamb, beaver lamb fur and sheepskin fur.  To narrow your search, you want to exclude listings that denote other types of lamb fur such as Persian, curly, Tibetan and Mongolian.

There are several questions you should ask to determine quality and condition.  If the pelts are dry, brittle or excessively worn, you'll only have a very expensive bed for your dog to sleep on.  The condition of a fur coat can be quite subjective; opinions vary and even the most experienced buyers (myself included) have been deceived.  So here are some key points when inquiring about the condition of a mouton fur -
  • Does the coat show signs of pelt dryness?   Is the coat stiff & thick or pliable and soft?  Ask the Seller to do this test-  push a thumbnail firmly against the pelt skin from the inside (the lining side).  If they hear an audible ‘snap’ like popping bubble wrap, that means the pelt skin is dry.  The first areas to go dry are usually the shoulder or hem, so have them check there.
  • Dry rot is another flaw found in vintage mouton garments.  It's where the fur separates from its leather backing.  You can check for it by firmly tugging on the fur (especially at the shoulders, collar & hem).  If a clump easily pulls off the coat or any separation is evident, the coat has dry rot and probably won't withstand normal wear.
  • Are there any bald spots, worn areas, tears or ripped seams? 
  • Does the coat show any fur clumping?  This is common with older mouton and can often be fixed just by brushing if the clumping isn't too severe.  But it may be an indication the garment was not well-cared for or is in poor condition overall.
  • What is the fur depth?  Ask the Seller to measure the depth by sticking a ruler into the fur.  Cheaper quality mouton will be under of an ⅜ inch and ¼ inch hardly even qualifies as fur.  The standard depth for good mouton fur is ½ inch to 5/8ths of an inch.
  • Does the fur have any unpleasant odor?  Just as ordinary suede or sheepskin tends to absorb odors, it is common for improperly stored mouton furs to smell.  A slight odor can usually be dealt with by simply airing the coat well; hanging it outside on a windy day (in the shade) for several hours.  But if the fur has a heavy, musty odor, the damage may be irreparable.  Note:  Never use sprays, odor neutralizers (like Febreeze) or perfumes as this can cause damage.
  • What is the condition of the lining?  Insist on a separate photo of the lining if you have any doubts.  Higher quality mouton furs will have real satin linings (often embroidered or embossed) instead of the cheaper acetate fabric linings.  However, the condition of the lining isn't a crucial factor, because any competent seamstress can mend or replace a fur coat’s lining fairly easily.
Request photos of the coat in natural light; if at all possible, pictures taken outdoors in sunlight.  This will give you the best view of the fur itself and helps to reveal imperfections.   Though older mouton may show some crimped or flattened areas, a good mouton fur should appear even in texture and depth.  If the fur is shows serious crushing, most likely, it won't brush out.
Prices of mouton furs on eBay can vary widely depending on quality and season.  As with all furs, you'll pay more during cold weather months when demand is up.  Prepare for your fur purchase by studying the completed auctions.  This will help you determine what buyers are paying and give you a better idea of the styles available.  Lastly, if you can't find just the style of mouton fur coat you'd like, consider buying an one with an out-of-date look.  It could be well worth your money to have a collar replaced or even to have the whole coat restyled.  Your investment in a mouton fur isn't likely to diminish as the awareness and popularity of this fur increases with each passing year.

If this guide has been helpful, your VOTE is much appreciated!

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Also, please check out my other fur guides, in particular the Guide on Endangered Species Furs.  This is a guide eBay does not want you to read.  Run a search of related keywords and you'll find that one Guide doesn't appear.  eBay keeps it hidden & refuses to explain WHY after 2 years of asking for answers. 

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Please Note:  This guide is intended to assist eBay members in their buying and selling, but may not be copied or reproduced without my consent.  Please refer to the eBay guidelines under the VeRO program (verified rights of owner's intellectual property).
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