Buying Vintage Fur
I am writing as the fall is approaching for those who are looking to buy vintage furs in the upcoming season. A great option for those of us who love vintage style (or perhaps are uneasy about buying a new fur, when the old ones already exist and hence no "new" animals(who, in this day and age may be subject to cruel treatment and painful deaths) will be used for them) vintage furs are a great, usually less expensive option. The only problem with them is that in order to buy with confidence, you MUST ask the seller questions about its condition.
I have been browsing vintage furs on ebay, and am amazed by how many coats and jackets are listed in excellent condition or good condition, but for a little rip or tear that sellers claim will be "easily fixed". The problem with this claim is that once the coat or jacket or wrap has a rip in the seam, it means that the fur pelts have not been properly stored and have dried out. You can repair the rip in the seam in one place, only to have another seam rip shortly thereafter. The fur on a coat is sewn into somewhat thin pellet strips, and the seams come apart when brittle from lack of moisture and age. Therefore, when a seam on one side rips, the next is sure to follow. I learned this the hard way by hiring someone to refurbish a vintage sheared mink that I owned. It was not even a week after one seam was reapired that another would rip even with my careful attention to not move quickly in it so as to stretch the pelts.
A high quality mink collar in dark chestnut with brown tiger stripe
Note that the back side of this mink is fully lined in posh satin indicating its high quality
My point in writing this, is to let people know that no matter how small the rip in a vintage fur, it spells trouble.
I will post photos later of an actual vintage fur and how the seams are stitched, and then repaired.
Also, unless the seller specifys that the jacket or coat is not monogrammed, you can expect that it will be. it was very common for jackets and coats to have initials or full names sewn in the lining. Ask your seller if this exists (it is fairly easy to have removed) if you care.
Cleaning an average size fur coat is generally in the $50 range . You can sign a waiver to have them use regualr dry cleaning methods, and that is far cheaper, but you really run the risk of having them ruin your fur. Probably 75% of the time it will be fine, but you really never know. So, if the seller notes any smell or dirt or area that needs cleaning, that bargain coat , wrap or jacket just cost you some extra bucks!
Don't be afraid to ask your seller if the coat is shedding. That is also another tell tale sign that the garment has not been cared for properly, or is simply too old to have much life left in it. If you shake a fur and more than a handful of stray hairs fly off of it, I would be very skeptical about the longevity of the garment. It means it is dry and really old or of just poor quality.
I would really recommend buying from a seller that will allow you to return the coat if it arrives and is not in the condtition you find suitable. My experience is that sellers that do not offer a return option are usually hard to deal with and may very well be selling something that they fear may have reason to be returned. I personally feel that a good and honest seller will work with you and want you to be happy. That said, the return policy would be reasonable to require a return within 2-3 days of receipt of the garment. Long enough for you to inspect it and make a determination about its quality, but not wear it. That said, the shipping fees to and from will be the buyers responsibility if he/she is unhappy with the item. However, if the seller has misrepresented the item, then they should pay at least by having the initial shipping charge stand.(in my opinion of course)
I have done some research, and that coupled with personal experience has helped me comprise this list for once you have your fur home with you. Some storage tips that should help prolong the life of the piece:
Do not leave the fur anywhere were bright sunlight can get to it. This will fade out the color before you know it, and furs always fade in a spotty way making them unwearable (inevitably by virtue of how light hits it, it will be faded out more quickly in one place before another). A closet will do. Ideally you could pay to have it stored in a temperature controlled environment, but come on, if you are scoring a vintage fur on ebay for a few hundred bucks, it is not worth the cost unless you are oddly attached to it and feel it is irreplaceable. My suggestion is to buy another one in a few years if necessary and take the money you would have spent on cold storage and use it toward a future purchase.
Make sure you hang the fur on a good, big hanger. No hooks or racks. It should be hung as if it were sitting on your shoulders. This will make the seams last longer if they do not have stress on them.
No plastic bags or garment bags or suitcases or boxes etc. This will only crush the pelts. Much better to leave hanging in a dark closet
No brushing or combing or anything that will cause the fur to shed out uncessarily. I have had luck with light brushing to get out something stuck in the fur, but anything beyond that will be too much for a vintage fur to handle.