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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Posts Tagged ‘Vintage Fur’

Important Anti-Moth Information – for knitters and vintage clothing collectors as well as all other people!

Saturday, March 19th, 2011


First let me list my qualifications: Then let me share what I have learned about moth invasion.

1) I am an ardent knitter and I have boxes of precious hand knit sweaters. And boxes of expensive luxury knitting fibers in the process of being knit or awaiting being knit. Now everything is in plastic sealed bags as well as in boxes.

2) I am a  serious collector of fine historic textiles.

3) And I have collected and own an immense amount of valuable vintage clothing.

4) I also own several fur items and these can be offenders. Moths love to live in a nice soft cosy fur collar or coat or muff. Or a lovely oriental carpet, or a wool needlepoint purse! Cashmere socks or a fur purse! Or a silk scarf, especially if it is Dior or Calvin Klein it seems! And pets!

Think carefully about where they might be and be sure to inspect that item and work on keeping those items moth free. Freeze any suspect item for 72 hours. You cannot freeze a pet for 72 hrs but you can wash one.

Thus I am very concerned about preventing invasion and damage by moths!

For decades I had good luck, was very careful and never had a problem. then, suddenly, last summer, for a reason we cannot track the source of successfully, I discovered an outbreak of moths. In my house! In some hand knitted sweaters! I was horrified. And flew into action. We actually found very little information on the problem.

I have always stored my clothes with an immense amount of lavender. I always read that this fended off the offending critters. I have had fresh lavender sachets everywhere. In almost every drawer, hanging in little sacks from every hanger. Stuffed in little bags in my shoes and on every closet and cupboard and shelf and drawer in existence in my house. My friends have always teased me about being the lavender lady. Because my entire house smells of the stuff. Subtly though. It is not overwhelming.

Moths are said to dislike the strong fragrance of lavender and stay away from it. It did not fend them off. They came in spite of it and attacked my cashmere and alpaca and natural untreated Scottish and Irish woolens. By the time we discovered them they had made it through an unfortunate number of nice things.Luxury fibers and designer clothes are their favorites.

We found out after reading everything online and researching like crazy that lavender doesn’t really kill them. It just slightly discourages them. In our case the strain we had seems to have liked it a lot! I suspect they had developed a taste for it!

You have to kill the moths and the eggs and the larvae which are the wretched creatures that eat your silks and wools. cashmere and alpaca, etc. All luxury fibers and nothing else. The one and only way to surely wipe them out is to put every item you suspect them of being in or getting near in your freezer at temperatures lower than 32 Degrees F for at least 72 hrs. Enclose each item in a zip lock bag, get the air out and then put the bag and its contents in your freezer for 72 hrs minimum. After removing it keep the item stored in its sealed plastic bag with a small silk bag of lavender inside it. You can get the small silk bags in which to make the lavender sachets at dollar stores. Fill them with bulk organic lavender from the health food stores. That is right. Not one bag for a drawer full of sweaters. One for each sweater in each zip lock bag.

To be absolutely safe that is then how you have to store your clothes for eternity.

Moth larvae do not fly or climb onto clothes.  They walk or crawl onto them. So you should have your coats and suits and the like hanging up not sitting folded  on shelves or in drawers. No more elegantly folded stacks of cashmere sweaters. That is what I had and they just ate their way through them!

Moth balls are not an option because  they will poison you and your clothing. They stink and they are completely out of date. Passe! Unsafe and disgusting.

I inspected everything I owned and cycled everything through my freezer for 72 hours. I now keep everything I own sealed in plastic bags and in each of those I keep a lavender sachet in a small silk drawstring bag. This process took me three months. It was awful. A lot of work!

Any new item – especially anything from a thrift or consignment shop that I bring into the house – I immediately put in a plastic bag and pop into the freezer for the 72 hour freezing treatment. That includes children’s stuffed toys and all sweaters, ties, wool clothing items, etc. Even yarn and fabric. If I buy a scarf, into the freezer it goes.

I fear that we contracted the original moth problem from an item bought at a thrift store that seemed perfectly clean and got folded up and put on a shelf with another stack of sweaters. I fear it had moth eggs in it, the larvae hatched and then began munching their way through essentially everything in our home. They can get into silk drapes, wool carpets, pets, any silk or wool items and all fine natural animal fibers. They spread like wildfire.

I originally understood that dry cleaning items killed them. But I do not think it actually does so every time. I have spent an immense amount of money on dry cleaning and still found moth damage on the items. the freezer treatment is the only thing I know of that actually works.

Our freezer now has clothes in it all the time. I have cut way back on what I buy at thrift stores because of this problem. I am afraid every sweater in there is harboring moths. Same with consignment stores.

I am absolutely fastidious about caring for my clothing. I know not everyone else is. I know items may look ok but may not be. You cannot see moth larva or eggs in a knitted sweater. You can only see devastating holes after they have done their thing. Same in a silk scarf or a cashmere coat.

Most of the time moth damage is permanent and cannot be repaired. Heartbreakingly I had to throw out several cashmere sweaters this summer that got infested and had moth holes in them. The moths prefer the most expensive fibers. That is angora, merino wool, cashmere, alpaca, llama, and other expensive fibers.They also will infest fur items. Rugs and drapes, pillows stuffed with feathers, blankets, and shawls. We found out that they like clothes that have been worn the best. So the little scent of a person having worn the item attracts them as well.

Fastidiously inspect everything and freeze things for 72 hours at 32 degrees F or lower is suspect. Better to be safe than sorry.

Please share any more information you have knowledge of for killing them and controlling them without causing risk to humans.




What Makes The Picture a Good Portrait? About “Fur is Fabulous!” … Part 2

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

"Fur is Fabulous"

Continued from Part 1, published on 2/16/2011.

*As a portrait the picture “Fur is Fabulous” is good because it captures me as a unique person and tells a lot about me. I also like it and what it says about me. I look like an exotic French bird of some sort. It reminds me of a film still from an old black and white French or Italian movie from the 1950’s or 60’s, an era in film which I love. Several of the kinds of art work I do are shown in the picture – my vintage clothing restoration work, my sewing, my passion for creating and wearing hats. I have often worked as a hat model (for hat designing friend, Princess WOW! several others milliners, and several photographers,) – is that not obvious? (I say in jest!) As well! And I am wearing an antique black silk kimono which I love and am very comfortable in.

Then there is the “hat/sleeve” thing going on. There is a saying, “He is wearing his heart on his sleeve.” which refers to him showing his emotions, what is in his heart, very directly, upfront, not trying to conceal it in deep secrecy. He is being very open about what he truly feels. It just happened that I was admiring and appreciating the softness and Absolute Beauty of the luxurious black Norwegian fox fur cuffs and I put one on my head to try it out as a hat and suddenly I was wearing my sleeve on my head!” Which brings me around to the other reason this photo is successful.

The brain is the center of thought. It is located inside the head. If one calls attention to that which is deep in his heart – by wearing his heart on his sleeve – it follows that one is bringing her thoughts on a subject to the fore by wearing them on her head! As I said, “Fur is Fabulous!” I was expressing my deep appreciation for fur’s Absolute Beauty.

By Absolute Beauty, I mean in the deepest purest sense. As a work of nature, as the coat of a wonderful creature, my appreciation for the beautiful animal from which it came, for that animal’s soul, and for his freedom to live in our world and be himself – running free and exquisite. I was thinking as I stroked the long dark soft fur of the Norwegian Fox, that he must, in his natural habitat, be a shining silky black creature living in a beautiful white snowy place, with deep green fir trees laden heavy with snow …..” And while I was thinking about him out there, blissfully and innocently living his life, streaking swiftly and gracefully through the forest…

I was also thinking about, and appreciating, the exquisite work of the professional fine art furrier who had made these beautiful cuffs and designed the 70 plus year old vintage coat I was rescuing from abandoned oblivion. I was thinking about the old furrier’s skill at working with the exquisite shining black fox pelts and how this ultra-skilled profession is also coming to an end. How it is, sadly, dying out.

I was thinking about my lovely and wise 96 year old friend who was a life-long professional furrier. And was, also, a teacher, in a now closed down fashion institute, specializing in designing and sewing with real and valuable furs. We have talked a lot about her career in the fur industry in the old days and what she knows about furs. She too is a dying breed. Even more in danger of extinction than the animals on the endangered species lists. This too is sad! Is it not?

That is what I was thinking! I was thinking that I must interview her formally and write about her and her work before it is too late. She is healthy now, but she is getting on in years and I have to do this before it is too late.

Lastly, I was thinking about the fact that I was recycling an elegant old coat. I had cleaned it, relined it, changed the buttons as it was missing one, and cleaned and mothproofed the fur. In changing the buttons I had found appropriate vintage replacements from the same era. I was now in the process of putting the cuffs back onto the coat so I could wear it. I am very proud of my textile and clothing restoration abilities and of the part I am doing to restore and reuse elegant clothing from earlier eras. I resurrect it. I give it a new life. I wear it. I photograph and document it. It gets used, seen, admired, enjoyed, generally talked about. The artists and designers who made it long ago and were forgotten about are remembered. In a way, I make all of them, including the animals whose pelts are in the coats live again. I think this is far better for them than having them molder away into total extinction, long forgotten, in a damp closet or attic somewhere!

I feel that, when I am wearing these beautiful vintage clothes elegance is, on some small level, restored to our modern world. I get a lot of interesting comments about my clothes and how I look. It opens peoples eyes to what was done historically and to what is still possible if you care to put the time and effort into dressing this way. In fact, into every aspect of your whole life. If you choose to contemplate on it you will become aware of many more ways in which you can reclaim elegance from the past and incorporate it into the here and now.

Sometimes, when I am asked about my interesting clothes I get the chance to explain that I restore them and sew by hand and on old sewing machines. And that I also find and restore the old sewing machines and other tools of the trade that I use. I may get to explain that I am a major recycler. My entire house is filled with things I have found and gotten second hand. I have, for instance, a vintage Italian Pavoni Espresso machine. I use it everyday. I love it! I love the processes of doing everything from scratch. Doing things this way, by myself, pleases me.

I happen to have met the furrier I told you about because I responded to her posting on Craig’s list when she was downsizing and selling her Singer Featherweight 221 sewing machine. I went to her home to look at the machine, she saw my clothes and my style, we began to talk and we immediately hit it off! Her name is Dorothy.

I did purchase Dorothy’s sewing machine. She told me she also had boxes of old vintage sewing patterns and would I like them? I said yes! As it turned out she gave me a couple of hundred old patterns – and she had made all of them herself at one time or another during her life. The dates of the patterns she gave me began in 1932 when she was 17 with the dress she wore to her high school prom. and extended through to 2008 when she decided to stop making all her own clothes. Each pattern was carefully labeled with the date she made it and what occasion it was made for. In many cases there was a sample of the fabric she had originally used attached to the pattern envelope.

Dorothy gave me the documented story of her life in her sewing patterns. I spent a lot of time listening to her stories which I find fascinating. And from which I learned a lot. She apprenticed with a fine furrier when she got out of high school and spent her entire life working for his firm. She was also married and socially active. She also became a professor at The New York Fashion Institute teaching furrier design, construction and sewing techniques.

She is the only person I know who is able to explain how an older style fur coat or hat was made and identify the unusual types of furs in some vintage pieces. She has an amazing personal collection of vintage fur coats and yes, she still wears them, regularly. Dorothy is a treasure.

The Peta people wouldn’t dare mess with Dorothy. She commands there respect. She is also for the most part, on their side. She loves the animals that produce the fur and wants to protect them. She does care.

Anyway, Dorothy has been a fascinating person for me to get to know. I think she feels the same way about me. She told me that she likes being friends with me because she doesn’t have many of her old friends left any longer. And we have a lot of shared interests.

I am so glad that I have met her! And that we have become friends. And it all happened because we appreciate fur for it’s Absolute Beauty. We both think, “Fur is Fabulous” including the animals it comes on!  Mostly for that reason, actually. And we have become friends because we share this deep appreciation.

Amazingly, all these thoughts were going through my head when I said “Fur is Fabulous” and my son was taking that picture. He only made one exposure by the way. It was a very spontaneous experience.

To be continued with Part III, of “Fur is Fabulous”

Art and About… The Picture “Fur is Fabulous!” …………..

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

"Fur is Fabulous!"

I’ve decided to write about art and how artists make their work. And  how that process is reflected on a daily basis in their lives. I am asked about this a lot. Questions like, “How do you come up with such ideas? How did you ever think of that? How did that happen? ” So I will be discussing this from time to time and  hope to give insight into the creative process as I experience it. Artist friends are certainly invited to comment…I’d love to hear what you experience when you do it!

This picture is a perfect place for me to start. It is a picture of me and it is taken by my son, Leigh. Here is how it came to be made. We were at my house, in the living room/dining room/kitchen/com art studio section which is where everything happens. It was morning and we were getting organized to go out for the day. I had just taken a shower and I was was wearing a vintage black silk kimono and sitting on a wicker chair next to a small table with one of the Dutch Master’s inspired silk flower sculptures that I make on it. That is the floral arrangement you see on the right side of the composition. There is a window, high up on the left side from which natural morning light came into this scene. We were talking. And I was sewing. I am a designer and I make original designs and restyle and restore vintage clothing all the time. I always have something under construction. I had recently taken the large black Norwegian fox fur cuffs off of a deep purple wool coat from the 1940’s in order to have it cleaned. I wanted to wear it today so I was sitting there, reattaching the cuffs to the coat! I was carefully stitching them back in place by hand, one stitch at a time …

Leigh was born with a camera as an appendage. It is always with him and he is always using it to record and document his life and life around him. That naturally expands to include the lives of his family members, friends, and at this point everything else in the world. Nothing and no one is spared the scrutiny of his lens! He was talking to me as I sewed and drinking coffee and studying me and the light, but I was absorbed by what I was doing and not paying this any attention.

As you may have gleaned from my blog so far, I love hats! I love to wear them, style them, make them, talk about them, write about them, whatever… I was looking over the giant black fur cuff I was working on and stroking it, when, I suddenly thought of it as a HAT! Then I plopped it on my head, turned sideways, put my chin on my hand and struck the pose you see in the picture and said, “Fur is Fabulous!” and Leigh, who is always at the ready, snapped his shutter.

Then we split up, laughing. Laughing because we were having fun, we thought we might have spontaneously made a good portrait and we were feeling happy!

As it turned out, we had made a good portrait. We titled it, “Fur is Fabulous!” Many people have told us they like the photograph. It has also generated a great deal of controversy which is something we never would have expected …

I will continue to discuss both of these results in a future post….

Lauren Bearcall in a Sock Knitting Consultation with Baaharaji

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

Lauren Bearcall Consulting with Baaharaji

Elegant Lauren Bearcall who is a movie star in real life, has recently started knitting, something she has wanted to do all her life but is finally taking up. (Doesn’t that sound familiar!) Her frantic filming schedule didn’t allow for this in the past. Fortunately knitting is something you can take up at any point in life! Note how she is dressed! Just like the glamorous film star she is! A beautiful vintage faux fur coat, a charming one-of-a-kind hat trimmed in French wired ribbons and berries, a necklace, and last but not least a very original wooden designer handbag. She has just purchased a set of the new short wooden double pointed sock needles – you can see them in her purse, by Clover! from Joanne’s Fabrics

And she has brought in the very first sock she has ever knitted to show to Baaharaji who is a sheep and is also an accomplished knitter and teacher. Being a sheep he naturally knows a lot about wool. He is from India and is a guru of knitting! When he teaches sock knitting to a student he has them make a small sample sized mini sock for their first one in order to learn the techniques before they spend a lot of time and effort making a normal sized one. Ms. Bearcall is finished with hers and is stopping by to show it to him and make a plan for starting her wearable sized real pair. He is showing her a ball of Noro yarn to give suggestions on a type of yarn and color scheme she might use. The proper set up – choosing the right yarn and getting the right needles, and a good pattern are the keys to success. And, of course, having a good knitting instructor or friend to consult with – checking the process and advising as needed along the way – giving experienced advice and instructions. A good needlework book covering knitting and crocheting in a basic way with easy to see instructions is a good thing to have on hand! Baaharaji will recommend one coming up…

Vintage Hat of the Week – the Goldenrod by Midinette for The City of Paris

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Goldenrod Hat by Midinette for The City of Paris

The Goldenrod is a yellow French fluffy fur felt beret/cloche, New Look 1950’s hat, designed by Midinette for the grand old San Francisco Department store, The City of Paris, and labeled accordingly. Inside the hat is stamped Empress Body, made in Western Germany. The brim trim and bow are made of a stiffened knit fabric. There is a lot of elegantly executed hand sewing and hand work on this lovely little hat. I worked in NYC  with a couture hat designer in the 1990’s (then known as Mindy Fradkin Important Hats, now working under the name Princess of WOW!,)  and learned to appreciate these specialized millinery techniques.

I also learned how to wear hats in many heretofore unimagined imaginative ways! Thus in experimenting with this elegant little number I found it could be worn in it in at least 20 different ways! All of these on my head – just in case you are wondering! I was only limited by my imagination and the fact that I needed to get some other things done. I have photographed it in all the ways I found to wear it, but I have not figured out how to post all these pictures in a gallery on my blog yet. As soon as I learn how to do it I will post all the pictures so you can see the many charming ways I found to wear the Goldenrod. In the meantime, I’ll describe them.

I tried tilting and turning it in every direction I could think of. It is very versatile, for example, the bow can be worn in the front or the back, It is darling either way. Or, you can position the bow to be worn on the side, tilted forward, up or down – front, back or sideways! It can be worn over French roll if you have long hair, or with a bob – tilted like a saucy beret. It would be darling over a short haircut too!

I photographed the Goldenrod Hat in many positions and from many angles to give you ideas on how to position it on yourself. I was having so much fun figuring them all out. The sky seems to be the limit with this versatile piece! It has loads of personality! And I think it would work for many women of many styles and ages! From a Gigi Ingenue to a Sophisticated Socialite, to a First Lady! I could see it on one of the stylistas of Man Men with a belted black sheath and matching goldenrod yellow gloves, or on Michelle Obama with a black pencil skirt and chic yellow and black silk print blouse!

You can tell, as I write, that I name my hats! Somehow I started naming them, whatever came to mind. It helps me to keep track of them! And they have so much personality they just seem to want their own names. I put their names on the outside of their boxes so I can keep track of them and find them when I am pressed for time. It helps!

Goldenrod would look lovely accented with gold jewelry! I think it is important to remember that this hat comes from the era in which women never went out without hat, gloves and jewelry! Perhaps take that into consideration when creating your own New Look with such a vintage piece. I decided I would wear it myself as a stiffened French Schoolgirl Beret – think Madeline of Paris – with black capri pants, red patent or suede flats, and a short black and yellow 40’s swing jacket. I figure out ways to wear such pieces with other pieces I already have. And I recommend doing that. It is amazing how many interesting combinations one can find just “shopping” in one’s own closet! I figured out that it would also make for a jaunty look with a red 40’s swing jacket that I have combined with the same pants and shoes above! And I could wear it with an Issa London jersey wrap dress in a geometric Vasserali print from the 70’s, topped off with a blue swing jacket from the 40’s and vintage yellow alligator pumps.

When one gets going the possibilities seem to be almost endless! A hat like this is positively inspiring! Hats in general are like that which is one reason I love them! They are often charming and can be disarming. They are always entertaining. So much so that my friend, the hat designer, formerly Mindy Fradkin Important hats, has ended up becoming an entertainer, Princess WOW! using her hats in her comedy routines and performance and

I promise to write about that soon!

Both the wearers of hats and the people who see them benefit from the experience. Hats can make people happy – I often see someone smile when they see me in a hat they like. And I enjoy that! I smile back! They are definitely conversation pieces. People will come up to you if you are wearing an interesting hat and ask you about it, or tell you they like it, or start a conversation based on the fact that they initially admired your hat! Hats often break the ice! You never quite know what to expect! You’ll see! If you wear them in interesting ways interesting things will happen to you that didn’t happen before! Try it, you’ll experience it yourself!

The ways you could wear this little beauty are only limited by your imagination…I can see the right person wearing it to church with an elegant matching suit or an artsy bohemian type wearing it to a gallery opening with wide flowing pants and long flowing hair….like flower child Penelope Tree might have done in the 60’s, wearing this hat in a completely unorthodox way in a different fashion time period than it originally came from. New images of women in this Midinette Goldenrod Hat just keep popping into my mind – like flowers popping into bloom in a meadow overnight! Regarding hats, vintage or new contemplate this:

It is important, in my opinion, when wearing vintage, to co-ordinate your looks in your very own original way, so you have a truly individual style. That way you will use what suits you best choosing from any eras and mixing whatever you like and think works well together. Sometimes that will be completely unorthodox assemblages and other times it may be the exact rendition of the way a piece or an ensemble was originally meant to be worn. You should do whatever you like best and whatever you feel works best for you. True style is achieved when you know yourself and choose accordingly. It has nothing to do with fashion of the moment. We are always changing too, so something you might have worn a certain way, three or four times suddenly doesn’t look so great to you and you want to change it or combine it somehow to create a different effect. I experiment constantly and I encourage everyone to try it, try to be more creative in the way you dress. It is an art form. We can either be dynamic living moving sculptures – thus walking works of art, or shadows of darkness who recede into the background not wanting to be seen! We all have days that we might feel like doing that, of course, but hopefully we have more days on which we want to be beautiful or colorful or intriguing or interesting and dressing up is one way we can project that! It can actually help us make connections with other people. I think people acknowledged this more in other eras when there was more emphasis on considering how you came across to others.

I, for one, truly appreciate it when I see a person artfully dressed. I appreciate the artistry of it, the care and choices and effort that went into it, the beauty and the color and the line. I enjoy seeing them. I am benefiting from their efforts at self expression. They are giving me a little pleasure in my life just because I get to see them! It needn’t cost a lot of money to dress well. What it takes is creativity, an eye for the details and the components. And a good imagination. Vintage clothing is good for this because it is often interesting and unusual and well made. Those of us who love hats know that hats, of course, are especially wonderful in this way!

Vintage Fur of the Week – Circa 1940’s Leopard Swing Coat

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Real Leopard Fur 1940's Swing Coat

Yes, it is the real thing! A genuine leopard fur jacket! And it is absolutely beautiful! I inherited this amazing 1940’s swing style jacket. This is now an endangered species and it is illegal to kill any current day leopards or to sell their coats, be they old or new; or to keep leopards as pets. They do not do well in captivity –  usually ending up dead on the couch. The only way you can own one, (that is a coat) legally, is if you happen to have inherited it from a family member, as I did. Because this coat was made many years ago I feel it is now most respectful to the animals whose pelts are in it to take good care of the coat, (thus what is left of them!) use it and appreciate its beauty, and tell modern people about the current dilemmas of the leopard species. I use my coat, out of respect for those beautiful animals, and as a teaching tool to increase public awareness in their present day plight. FYI they are hard to find, hard to care for, and it is illegal to trade in them. You cannot legally buy or sell them or carry them over state lines. You cannot import them from one country to another. There is a lot of interesting information pertaining to this topic online. Please, go there and read about it. You will find it fascinating and receive an education!

Leopard on Wikipedia

Endangered Species Handbook

Trade in Endangered Species

eBay Guides – Leopard – Endangered Fur Guidelines

This Old Fur

Meanwhile, if you would like a real fur coat, consider the humane act of adopting an old one from a thrift shop, and renovating it or remodeling it a bit if needed. You can easily find lovely vintage fur coats at reasonable prices in thrift stores, consignment shops and estate sales, that need rescuing, and love and will transform you into a Hollywood Film Goddess of yester year. I never buy new furs accessories or new fur coats. I rescue old ones and care for them out of respect for the animals who gave their lives to make them. In a small way I make them live again. A high quality used fur coat will last for many years if properly cared for. I feel it is better to love and cherish a vintage fur for the duration of its useful life than to abandon it. I want to make sure it is understood that I only collect, use and show on my blog vintage fur coats and accessories because these fur items already exist.

I particularly like The Ritz Fur Shop in New York City. They have a great vintage ad on their website. in which a beautiful mysterious woman visits their shop to buy a used fur and leaves looking and feeling like a million without spending a million!

“Vintage Furs are Fabulous!” is one of my favorite personal slogans! I will be sharing examples of fabulous vintage furs with you through photographs in the weeks to come. And I will write another blog entry soon regarding vintage fur collecting and endangered species.