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”