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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle


March 7th, 2024 by violette

The quality of a fur is determined by the quality of the design, the pelts and the workmanship. The pelts must be well matched, light weight, supple and even in sheen. The workmanship must create evenly stitched seams and good matching of pelts.

This lovely long dark brown mink coat is made of female mink pelts and has a Russian sable collar. Sable is considered the most luxurious fur in the world. It is exceptionally dense and soft and has no nap so can be stroked in any direction. When I found this beautiful vintage coat I took it to furrier Rene Vogel to have the inside belt loops repaired and to have the fur hooks inside replaced as some of them had fallen off over the years. I also asked Rene to explain the difference in male and female mink coats. This is what I learned.

Female mink pelts are generally smaller than male mink pelts and are celebrated for their remarkable delicacy and featherweight quality. They have a higher luster and are softer and silkier than male pelts. Female pelts are perfect for elegant refined garments. Due to the smaller size of the animal it takes more female pelts to make a garment than male pelts therefor the costs of female mink coats are higher due to the higher number of more expensive pelts required.

I love furs. I also love animals. And I also love vintage furs. Most of the furs I come in contact with were created a long time before I was even born. I feel that wearing them and taking good care of them honors the animals they were made from. I do not buy or wear new furs. 

Vintage Furs are Real Furs ….. completely natural and 100% reused. They are both affordable and high quality. For example you often can get a previously owned fur coat in excellent condition that would retail for $8,000 to $10,000 for $500 to $1,000. You can often find a perfectly lovely vintage fur stole for between $150 and $500 that would be perfect for a formal event. 

These furs are incredibly soft and beautiful and a natural resource that shouldn’t be wasted. I believe in rescuing and reusing previously cherished vintage furs and by doing so respecting the animals from which they came. 

When you acquire a vintage fur it needs to be carefully inspected and may need cleaning and minor repairs that have been made necessary by the passage of time. There may be tears in the lining, hooks and buttons may have come off, or a fur coat may need some alterations to make it fit you or give it a more modern look. 

This beautiful coat from the 1940s is called China Mink or Summer Mink. When I acquired it is was dirty and neglected but Rene cleaned and glazed it and brought it back to life. I especially like it because the color matches my natural hair color! This color and style of mink coat was particularly popular in the 1930s and 40s. It is called Summer Mink because it is naturally the lighter color of the mink’s summer pelt.

I collect vintage furs for my own use and to sell in my online vintage clothing shops. 

When I acquire new to me vintage furs I take them to my personal professional furrier, Rene Vogel who founded his  business, Furs by René in 1982. Rene is a second-generation furrier from Switzerland who was trained in Europe and formerly ran the Fur Salons in Nordstrom and Frederick & Nelson in Seattle, Washington. He also did custom fur work for I Magnin & Co. in Seattle when real furs were in their fashion heyday. He and his wife, Denise, are experts in bringing pre-owned vintage furs back to life. They specialize in reuse and repurposing of old furs by cleaning and repairing them and, if necessary, altering, sewing, refinishing, and remodeling them. They can, of course, also work with new furs and even make a new coat or fur accessory from scratch. 

Most professional furriers have closed their businesses and the furriers have retired out of necessity because fur has become unpopular and there is no longer enough business to support a full time shop with all the expenses of running a business. As a result it has become very difficult to find someone qualified to work with valuable fine furs in the old way. Rene is an old school craftsman and an absolute perfectionist. In this world of throw away fashion he is one of the few remaining fur experts of the past and an absolute treasure. 

He currently lives and works out of his charming home studio in Snohomish, Washington, where he also owns a small sheep farm. Ten months out of the year he takes fur clients by private appointment in his home studio. Two months out of each year he spends in his family home in Switzerland – more about that later. 

This fur boa is made of several Stone Marten pelts that are fastened together with clips. They can be configured in several different ways to wear over a coat or suit. They were popular from the 1930s – 1950s and are fun to wear now as authentic accessories for tailored vintage garments. Rene replaced the missing clips on this set and explained that the eyes are glass beads – not real animal eyes!

I visited the Vogels in their newly remodeled Snohomish Studio last weekend – taking them several of my vintage coats – to identify the types of fur – and to do some repairs. I like to get Rene’s expert take on what kinds of fur are used in an item and have him look over the fit and style to give me a professional opinion on the fit and styling. Over the years I have had some very unusual older coats and stoles made out of furs that I could not recognize and he has been able to identify what kinds of furs were used. Whenever I don’t know or question what kind a fur it is I ask him because I like to know what kind of fur I am dealing with. I have learned a great deal about furs as a result. 

This jacket is an Ermine. Rene showed me that the sleeves could be worn two ways rolled up with a cuff or straight and the jacket could be worn open or fastened with one fur hook. He explained that most people think of ermine as white fur with black tips on the end of its tail, but that is the color of the ermine in winter to use as camouflage in snow. The rest of the year the ermine is this rich reddish brown color. The fur is absolutely beautiful. Ermine used to be the fur of royalty and only kings and queens and certain high ranking clergymen were allowed to wear it. This jacket was made in the 1940s and it looks as if it was never worn. It is in perfect condition. It was probably kept in cold storage most of the time since it has survived so well. The lining is absolutely beautiful – a rich brocade with little flower carts decorating it.

And there is a beautiful label from the original furrier. Most of these old coats have elegant vintage labels which add to their history and charm.

Rene has told me the stories of his early life in Europe, about helping his father in his fur business as a boy, attending trade school for professional furriers as a teenager in Switzerland and visiting traditional tanneries that had been processing pelts in Germany for centuries. I plan to share some of these informative and interesting tales with you in upcoming posts.

It is always good to hear his stories and experiences about his life in the fur business as well. He has a good sense of humor and is very entertaining. 

Here are some fur muffs. The dark brown one is Seal Fur from Alaska and has a picture of a baby seal carved out in the fur. I have never seen another one like it! Seal Fur is on the endangered list now and cannot be sold. The very dark brown one on the left is mink and the cream colored one is fox. Below is the baby seal skin muff again, and a sheared muskrat muff on the upper right which is very soft. Below, lying flat, is a fisher muff with the fur cut into a chevron design. Fishers are members of the marten family native to heavily forested areas of North America and Canada. These muffs have zippered compartments inside and function as purses as well as hand warmers. They were popular through the 1960s. I enjoy using them nowadays as well and always try to stock a few of them in my shop. Marilyn Monroe prominently carried a fur muff purse in the movie Some Like it Hot made in 1959.

During Covid the fur business on the West Coast died down because people were not going out at all, but it picked up a lot when people started to go out to dine in outdoor restaurants! Furriers I know in Chicago and New York City told me there was sudden demand for used full length fur coats and they would see women dining outside at restaurants in winter wearing long furs. It had suddenly become necessary again to have a fur coat in order to stay warm. A long dark colored mink became a staple of a woman’s wardrobe once again! It was far too cold to dine outside in below freezing weather unless you were wearing a fur. Here is an Astrakan black Persian lamb coat with a brown mink collar. This gorgeous coat was made in France and was the height of fashion in Europe in the 1950s. Rene told us about learning to match the Astrakan pelts when he was in school so that several matched ones could be used to produce one coat. And he told us about working in the professional tanneries in Germany.

In Chicago and New York City women are wearing their furs again and sales for vintage furs have picked way up. It is very cold there in winter and nothing else keeps you as warm while making you feel elegant and luxurious at the same time. The West Coast is still very casual, but the East Coast is more elegant and women are dressing up and going out to see and be seen in furs again. It is currently socially responsible and very fashionable to reuse beautiful vintage clothes of the past and there is no stigma attached to wearing a pre-owned fur coat or stole. In fact, if you can find a vintage one that suits you it is the height of responsibility and prestige to wear a vintage fur. Celebrities are even wearing them on the red carpet and to award ceremonies.

Europe has always been more fashionable than the US and Rene and Denise said they spotted many women this past fall wearing real furs in Europe …. usually in vintage styles that they had brought out to show off and enjoy again. This is an article found online that you might be interested in reading about the young people in England wearing vintage furs: //

Pictured above is a Kolinsky fur stole. It features fronts that can be worn down or folded upward and converted into a shorter style that also functions as a muff to keep your hands warm if desired!

Soft and luxurious fur stoles from the 1950s and 60s have become popular for weddings again. And they can be worn with a pair of designer jeans and high heeled boots any other time. Below a couple of models are shown wearing vintage furs.

They are both soft and warm. The most popular ones are mink, Kolinsky or Russian squirrel, and fox. They are very easy to find online and in thrift stores and are reasonably priced. This black and white one shown below is skunk and came with a matching muff! It is fabulous! I found it at the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital Thrift Shop. You can also support worthy causes such as this hospital by buying and wearing vintage furs! Rene cleaned and mended this set for me and really improved the look.

Above is a bleached Raccoon fur stole that was made for I. Magnin in the 1950s. It belonged to my aunt.

Above: This beautiful Edwardian Style Harris Tweed Coat was made by designer Daniel Hector in Paris in the 1970s. It is wool and features a real Mouton Fur Collar. Below: This long Harris Tweed Coat designed in New York City by Sabrina is also from the 1970s and features a fluffy real Coyote Fur Collar.

Both of these vintage 1970s tweed coats are made warmer and more elegant by their fur collars.

Next in popularity are mink coats and jackets, and wool coats trimmed in mink or fox collars. A fur collar adds a touch of luxury and real warmth around the neck. 

I’m going to share pictures of my own collection of vintage coats with you here and explain what type of fur each one is and what Rene Vogel has done with it to make it look its best. Hopefully this will inspire you to get out an old coat you already have and wear it again, or acquire a vintage one and start wearing it. 

The following coats with fur collars were all cleaned and mended by Rene Vogel. `

The purple wool coat below is from the 1940s and has wide black fox fur cuffs. The mauve boucle wool coat from the 1940s features a removable Kolinsky fur scarf collar and wide cuffs that were dyed to look like mink. This coat was made in England. The grey leather coat has a grey fox collar and was made in the 1970s. The suede coat from the 1960s features an Autumn Haze colored mink collar. Audrey Hepburn wore one like it in one of her films so it was a very popular style.

I asked Rene to give us for some tips on caring for vintage furs. 

Fur garments should have enough space to hang freely with air space around them to prevent them from being smashed up against other garments. Cedar closets are ideal when storing furs at home, especially because they will help prevent moth damage. Some hardware stores sell small cedar planks with a hook at one end to hang in a closet to help discourage moths. Free-standing garment racks are also good because of the air circulation they promote. Heat, humidity, and temperature fluctuations can damage the leather of the fur by causing it to become dry and brittle. Ideally it is best to store furs in temperature and humidity-controlled fur storage facilities which are becoming very difficult or impossible to find in many areas. We had one in Seattle at a business called Leather Care – but this closed down a couple of years ago so there is nothing available in the Seattle area anymore. (All the professional furriers in the area used to store their clients’ coats and their own fur inventory at this facility.) Unfortunately, it is no longer available. 

This beautiful soft Stone Marten Cape from the 1940s was cleaned and glazed by Rene and looks brand new. It is one of my favorite pieces.

Lavender has been used traditionally for centuries to prevent moth damage. William Shakespeare even wrote about using it to ward off moths in one of his plays! I fill small silk bags with dried lavender and place them over the hangers of my coats. Lavender discourages moths and has a pleasing smell to humans so having some of it around is positive in many respects. Read about ways to protect against moth infestation in this post. // Never ever bring a moth infested item such as a rug or pillow or garment into your home. If you should find one enclose it in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it. If you bring it into your home you will very quickly expose your other valuable belongings to moths.

As for hangers, you should search for deep-shouldered coat hangers. You can find plastic and wooden hangers that would also be suitable for fur garments on Amazon. The deep-shouldered hangers distribute the weight of heavier garments so they not only retain their shape better, but also help prevent the leather of the fur garments from weakening at the shoulder seams. It is also a good idea to use this type of hanger for expensive cloth coats as the wrong types of hangers can cause jackets and coats to become stretched and misshapen. I will take pictures of the correct type of hangers to use and post them soon.

Sometimes you find a vintage fur with the fur dented and smashed from improper storage. The fur in these garments needs to be brushed.

The following is the type of brush professional furriers use to brush fur garments://, a brush similar to this would probably be best, but a natural bristle brush would probably work as well.  

I live in Seattle where it rains a lot so I am often asked if one can wear fur in the rain and if it gets rained on what to do. Animals in nature do get wet when it rains. Rene said it is OK if it gets damp from rain but you need to hang it up as soon as you take it off in an area with good air circulation so it can dry thoroughly. Should you get caught in a terrific rain storm and get your fur coat terribly wet you will need to get it to a professional furrier immediately. It is best to carry an umbrella in cities like Seattle and London during the rainy season!

The calfskin jacket above from the 1950s was identified and cleaned by Rene. Now it looks brand new.

Below a natural grey fox fur stole and matching muff also from the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital Thrift Shop was cleaned and mended by Rene. It is now glamorous again and ready to go out on the town.

You can reach professional Swiss furrier Rene Vogel via email  Rene’ Vogel <> or by phone at (425)322-9638 to schedule appointments for all your fur related needs. 

I want to make it clear to my readers that I chose to write about Rene Vogel to share information I have learned from him about furs and to provide them access to him as a reliable professional furrier should they wish to find one. Rene is not paying me to write about him.

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. I do have some fur pieces available now and will be adding more soon. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops. I do have inventory that is not yet listed so, if you want something you do not find already listed, let me know – I may very well have it or be able to find it for you.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutique

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservatory: Lady Violette Boutique


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