In the 1940’s it was fashionable to wear fur boas which appeared to be fur pieces made up of entire small animals – or several entire small animals – clipped together in various ways as collars or stoles flung over a suit jacket or coat. These stoles were often comprised or three, four, or even five animal pelts.
Most people, nowadays, think these furs were actually the entire animal – including the head, complete with real eyes, nostrils, noses, teeth, tongues, ears, etc.; the backside complete with tail; and the feet complete with claws. They also think that the multiple animal versions of these fur pieces were connected to each other via one of the animal’s jaws and teeth chomping down cannibalistically on some body part of the next animal of the same species! To many modern sensibilities this is horrifying! These people find it hard to imagine why elegant lady’s of yesteryear would have wanted to fling such atrocious accessories around their necks.
The fur part of these stoles is real fur, but, a little known fact is, that the heads on the fur pieces are not the real animal heads. They are not actual taxidermied animal heads. They are manufactured facsimile of animal heads – essentially as innocent as a toy doll. What looks like the animal’s head is actually a manufactured shape made by a furrier in a small press. The noses are made of a material such as plastic formed to look like an animal’s nose and the eyes are plastic or glass beads made to look like animal eyes. The entire head is fake.
What appears to be an animal’s mouth chomping onto some body part of the next animal is, upon close inspection, a clip on a spring mechanism that functions something like a clothes pin. You pinch it together, place a section of the next animal skin or a piece of cloth inside it, release the clip and it gently holds onto the adjoining piece inside it. The clip is padded and coated in soft fabric so it will not damage the bit of the next fur or a piece of delicate clothing fabric placed inside it. This mechanism is called a fur clip. The fur clips are often covered in crocheted fabric.
The multiple animal collars, boas or stoles were several fur pieces connected together with plastic rings linked together in short chains and fur clips which could be used to clip the individual animals together in different configurations for various styling options. The chain links in tortoise colored plastic and the brown crochet covered fur clip can be seen on the underside of the pelts in the photo below. You could also use the clip to fasten a stole to a coat or suit collar or lapel in order to hold it in place.
The women who wore these multiple skin fur pieces with heads, tails and feet felt very sophisticated and elegant. They enjoyed stoking their fur pieces as if they were pets. And they regarded the animals as cute!
Who wore them? Famous public figures, actresses, socialites, models, just about everybody who was anybody! Elegant actress Gene Tierney wears one in the photograph below demonstrating their glamorous appeal perfectly.
These type of fur stoles were very popular in the 1940’s and can really add a touch of perceived luxury — and period authenticity — to a vintage outfit. The furs used to create these boas were usually stone marten, a very common member of the weasel family. Because they were very common these boas were reasonably priced. This added to their popularity because many people could afford them.
Should you opt to wear a stone marten stole and someone questions you about choosing to wear real fur you can assure them that this animal is now in no danger of extinction and is a protected species.
First, the vintage pelts used to make your boa are most likely about 70 – 75 yrs old. Thus they were probably made into a boa long before you were even born.
Second, this animal is now generally considered to be a pest. It was considered vulnerable in Germany so laws were passed to protect it. Because of this the stone marten population has increased dramatically and has even adapted to city life. It has adapted to modern conditions so well that it is becoming a serious pest.
This is the result of that action. I can assure you this is a real problem because it actually happened to my car and it cost me nearly a thousand dollars to repair the damage.
The world’s most destructive stone marten to date. In November, 2016, a stone marten managed to shut down the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
All this makes the stone marten quite the conversation piece! If you have one of these stoles you will have plenty to talk about!