Dead Women’s Furs

I have never had a position on furs, or leather or meat for that matter.  I have a muddle-headed view that it’s ok to slaughter, eat and wear animals while acknowledging the ecological and moral hazards of same.  I think furs are beautiful, warm and practical (especially if you live in Russia or Montreal), but never really aspired to owning one.

I actually came to owning a fur young in life.  During winter breaks in college I waited on tables at a Stouffers in Pittsburgh across the street from Gimbels which held a Saks boutique.  I knew every item in that little shop and watched as this lovely, massive stenciled rabbit fur “maxi coat” went from sale to clearance.  When it hit $150 and my tips did the same, I bought it.  It was gorgeous and fun and warm. That coat took me from my senior year through my first year in NYC until the damage wrought by indifference rendered it too disreputable to wear in midtown.  It had served me well, even though it was not an adult fur.

As my three sisters and I lived our respective lives in NYC and beyond, I watched as they all bought their furs.  Each had theirs made: the transitional vest/jacket, stroller, and full length.  While staying warm in the inhospitable Northeast winters was the primary focus, having the fur seemed important, too.  Our mother had an interesting skunk jacket with massive shoulder pads that hung in what passed as a cloak closet in our house (the stairway to the basement), so it wasn’t as if we were bred for this.

I never had the thousands of dollars ready for the coat.  I know better than to say that.  During that time, I has spent many thousands on dinners, dance lessons or private schools for my kids.  Maybe I never felt that cold.

Then my oldest sister Kathleen died.  She and I were the most alike physically. I was often seen as similar with our dark hair and hazel eyes and fair complexion.  As we aged, our mutual tendency to heaviness as compared to the slighter figures of our other two sisters aligned us further.  Thus when it came to her fur, it came to me.

My kids chaffed a the idea that I was wearing dead creatures, with blind indifference to being carnivores that only the young or the obnoxious can master.  Me, I felt embraced by Kathleen when I donned her coat with “Kathleen Malloy” embroidered on the lining.  It was lovely for me to wrap myself in the barrier she had put between herself and the cold she so hated  as she would arrive at my house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, removing an elegant scarf only when assured that the outdoors were behind her.

Not that long after that a dear friend’s mother died.  She had many furs, including a casual jacket with a lush mink lining and an elegant hood that had been made for her.  This is a terrific piece of clothing, in green, a favorite of mine.  And here is where it started to become strange for me.  The fact was that neither of these coats fit me all that well.  Sure, for a hand me down, they did well.  But you should wear a fur, it should not be wearing you.

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