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Entries in fur (32)


Spot the Difference

Vintage cheetah print wool fedora by Laura Ashley; vintage leopard print earringsAnimal prints, while they are an acknowledged classic print in the fashion lexicon, have never been something I have gravitated towards. In part it is because my minimalist leanings find the patterns too visually overwhelming and ‘messy’, but it is also because to me they smack of an old-fashioned as opposed to vintage style.

As British Vogue put it in their 100th anniversary June 2016 issue (below), a scent of trophy wife developed in the 1960s, when wealthy and famous women like Sophia Loren and Ursula Andress adopted the signature print.

British Vogue, June 2016

I don’t mind a touch of animal print in accessories, such as hats and shoes – it’s only when a wall of animal print approaches me that I flinch.

It is the great cats that provide inspiration for the most classic of animal prints: leopard and cheetah print are the two most popular in clothing and accessories. They look very similar to one another, so how does one discern between the two?


The cheetah’s coat is yellow-orange or golden, and the oval or circular spots are dark brown or black. This is the pattern used in both of my hats, although the background colours are quite different. The fedora is by Laura Ashley, and the vintage beret of unknown provenance; I suspect both are from the 80s.

Cheetah-inspired print vintage wool beret; the pattern is actually a bit of a hybrid, with some areas that feature shapes that almost form the distinctive rosettes found on a leopard's coat


The pattern on the leopard’s coat is more complex, consisting of black or brown spots that cluster together closely, in a pattern that is called a rosette. The fur in the centre of the rosette is usually a deeper colour than the tawny background fur. The rosette pattern provides excellent camouflage for the leopard.

The vintage earrings I am wearing in the first photo show a leopard print, as do the modern heeled sandals by Guess. The shoes are printed pony hair, as in fact are the earrings (although they may be faux).

Leopard print pony-hair and patent leather heels by GuessVery occasionally one sees other animal prints come into fashion – tiger, zebra, giraffe – but their appearance is usually trend driven and fleeting. Too bold and brash, they simply don’t possess the same vintage pedigree; they are the vulgar cousins of the sleeker cheetah and leopard. But the latter are still a bit wild, not for the entirely tamed woman. As Christian Dior put it, “Leopard print requires a kind of femininity which is a little bit sophisticated. If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it.” Well, there are plenty of blondes who have chosen to wear it, but I’d hazard a guess none of them are sweet.

How to wear animal print

Because animal print is just so bold and statement-making, I prefer it worn against solid block colours, and my choice would be any of the neutrals: black, white, grey, camel. Practically speaking, denim is also a neutral – see Kate Moss in the tearsheet above. Or, if you are a maximalist, and more is more is more, you could pair it with matching boots (see Ursula Andress) or tights and heels like Lola Todd, who I suspect may be wearing genuine fur, which makes it rather bad taste to match it to a live leopard pet! Don’t do that.

Photos: August 2016


From Fusty to Funky

I am not hugely into fur – faux, fox or fur real – and am not an advocate of purchasing new fur, particularly of endangered species, but I do own a few vintage pieces that I have picked up over the years from op shops (thrift stores). A more recent find was this plush blonde mink 1950s short cape that was so quaint and such a pretty colour that I couldn’t resist taking it home with me.

But I was a bit flummoxed as to how to wear it without looking like I was in costume, or a dusty and fusty time-traveller from the Fifties. I decided the only way I felt comfortable in it was to update it with modern pieces, dressing it down with jeans and a simple white crepe top.

An extra dash of irreverence was added by way of a navy wool Jasper Conran cap (with a fur pom-pom, incidentally, also bought second-hand) and a costume necklace that spells out ‘love’ in gold script.

Tangentially, I lost this hat last week in an op shop but was miraculously able to retrieve it the next day before it was accidentally sold. I was so sad at its loss, as over the last couple of winters it has become one of my favourite casual caps to wear, always adding a fun touch to an outfit and toning down any formality. As an elderly lady commented to me recently, it’s just so jaunty.

I haven’t yet worn this mink out, but in the cold weather I may have to add a warmer layer and perhaps some gloves as well.

Photo: July 2016


Grin and Bear It

Melbourne has really turned on the cold weather for us on this first day of winter. There is nothing to do but to rug up and turn up the collar. Winter also is the perfect season to indulge in lots of accessories: hats! Scarves! Gloves! Legwarmers and armwarmers, stoles and tippets! Balaclavas!

But even Melbourne winters are not usually cold enough to warrant wearing vintage fur; this one might turn out to be an exception.

In the summer, I found this tall fur cap in an op shop and was so tickled by it I decided to buy it. I am guessing it is vintage 1960s, since that era was fond of exaggeratedly outsize hats. As soon as I saw it and tried it on, I was reminded of those Queen’s Guards protecting Buckingham Palace, although of course their hats are black.

These military hats are called bearskins, traditionally worn by grenadiers. While the original grenadiers of Europe’s armies of the 17th century wore cloth caps trimmed in fur, by the second half of the 18th century, they were donning high fur hats with cloth tops. The main purpose was to make them appear taller and more intimidating on the battlefield, and impressive on the parade ground. Today these hats are made from the fur of the Canadian black bear, and if well cared for, can last for decades.

My hat is made from rabbit fur – an introduced pest in this country, so I don’t feel guilty. I may not wear this eccentric hat often, but it is certainly a collectible piece of fashion history. It may even keep me warm this winter.

Photo: March 2017


What I Actually Wore #0131

Serial #: 0131
Date: 03/07/2013
Weather: 16°C / 61°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

On a chilly day I decide wool is necessary. A new Anthropologie dress is the easiest choice; I had recently purchased it secondhand on eBay. I had picked it out because of the geometric pattern, which was very Art Deco, even if the minidress had a more modern shape. The knit is quite thick and sturdy, and surprisingly warm. I like the belt which is made in the same fabric too. Matching belts are one thing that so often go astray from their dresses in op shops – it’s maddening! Contrasting ones sometimes never look quite right.

Underneath the dress I wear what I always thought of as my black Guinevere knit, because it had a medieval look with the little puffed shoulders and fitted sleeves. I purchased this Max Studio top in Hong Kong in, I think, 2006, so it had been in my closet for a decade before being culled at the end of last winter. The stockings are also wool for warmth, and my sparkly red Dorothy heels add a splash of colour.

Over this outfit I wore my beloved but fragile vintage 70s Zhivago coat, suede with rabbit fur trim, a vintage velvet and fur-trimmed cloche cap, and carried my black patent vintage 60s/70s handbag. It’s quite a vintage look, but once the coat is off this is a fairly simple outfit, which I like. My hair looks freshly-bobbed too. As it’s growing out now from my current pixie cut, I have been wondering whether to get a bob again, but I am a long way off from this length still.

Photos: July 2013


Dress: Alice + Olivia for Anthropologie
Max Studio
Stephen Dattner, vintage
Kenneth Cole
souvenirs (bangle, ring), handmade (earrings)


What I Actually Wore #129

Serial #: 0129
Date: 01/07/2013
Weather: 18°C / 64°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

This is a very cute outfit! While there are a lot of quirky items, the minimal colour palette of tan, gold, grey and white keeps it from looking too over-the-top, especially when you remember in the office I would have shed the coat, hat and bag. Nearly all of the items are still in my closet too. The socks wore out, and the skirt I gave away to a friend, and only now that I look at it fondly again do I wonder if I should have kept it.

Because the skirt is quite wild, I deliberately chose to wear a neutral grey jumper, and picked out the pompom bandeau to match the circle print on the skirt. I continued the circular theme with my silver bauble earrings and a pearl ring.

The vintage 70s suede and rabbit fur trimmed coat is a beloved favourite. I’ve told the story before, but years ago I learned from a random stranger on a tram that this particular coat was inspired by the 70s film Dr Zhivago. Apparently it was very expensive, and that stranger had it in red. She was so impressed to see that I had found one in such good condition, and urged me to take good care of it.

The truth was that the coat was in terrible condition when I bought it: the original lining was completely shredded, the fur trim was coming away from the suede panels, and some of the buttons were detaching; I paid only $40 for it.

I persuaded my oldest sister Blossom to remake the lining for me as a birthday present (she has been a seamstress since way back). That turned out to be a labour of pure sisterly love as it was a huge job. I managed to fix the buttons myself, and also the detaching trims (that occurred some time after the coat left my sister’s loving hands) by gluing scrap leather on the reverse to reinforce the weak seams. Fortunately my sister had left the bottom of the lining open, so I was able to access the inside easily.

Now I wear the coat only occasionally in order to preserve its life as long as possible – I just have to wait for the weather to cool down and autumn to finally begin!


Jumper: ink
Philippe Matignon
vintage 50s
Stephen Dattner, vintage 70s
Elise Carrel

Photos: October 2013