There are few acts more polarizing and controversial than a glamorous model pounding the runway draped in sable, mink, fox or chinchilla. Activist groups say the fur industry is cruel and harmful to the environment and animals should not be slaughtered for fashion’s sake. The image of fur splattered with red paint has long symbolized the view of those who make an ethical argument against wearing fur for any reason, whether vanity or practical warmth.

I am wearing vintage fur.

Gracie Opulanza - Wearing Vintage Fashion

Debatable Fur

On the flip side, some ask, if you shun fur, then why not leather. Others say the petroleum-based faux fur and other synthetic fabrics are more harmful to the environment and public health than harvesting pelts from fur-bearing mammals. For most, wearing fur or, for that matter, animal skin of any type, is a personal choice, not a moral one.

“People should not be judged if they decide to own fur. After all, because we’re human beings, there are probably other lifestyle choices that animal rights campaigners make in their private lives that I would find offensive,” says one fur owner. No matter where you stand on the issue, one thing is for certain: fur is here to stay.

Many who appreciate natural fibers and bygone craftsmanship opt for the vintage variety, which was taken before the rise of the anti-fur movement in the 1970s. People typically don’t throw away fur apparel and accessories because of their actual or sentimental value. And since disposing of already-harvested furs is a waste of something that already exists, many embrace inherited and second-hand furs as more guilt-free and eco-friendly (even PETA has rounded up used furs and donated them to the homeless).

Gracie Opulanza - Wearing Vintage Fashion

While many devotees simply wear vintage fur coats and jackets as is, those with an updated vision restyle vintage furs to breathe new life into the decades-old pieces. Some turn to artisans like Cindy Bogard, a vintage enthusiast and fur recycling specialist in Mount Dora, Fla., near Orlando.
I’m an animal lover who owns several cats, so I don’t want harm to come to any creature, but in the case of vintage furs, we’re talking about things that were made long ago. Plus, they often have an interesting story or family history, so people are attached to them,” said Bogard in a telephone interview. Many of the old fur coats were absolutely fabulous garments of a very high quality that you rarely see today.

Why Not Use Them For Something Rather Than Have Them Rot In An Attic or Closet

Bogard uses old-world techniques to rework old and tired furs into one-of-a-kind teddy bears, pillows, baby booties, purses and trim for gloves, shoes, boots and socks. Although her webpage needs a redesign and update (her fur business and work at the family classic car museum and gift shop has kept her swamped, but change is coming soon), she does a brisk trading catering to clients who ship her their prized coats, jackets and stoles from as far away as Asia to be transformed into equally treasured new heirlooms.

Although it requires specialized skill to properly sew fur into another form—like earmuffs, a hat or a throw blanket—creative D.I.Y.-ers tackle projects like upholstering a simple chair or footstool, recognizing that even a small touch of vintage fur can add a sense luxury that comes with a history.

“There are so many options out there. You just have to use your imagination,” says Bogard.