The Costumer's Manifesto: Russian Stories: Finding the Right Fur Russian Stories

FINDING THE RIGHT FUR (St. Petersburg, 1995)

So, you've noticed it's cold here in Russia.Real cold.All of a sudden those funny little Russian fur hats aren't looking so funny anymore.You were ready to support animal rights back when you were safely enshrined in a climate-controlled office in Miami, but now you catch yourself looking enviously at those fur coated women at your bus stop, and wondering "Can I afford one?"The answer is yes.

COSTS:There is a fur coat and hat out there in nearly everyone's price range.The cheapest coats/hats are made of the cheapest furs, or are made of "scrap furs", the trimmings of large pelts.Scrap includes fur from the head, legs, and belly of the animal which is then stitched together in a pattern, often far more interesting and exotic looking than a coat made from the main body.However, scrap is thinner skinned, and more inclined to tear.Coats using body fur are stronger, and so, more expensive.Body fur may be in solid pieces or "ventilated", ie, thinned by regular insertion of strips of leather.Solid furs are most expensive.Prices for coats range from 400T for a short rabbit or gopher coat, to 10,000T for a high quality long sable, fox or mink.Hats can go from 75T for Persian lamb to 440T for silver fox.

"KROLEEK"/RABBIT:The cheapest fur, is one of the softest.Rabbit rates low as a garment fur, because it isn't very warm, and sheds more than any other fur.Gostiny Dvor's Fur Dept. has exotically dyed jackets in pink, purple and green for 400T, and good quality full length coats for 850T.

"ENOTOVEEDNAYA"/RACOON-LIKE DOG:Long, somewhat rough feeling, fur, in a wide range of natural colors.Hides are thick, making for a heavy, long lasting coat, but fur is brittle, and over two seasons it will shed enough to look very bad.Coat prices range from 750T-850T at most stores.

"KARAKOOL"/PERSIAN LAMB:Distinctively curled short fur in grey, brown or black, this fur is the least harmed by being caught in the rain.While it is heavy and not as warm as many other furs, it is the longest wearing fur except for mink.Dom Mod's main store has coats for 1350T-3700T, and Na Gorkovskoy has hats at 75T.

"NUTRIA"/NUTRIA:Nutrias are small beaver like creatures whose fur in the West is made into high grade hat felt.Here in Russia, they are made into long shiny "wet look" coats, often in patterned two tone designs.Fur is natural brown, grey, & beige, and spotted or dyed black, and is mildly water resistant.Dom Mod sells coats from 1800T-3000T.

"BOBR"/BEAVER:Normally, a slightly "wet look" fur, with long shiny guard hairs, and soft fluffy short hairs beneath.Beaver is sometimes clipped of the guard hairs, and sold in a fluffy shorthair version, usually dyed black.Beaver, while odd looking, is one of the warmest furs, and in the un-clipped versions, is mildly water resistant.Beaver also sheds very little.Na Gorkovskoy has hats for 187T.

"PESETZ"/POLAR FOX:White to silver fur, long, soft, thick and full, but not as thick as red or silver fox.This fur is often dyed exotic colors, scrap pieced or otherwise altered to render it into highly unusual variations.Prices follow the quality of the variations, for instance, one of Gostiny Dvor's commission shops has a multi-colored patchwork jacket for only 750T, and Dom Mod has a high quality center cut coat for 4200T.

"REEIS"/LYNX:Long, soft, thick fur, similar in appearance to fox, but having a pattern of beige & gold & spots, that is distinctively beautiful.Also somewhat stronger and less inclined to shed.Intermittently available, Na Gorkovskoy has one for only 2062T.

"LEESEETSA"/RED FOX:Very long, soft, thick looking, fluffy fur, in natural orange-red, often scrap pieced.The most impressive looking of furs, because of it's length, color, thickness, warmth and light weight, it is not considered the best fur, because of it's moderate shedding, and semi-weak hide.Because quality varies so much from coat to coat, prices can go for as little as 2500Tfor a scrap coat up to 10,000T.

"CHERNOBYRKA"-SILVER FOX:Same as above, but in dark brown or black with long silvery guard hairs.Usually a bit more expensive than red fox.Na Gorkovskoy sells hats for 323T-437T.

"LEEZEETZ"/CROSS BRED POLAR AND SILVER FOX:Same as above, but with silver grey fur with dark guard hairs.Hats at Dom Mod sell for 350T, as compared to only 200T for red fox.

"YENOT"/RACCOON:Another long, thick, impressive looking fur, slightly stiffer than fox, and having even greater volume and warmth.Na Gorkovskoy sells coats for 2500T-4000T.

"NORKA"/MINK:Short, thick, brown or blonde fur, of almost mathematical regularity.Expensive because of it's light, long wearing hides, that scarcely ever shed.Blonde coats sell for 5700T and brown for 9200T at Dom Mod.

"SOBAL"/SABLE: Similar to mink, but nearly black, and a bit rarer.Long wearing, smooth, mildly water resistant fur of finest quality.Costs comparable to the high end of mink prices.

SHOPPING:When shopping make sure to thoroughly inspect the fur, down to the skin.Coats which have been improperly stored, or which have been made of paper thin hide will tear before the first month is out.Run your hands down the fur to make sure the coat is not prematurely shedding.Know what fur you are buying, and whether it is dyed, pieced, or ventilated.Try it on and take a strong whiff of the fur to make sure it doesn't bother you.Certain people are allergic to certain furs, and certain tanning chemicals.

CARING FOR YOUR FUR:Furs, even water resistant furs, should on no account be worn in the rain, washed, or "dry cleaned" in a liquid bath of chemicals.If by some chance your fur gets wet, do not brush or blow dry it.Allow it to dry naturally, and after drying, gently brush it out.In any other climate, take cornmeal, very slightly dampened with a laundry sprayer, and rub it into the fur, then brush off.In cold dry climates you can use dry snow to clean it instead. Fur is best stored over time in a cool dark place with mild humidity and good ventilation.

This was another article my editor at The St. Petersburg Press asked me to write in 1995, and which he then didn't run due to an early spring change in weather.

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