How to Identify Vintage Furs

Written by christina riopelle
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The practice of wearing a fur coat is not as popular in the early 21st century as it was in earlier decades. The diminishing favour is fuelled by advances in man-made materials that retain body heat in a superior way, and by humane concerns. Regardless, individuals who have inherited or find a fur may wish to date it.

An article of clothing is considered vintage if it has reached an age of 30 years or greater. Used together, there are several clues that will narrow down the age of the coat to the decade the coat was produced.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


  1. 1

    Identify the species. Throughout history, the pelts of certain species were en vogue at different times. The use of a particular species may have ebbed and flowed in some decades because of trends, or may have diminished due to scarcity or placement on the endangered species list. For example, when Jacqueline Kennedy was photographed wearing an Oleg Cassini leopard coat in the 1960s, demand skyrocketed. Production was prohibited when the leopard was placed the Endangered Species list in 1970.

    It is easy to become acquainted with the feel and appearance of different pelts by visiting a furrier or visiting a nature centre with an interactive tactile exhibit of furs.

  2. 2

    Locate the label. If the fur was sold by a major department store, the style of the store label can help a sharp eye narrow down the date. Over time, some department stores merged or changed their name, and knowledge of this history will narrow down the age range of the fur. Although small furriers are obscure, researching local history may glean information about closure and founding dates.

  3. 3

    Decipher initials or sewn-in details. If a fur was made or ordered for a particular person, the name may be embroidered in the lining or on the label. If the coat has been passed down in the family, it could be a clue as to who wore it, therefore narrowing the age of the coat to the garment wearer's lifetime.

  4. 4

    Analyse the cut. The style of a fur coat often echoes the typical coat styles of the day. For example, 7/8 or "bracelet length" sleeves were popular in the 1950s, but not in the 1940s nor the 1970s.

  5. 5

    Read the documentation and look at photos. If a fur has been obtained from a relative or directly from another individual, the coat may have been worn in a dated photo, or insurance information may exist.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not rely solely on anecdotal information. Memory can be a poor reference, especially if a garment was worn over a period of time. Rely on hard documentation such as dated photographs to corroborate a relative's story if they were not the individual who wore the coat.
  • If the intent of classifying a fur as vintage is to offer it for sale, coats that are comprised of a fur from a currently endangered species might not be transportable across state or international boundaries. Consult an antique dealer or reference state regulations when the divesting of such furs is considered.

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