My mother had a full-length mink with a big sable collar, which made her look like Anna Karenina, and it was her favorite coat.
Of course it was, you are thinking, because this was the 1960s, when there weren’t any protesters to throw buckets of red paint on her when she wore it.
After my mother moved to a warm climate, she gave me the mink. But I belonged to a generation cowed by all those screaming, anti-fur types. I told her the coat did not fit (which was true, by the way, it made me look more like the Pillsbury Doughboy than a doomed Russian beauty), and then I moved to San Francisco, where it was too warm for fur anyway.
This year, I moved back to New York, and in November I noticed: It gets really cold here! After walking my daughter to school one bitter, windy day, I spent the rest of the morning shopping online, looking for the warmest coat possible—I was so cold I wasn’t even ruling out the possibility of wearing a dreaded puffer—when a solution hit me. The mink.
I took it to the Fur District in Manhattan, and after inspecting the pelts, the fur specialists said it was in excellent condition. From a back room, a fur tailor emerged with big metal clips—they looked like what a giant would use for bobby pins—to illustrate how the coat would look if it were four inches shorter and narrower in the shoulders, and had shorter sleeves. “Do it,” I said.
When I recently went to pick up the coat, it was gorgeous— as glossy and soft as it ever had been (the fur people had “glazed” it, and while I am not entirely sure what that entails, I wish I could have a similar anti-aging procedure performed on me).
I was so warm and so happy, because every time I wore it, I saw my mother’s name embroidered in the lining.
But the coat gets a lot of attention. It’s not unlike walking around with a celebrity. People stare at the coat as if I’m wearing Jennifer Aniston. In restaurants, strangers feel compelled to sidle up with advice: “I wouldn’t leave that in the cloakroom.”
It makes me uncomfortable. I find myself confiding, “It’s my mother’s mink!” to everyone I see. As if that would excuse the coat. As if I need to excuse it.
I’m not sure if it’s cruelty to minks that embarrasses me. Or the presumption that I would spend thousands of dollars on a coat. Either way, though, I can’t keep blurting out, “It’s my mother’s coat!” at strangers….Should I stop wearing it? Or is there a way to make peace with the mink?
Did your mother have a fur coat? Did she love it? What happened to it?
(image by Zoe Quittner)