I am pro-animal rights but not fanatical about it. I'm not a vegan, not even a vegetarian, though I rarely eat meat. I support PETA, though not all their actions. I make an effort not to buy beauty products tested on animals. I only buy organic, free range, etc. All this said: I have in my possession a coat that was my grandmother's when she was young and fur was in. It's fabulous, with a fox collar (just fur, no actual fox head as sometimes seen from that era). The coat is utterly drab without the fur collar, and utterly fabulous with it. Although I would never, ever purchase a new fur coat … is there a vintage grace period? Does it exist in the gray area of fur and animal rights etiquette? I also have my mother's custom-made mink coat, which screams "real fur!" I am sentimentally attached to both these garments. Can I wear without a care or should I take the path of no hypocrisy and discard them?
Wow, do I know that feeling — the intoxication of slipping into your mother's heavy, satin-lined fur coat and being transformed from the outside-in to the most ravishingly glamorous dame that ever sashayed from the closet to the kitchen table and back again. You jab your hands down into the pockets, shrug your fluffy shoulders up around your ears — and you're so thoroughly, so stunningly Bette Davis that you'd take up smoking on the spot just to fully honor the moment.
Fashion, of course, has no room for empathy. No capacity for justice. No tolerance for guilt. So what's a non-fanatical, PETA-wary, make-an-effort gal to do when staring foxy in the face? It's the curse of an informed society: We can't rejoice in the rock-bottom price of a T-shirt without fearing it was made by sweatshop workers, can't treasure a diamond bauble without suspecting it was mined in a civil-war zone to fund terrorist groups.
Frankly, ethical consumption has become so confusing, I'd give an exuberant "Woot! Woot!" to anyone who found a way to feel utterly fabulous wearing anything these days.
You could slog through the tedious checks and balances of a moral argument, if you wanted: You didn't pay for these garments. You're not harming animals by simply wearing them, since the critters are long dead. But the same could be said of a brand new, off-the-rack fur. And the only "gray area" between fur fashion and animal rights is a silvery chinchilla pelt — right before it gets splattered with red paint at a protest outside Nieman's.
Ultimately it comes down to this: Can you truly feel fab if you're worried that people — your free range-buying, rarely meat-eating peers, in fact — will think you're Cruella De Vil minus the bitchin' coupe? I wish there were a carefree way to rock that old-fashioned fashion, but I'm betting you're too conscientious to really get your glam's worth.