Tuesday, July 24, 2018

My Grandmother's Fur Coat

After I moved to Chicago, my mother gave me her mother's fur coat, because, she explained, Chicago is cold in the winter and I could make good use of it.

The coat is actually a jacket. It is black fur, very soft. The fur is not one of the common furs that coats are made of, and even though my mother told me what it is, I don't remember. Maybe beaver? It has an unusual feature that my mother told me my grandmother had asked the furrier for - there are snap along the underside of the sleeves so you can unsnap and have the sleeves loose, more like a cape.

My grandmother was a very clever woman who had a difficult life. Widowed in her 20s with a two-year-old daughter, she went to tailoring school to become a skilled seamstress, but ended up working as a saleslady in a very small town in western Minnesota. She and my mother moved from apartment to apartment. In each apartment, they painted, wallpapered and generally made so many improvements that the landlord raised the rent and they had to move. I do not know how she came to have a custom-made fur coat.

I wore the coat a few times during Chicago winters, but as a jacket, it only kept part of me warm. Even more though, I did not feel comfortable wearing fur, even though this particular fur had been dead a long time. I will not berate anyone for choosing to wear fur, but much of the fur industry is not humane and I don't want to seem to support it. So the coat has been living in my closet for a long, long time.

What to do with it? I want to donate it to a group that will use it for animal welfare. A number of wildlife rehabilitation groups accept old furs to use in nurturing and comforting injured and orphaned animals. So I searched online for some place near me that takes old furs and found it's not that easy to give away a fur to an animal organization. I finally found a resale store, Buffalo Exchange, that has a yearly fur drive for Coats for Cubs. It's only from January to April, so the coat will have to hang out at my house for awhile longer. I like to think of my soft black fur comforting a young animal or maybe a family of youngsters.

It's a bit of my family history and a connection to my Grandmother, but I would rather see it being put to good use than just hanging in my closet. I have the stories, I can let the coat go.


  1. It's funny how one item of clothing can carry such a history with it. You're right though: you have the stories, so you don't necessarily need the coat anymore. The stories pay great homage to your grandmother! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you! And as I think about the coat and how she came to have it, we always have the mysteries about our families, too.