Growing up in Chernivtsi, Western Ukraine, you had to protect yourself from the freezing winter temperatures with lots of layers, knitted items, and of course real fur. For those who have never heard of Chernivtsi before, actress Mila Kunis calls this city her hometown too.
One particular type of fur called Astrakhan was in fashion for almost three decades throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Although the fur doesn’t originate from Russia, it was named after a city in Southern Russia, Astrakhan. It is the fur of a Persian lamb bred in Central Asia. Also known as broadtail, Karakul, and agnello di Persia (Italian fashion term). Russian men were great proponents of Karakul hats. The biggest fashion testimonials from this time were Soviet Politburo leaders Brezhnev and Gorbachev. Women mostly wore wool coats with Karakul collars.
Fast forward 30 years, the Soviet Union doesn’t exist and I live in the US where wearing fur is considered a shameful act. Especially in the liberal Pacific Northwest where animal rights activists provoke people who wear fur.
But I keep wondering how I can express my love for fur, preserve my culture and not step on anyone’s feet? Maybe by wearing vintage pieces?
Modern Outfit Ideas
I was lucky to inherit an Astrakhan fur coat from my great grandmother. It’s a beautiful and timeless vintage piece that I am very proud of. For a recent walk on Matthews Beach in Seattle, I styled my luxury fur outerwear with a pair of Abercrombie & Fitch distressed jeans, a Pendleton Shetland Cardigan Sweater from my husband’s closet and Baldinini ankle boots. I completed this look with a Furla cross-body bag. The latter two items were brought back from my last trip to Italy.
Where to Buy a Fur Coat
Fur always played a role in designer fashion collections. But a decade ago Astrakhan fur had a come-back on the international catwalks and was a big trend for luxury shoppers.
The biggest benefit of wearing Karakul is that it is luxurious but to an untrained eye it doesn’t even look like real fur. For example, this turquoise Max Mara Astrakhan coat from it’s Fall Winter 2016-2017 collection.
The coat is currently on sale and can be acquired for 2,129 USD. Your fur will be incognito, you can wear it without being harassed by animal rights activists.
If you are a smart shopper, like me, you can buy Astrakhan vintage pieces in second-hand shops or on eBay. The price ranges from 100 USD up to 5,000 USD and higher depending on the make year and product’s condition.
How to Care for Your Fur
Once you buy a precious Astrakhan piece, you should take care of it so it can last for a long time. My great grandmother did a fabulous job maintaining her coat and keeping it in an excellent condition. It’s now 60 years old but looks like it was never worn. One reason for its brilliant condition is that she wore it only on Sundays or special occasions. But nowadays we want to wear our iconic pieces everywhere, dressing them up with an evening gown or down with a pair of jeans.
Your piece will wear out pretty quickly if you don’t take care of it. I have compiled some simple tips that will help you preserve its condition:
- Don’t expose your Karakul to excessive heat, this includes ironing or drying it with a hair dryer.
- Astrakhan absorbs odors quickly. Don’t perfume it if you change your scent often. It will be tough to remove the smell once the fur absorbs it.
- Use a fabric bag to store it during the warm season, something where the fur can breathe.
- Only clean it in special dry cleaning shops that specialize in fur.
- To give the fur more shine, slightly rub the coat with a sponge soaked in vinegar.
Wearing my Astrakhan coat makes me remember my great grandmother and keeps me connected to my Eastern European culture. It also gives me the possibility of wearing a luxury piece without having paid a penny for it. I will continue to dress it down for casual days or dress it up for special occasions. I also promise to take good care of it so one day I can pass it down to my children or even grandchildren.
Do you own vintage fur pieces? Please leave your comments below and share this post if you also like fur.