Sep 24, 2017
What to do with Great Aunt Gladys' squirrel fur coat? This has been a question in my family for over 25 years.
My aunt passed this on to my mum sometime in the 80s when I was a teenager. My mum always talked about how it had been so fashionable when my aunt donned it. It was very expensive. High quality. Perfect for a small-town mayor's wife to wear to dress up functions. That sort of thing.
It's true, my aunt was very particular, had good taste, and liked to wear nice things. So - I did kind of believe her, even though it was made of squirrel. And in my eyes, very ugly.
My aunt stopped wearing it in her senior years and gave it to my mum. I made it very clear that she absolutely could NOT to wear that coat in public. My 14 year old self would die of embarassement. She agreed - but did opt to wear it on chilly winter mornings while pulling the garbage bins down the driveway...it was "just so warm". I was thankful she was fast at that task, and hopeful no one would notice. Or, on the occasional winter power outage this was definitely her garment of choice.
To be fair to the coat, my aunt was almost 6 feet tall and my mum barely 5"3 so it was overwhelming on her frame to say the least. I tried it on this weekend, while visiting with my dad. I'm also around 5"3, so you get an idea of the fit - oversized.
sOver the past few months my dad and I have chatted about what to do with this coat. But, have never gotten beyond that point, because even though no one in the family has really ever liked it, there is some true nostalgia and humour wrapped up in the whole thing.
I come across nostalgia pieces so often when working on closet edits with clients. There are usually those garments that take up space, aren't being worn; but carry some powerful memories or emotion. Depending on where the client is with the piece, I often recommend setting it aside in a separate area of the closet (or in a box) with other memorabilia pieces such as: grandma's old scarf, grad dress, bridesmaids dresses etc. Eventually clients know when they are ready to part with something, but in the meantime it is good to move it out of prime wardrobe retail space.
This piece hangs in the downstairs coat closet in the family home in Squamish. We are ready to part with it and now have devised a bit of a plan. Research has shown it was custom made by a local furrier who had a shop on Robson street in the late '50s through early "70s. I am guessing my aunt probably wore this one throughout the sixties. I absolutely love her embroidered initials on the lining. That's special and kind of cool.
There are a few Max Dodek Furs on vintage sale sites and on Etsy. Before the year is out, for the fun of it, I plan to list this one to see if there are any takers. My aunt was a huge supporter of the Red Cross so if happens to sell, we'd donate the $$ to that cause (I realize it won't be much, but I think both she and my mum would like that plan).
If it continues to sit both physically and virtually, I do have a friend who does a yearly play in her Grade 2 class about a wolf - this coat may be destined for theatre...
In the meantime, I feel good that we are getting a little closer in having a plan for this piece.
I just wish I had a photo of my mum wearing it on one of those cold, winter garbage days. But, I do have it etched in my memory - it's vivid and always makes me smile.