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Fashion goes all McCarthy era on us

March 16, 2010 |  6:54 pm

Fashion repeats its trends endlessly. This is because chic doesn’t take George Santayana’s advice about learning the lessons of history – in fashion’s case sometimes bad history – it’s doomed to repeat them, even the hideous ones. [Do you hear me, disco divas redux? Are you listening, Joan Collins shoulder pad fanciers?]

Now we have a particularly repellent case of fashion repeating itself. I read in that other Times, the Big Apple one, that for the first time since the end of the Reagan years, a majority of fashion designers are using fur. In New York, that number reaches two-thirds.

In spite of the PETA ads and our advancing moral awareness of animal cruelty, in spite of James Cameron’s wife’s Oscar dress that didn’t even have to kill silkworms to make silk, in spite of the estimable Tim Gunn’s fearless opposition to fur, which he talked to me about in a blog I posted a few months ago – fur is back. Which means that all the cruelties of trapping and breeding and cages and killing are back too.

Fashion plays with the superfluous and ornamental – which is what makes it fun – but why does it insist on having blood on its hands and on runway models’ bodies?

Evidently, according to that Big Apple Times, for the same reason some congressmen open themselves to accusations of being in the pockets of some special interest or another: It’s the money. Reports are that furriers and fur breeders, just like defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies, have been courting their targets – in this case, not members of Congress but couturiers.

They romance the designers with samples and technical assistance and junkets [all-expenses-paid trips to where? Fur farms? Charming]. And young designers – members of the greenest generation in modern history, the generation that’s grown up aware of Rwanda and blood diamonds – evidently don’t have a problem with blood fur.

The personal is still political, isn’t it? And it doesn’t get much more personal than what you put on your person.

Scientists have just found the two genes in opium poppies that make morphine and codeine, which means that pretty soon they can make it in the laboratory, not in a field. They can already create meat in a Petri dish without killing the creature. So where’s lab-grown, cruelty-free fur?

Vintage TV shows and movies where fur was the ne plus ultra of chic, a must-have merit badge of moolah, are a reminder of how far we’d come – or so I had thought. Remember the ‘’I Love Lucy’’ episode where she connives and whines until Ricky buys her the corpses of stone martens to sling around her neck?

That was the same era as Sen. Joseph McCarthy and cigarette ads with doctors in them. We’re better than all of that now. Surely we’re better than fashionista fur, too.

-- Patt Morrison

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