I found this little clutch at a vintage clothing store in Denver. I have no idea how old it might be, possibly late 50’s to early 60’s… although it could be more recent. There are no labels of any sort in it. It is however real fur, I would say rabbit by the look and feel. It’s pretty easy to figure out if an item is faux or genuine fur if you can see the backing. Fake fur will be backed with fabric, genuine fur with of course be on hide/leather. If, like my clutch, it’s not possible to examine the back of the fur, the next thing to look at is the individual strands of fur:
Real fur like the rabbit above has a thicker shaft at the base and tapers to a point. Faux fur will have a blunt end. I wrote quite a bit about faux fur, and the proper way to clean it in my post about a vintage coat I bought. To clean real fur is more complicated. Ideally you don’t want to get fur wet as when it dries the hide can shrink causing deformation of the structure and loss of fur. For a large or thick real fur item like a coat your best at home options are to shake the dust/dirt off of it and brush out the tangles with a wire brush. If the item is in desperate need of cleaning you can use sawdust to absorb the dirt and oil using the method described here. Although, for a larger or valuable fur item, I would take it to a professional cleaner. Once real fur has been damaged, there is little hope of restoring it.
In the case of my little clutch however, it had been stored wrongly and it was both misshapen and very dirty so I decided to risk wetting it down. It is also an incredible small item with pretty short fibers. Since I bought it so cheap, I thought it would be worth the experiment. I filled a bucket with cold water and submerged the clutch just long enough to give a full dunking.
Immediately after taking it out of the water I blotted the fur dry and stuffed a towel inside to keep the bag shaped correctly. I used binder clips to hang the bag on my drying rack so no side would be crushed against a towel.
It only took a few hours to dry and every so often I tousled the fur with my fingers to keep it fluffy. After the clutch was completely dry I brushed it out with a metal undercoat brush. The water worked really well to reshape the bag, and it looks and feels much less grimy. The hide has expected is much tighter, and less flexible, but on the clutch it’s actually nicer this way.
As you can see the metal and lining aren’t in the best shape, but at least they’re clean. It’s such a pretty little bag; I can’t wait to take it out! How do you feel about vintage fur items, gross, gorgeous, not your style? Let me know below!