I have just written a short piece for British Elle about fur in fashion and it has made me start to think (again) about the question of fashion morality – or, as some might think, the lack of it.
A few weeks ago, the popular press was shocked to learn that padded bras and 4-inch heels were being pushed as suitable dress for sub-teen girls. Fashion haters – and there are a lot of them – immediately climbed to their self-created moral high ground, whilst the fashion lovers crassly pointed out that little girls love clumping around in mummy's shoes whilst wearing lipstick. Where's the harm in that? they asked, with that true fashionista lack of ability to think clearly. But most people who are not haters or lovers were able to separate the significance of doing so in mummy's bedroom or the living room from going to school or even a party in heels and a padded bra.
But of course it is the majority – neither fashion haters nor lovers – who are to blame. All those people who sit in front of TV whilst children ape grown-up emotions – love, loss, despair – whilst singing songs the words of which should mean nothing to them, coached and exposed by entertainment entrepreneurs who are interested only in money … and innocence be damned.
Back to fur. Is there anything more sensuous to the touch than mink or, even more so, sable? What is softer than chinchilla, even though it is the fur of the ubiquitous rabbit and in no way exotic? But it isn't the feel of fur that we should be thinking of, but the way it gets to us. As we all know, animals must be killed and then flayed for the process to begin. And, as we sit on our sofas stroking our cats, we need to remember that when we send in an on-line order for a fur trimmed dress.
The same is true of feathers, foisted onto the gullible as the new fur – and without the cruelty. How do we think they are obtained, for God's sake? From a live creature, perhaps, but in most cases from a dead one.
We are very partial in our attitudes to animals. We stop the traffic for new-born ducklings to cross the road. We coo over baby lambs although in both cases we know unless we are very stupid that they will be killed and served up on our tables eventually. We also know how inhumanely they are killed - and some of us remember that even ducks and lambs know fear and pain. And so do rats and mice. But for them we are ready with our double standards immediately. They are vermin, so anything goes. And who would wear a rat-skin trimmed coat? And yet why not? Only, I suspect because the Simon Cowells of the fashion world – and they are there – have yet to find a way to make them palatable to us.