On the day before the Inauguration, David Datlow, president of District Fur Company, was walking on Connecticut Avenue and M Street. "I've been in this business since 1936 -- that's almost 45 years," he says excitedly, "and I've never seen so many furs in this town."
It's true, Washington stores, like those elsewhere, are having a boom year in furs, partly due to the colder winter and to the increasing respect consumers have for fewer, but better-quality purchases.
In this town, mink continues to be the biggest seller while the long hairs follow behind.
Datlow, whose company cleans and services furs for many area cleaners, furriers and retailers, is convinced that most women have "a real love affair" going with their furs and they know how to care for them.But he and several of the furriers suggest the following in the care and feeding of fur coats and jackets:
Keep the collar up when the coat is hanging in the closet, says Bert Gartenhaus of Gartenhaus Furs, so it doesn't press on the shoulder line.
Never pin a brooch onto a fur.
Wear a fur or leather belt but not a metal belt. "It damages the guard hairs," say Datlow. And be careful not to pull the belt too snug.
Shoulder bags are harmful if they constantly slide on the shoulder. "A fur responds to friction but not pressures," says Gartenhaus.
Wear a scarf between the hariline and the collar of the fur coat. Cosmetics around the neck," says Datlow, "may get into the collar of the fur and damage it."
Use hair spray and perfume spray before you put on your coat. "All chemicals damage furs," says Ernest Marx of Saks-Jandel.
Sit on your coat rather then stash it under the seat at the theater.
You can sit on your fur coat while driving, but make sure you open the coat not to strain the seat, suggests Randy Garfield of Rosendorf-Evans. When possible, lift the back of the fur so as not to wear out a seat.
Seat belts and porous car seats are rough on furs. "The hair actually goes down into the fabric, and as you move your body the hair breaks off," says Manny Miller of Miller's Furs. Turn up the heater, he suggests, and drive with your fur coat as a passenger in the back seat.
When you take your coat on a trip, fold the fur to the inside and the lining outside. Better to bruise the lining than the fur. Put tissue between coat layers to keep furs from flattening.
Stay out of the sun. "It (sun) oxidizes the color and dries out the leather (skin), advises David Wolfe of Neiman-Marcus.
One-time abuse, such as hanging on a hook in a checkroom (as has been the case during the party crush at many of the hotels this week), will not ruin the coat. But, says Marx, don't make a practice of it.
Don't treat your fur as a raincoat. If you get caught in a snowstorm, shake it out and let it dry at room temperature -- but never near the heat.
Never use moth repellant on fur. It may discolor it.
"A layman should never comb or brush fur," says Datlow. "Shake out any loose dust. Then head for the furrier or cleaning specialist."
Avoid sharp-edged or wire hangers. Give breathing space to a fur in the closet.
Furs need to breathe. They will suffocate in a plastic bag.
Storage is especially important in Washington's hot and humid summers.
Clean your fur at least every other year -- better still every year, furriers advise. Your fur can begin to appear dirty, like hair. And the treatment will revitalize the fur.
Update your furs while the skins are still young, or if age begins to show around the edges. "And turn your fur over to a daughter or friend when the time comes to get rid of it," says Wolfe. "Furs won't last forever. Nothing does."
The best treatment for a coat is wearing it. Cold weather juices up the oils in the coat, which may begin to look droopy after too long exposure to a warm room.
Besides, says Garfield. "Furs don't increase in value hanging in your closet."