COLUMBIA — Fur coats, leather boots and faux cheetah hats wandered about Stephens College's Historic Costume Gallery on Wednesday afternoon. They weren't part of the exhibit, however; they belonged to visitors who were learning about the history of fur.
The "Faux Real: Exploring Natural and Synthetic Fur, Leather and Animal Motifs" opened at Stephens on Feb. 15., but the college hosted its opening reception Wednesday, a few weeks later than expected because of snow and scheduling-conflict delays.
WHAT: "Faux Real: Exploring Natural and Synthetic Fur, Leather, and Animal Motifs"
WHEN: Thursdays, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and weekends, noon to 3 p.m. through May 10
WHERE: Lela Raney Wood Hall mezzanine floor at Stephens College, 6 N. College Ave.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.sc-scene.com/2014/02/fashion-gallery-explores-contrast.html
The exhibit uses donated fur and leather pieces to challenge existing views of real and fake fur. Fur coats in the 32 displays show the evolution of fur clothing, the oldest dating back to 1880.
The exhibit showcases some of Stephens' approximately 300 fur pieces that usually sit frozen in storage, said Monica McMurry, the dean of the college's School of Design and Fashion.
The college freezes the furs to keep them in good condition, said Chloe Willett, the exhibit's creator. McMurry and Willett started choosing pieces to showcase in October.
Willett said she hopes to make visitors think about how they feel about fur.
"What's worse: poor animals dying or losing their home?" she said.
Willett said the use of fake leather disturbed her not only because it's made of petrochemicals that harm the environment, but also because future displays like hers might have to rely on photographs of fake materials. Fake leather lasts for about 40 years, but real fur, if properly maintained, will last much longer.
Willett and McMurry are reviewing more than 8,000 movies for a "Fur Reel" exhibit they hope to show mid-March. They want to show two films and two documentaries about fur.
The exhibit is timely because fur is coming back into fashion, Willett said. As shown by the popularity of movies like "American Hustle," people want the glamorous feel of fur again, she said.
The exhibit gives viewers an idea of what furs looked like in the past, said Peggi Diaz, who attended the opening reception.
Diaz said she avoided dealing with the question of real versus fake fur by not buying it at all. However, she said she would wear fur if someone gave it to her.
"I love looking at them," Diaz said. "It's just beautiful."
Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.