Faux fur around the world: A woman wears fluffy earrings in Tokyo. Photo from Japan News-Yomiuri

You'll find it on handbags and key chains. Lampshades and steering wheel covers. Bathrobes and blanket throws. In this cozy-seeking season, faux fur makes itself right at home.

Whether made to imitate the fur of a real animal - or blatantly fake as in puffs of fluffy hot pink or turquoise -  you'll find faux fur in expected places such as hood trims on parkas but, oh, so many others.

This season, we're seeing faux fur:

On stools: Pottery Barn sells the ivory Mongolian Faux Fur Stool that stands on pecan-finished legs that peek out the bottom. Priced at $229, it’s described as a way to “bring an unexpected accent into a room.” Target.com also features stools covered in a number of faux-fur options, including a fluffy flokati stool, named for the Greek woven woolen rugs with shaggy pile, and a trimmer faux fur in a pale-pink color called blush. And, at the Fall Furniture Market in High Point, N.C., Patricia Sheridan of the Pittsburgh Post introduced readers to the quirky but realistic-looking polar bear bench with white faux fur from Maitland-Smith.

On robes: If cheetah-print slippers aren't enough for you, why not lounge around your boudoir in a faux-fur-trimmed robe? Pottery Barn stocked ivory robes with a generously scaled trim of caramel, gray or chinchilla faux fur - with or without hoods (and with slippers to match).

On winter accessories: From faux-fur scarves and wraps to faux-fur earmuffs and headbands, accessories give people the option to wear a little bit of faux fur rather than a lot - as in a jacket or coat. Faux fur also can be seen on the cuffs of gloves, trimming handbags and as fluffy pompoms on tops of berets or dangling from scarves.

On holiday decor: We have moved into a new year, but memories remain of faux fur seen during the holiday season. We're talking Christmas stockings, table runners, wine bags, even Christmas wreaths (combined with pinecones). Some have sold out or are no longer available; some are on clearance.

As accents: For fall, faux-fur pompoms accented basketweave throws and decorative pillows – in neutral colors gray, ivory and mink – in the Martha Stewart Collection for Macy’s. And a fluffy pompom lands on the top of the Leah sneaker with cut-away sides from Nine West – in silver or blue metallic, priced $69 a pair at ninewest.com.

But faux fur is nothing new, although its look and feel have improved through the years. Two years ago, the Smithsonian magazine featured an article on the history of faux fur, tracing one early short-haired version back to the 1910s. Consumers began looking for alternatives to high-priced furs associated with wealth and status, and the faux-fur industry got to work.

"As technology improved, manufacturers were able to create fur effects in silk—resembling leopard, gazelle, and mole—and eventually, synthetic pile fabrics like Orlon and Dynel, created in 1948 and 1950, respectively. By 1957, fake furriers were trying their hands at replicating mink, beaver, chinchilla, seal, raccoon, ermine, pony, and giraffe, some with more success than others. At best, one could hope to convince the eye, if not the touch," wrote Alice Hines in the article.

By the 1960s, conservationists and animal rights activists stepped in, and the faux-fur industry saw more opportunity, she continued.

"If fur was historically fashion's loudest signifier of identity and status, fake fur began to rival it, communicating its wearer's progressive political beliefs. While today some vegans oppose fur of any kind, on the grounds that even fakes popularize the aesthetic, animal rights groups generally back fakes," Hines wrote.

Which brings us to today  -  when you can turn up at a party in a faux-fur vest and deliver wine to your host in a faux-fur wine bag, or stay at home in your faux-fur trimmed bathrobe, curled up a a faux-fur blanket talking to friends via cell phone protected by a faux-fur case.

Now that's warm and fuzzy.

email: smartin@buffnews.com

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