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Monkey Business: MU Acquires Colobus Coat

Story by Sarah Everett, Columbia Missourian

For 15 years or more, a boxy, black fur coat hung in the MERS Goodwill office in St. Louis.

It was jet-black and heavy, with long strands of what was originally thought to be gorilla fur. The shoulders were large and square, emblematic of late 1930s haute couture.

Monkey fur coats were made popular by Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and were only for wealthier clientele. In the Depression era, fur coats sold for around $200-300.

“It was a status symbol,” said Jean Parsons, curator of MU’s Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection.

Today, the coat, which is actually made of colobus fur, would be worth thousands, if it were legal to sell.

a coat made from monkey furPhoto credit: Kate Seaman

A coat made from the fur of a Colobus monkey that was donated 15 years ago to MERS Goodwill is now being preserved as a part of the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection in Stanley Hall at MU. The jacket cannot be sold because selling fur coats made from primate species is illegal. Because it can’t be sold, the coat has instead been donated to the collection for educational purposes.

Today, Parsons said, “for some people it might be a status symbol, and for some people it might be the other way around. They consider it a horrible thing to be wearing it.”

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