Obsolete Fashion: Muff-ling the Cold

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As someone whose lemming-minded fingers tend to follow each other into numbness, I’m rather intrigued by the now-defunct hand warmer known as the muff.

Dating back to the 16th century, the muff is a cylinder of hand-warming coziness with an opening at both ends. Generally made of fur or a luxurious fabric like velvet or silk, the muff was an integral item for both men and women until the 19th century. Though men muffled their muff-toting habits at this time, women held onto the trend through the early 20th century. After a bite-sized revival in the 1940s and ’50s, and exciting-but-not-trendsetting appearances in the runway shows of Chanel and Hermès several years ago, the muff scuffed its feet off the style scene for good.

12 Responses to Obsolete Fashion: Muff-ling the Cold

  1. RBuccicone 11/23/2011 at 8:41 am #

    I’m glad you posted this because I actually REALLY want a muff of faux fur. You can find some on etsy but none have caught my fancy or price range yet.

  2. Jarod 11/23/2011 at 8:53 am #

    I like the idea in theory, but what do you do with the thing when you’re not wearing it? The one in the picture looks like it could use a shoulder strap. I can only hope the muff paves the way for the return of the top hat and cane…

  3. Julie C. (ModCloth) 11/23/2011 at 10:20 am #

    I actually HAVE a white, vintage, faux fur muff that came with a matching hat. I do occasionally wear the hat on chilly days, but have never rocked the muff. It just doesn’t get that cold in the Bay Area, and as Jarod mentioned above, I have no idea where I’d put it when I wasn’t wearing it! Perhaps I’ll think of something creative to do with it. Cat cozy?

  4. Rebecca Jean 11/23/2011 at 10:22 am #

    Muffs disappeared? Who knew. I have several and can be seen sporting them all winter long. @Jarod, some actually do come with a shoulder strap. Most of the time when I’m not using mine I just wear it on my forearm so that my hand is still free. Some even contain small pockets to function as a purse. You can only carry a few small things like lipstick, a coin purse and a few cards, but what more do you need? I love them, but they are hard to find.

  5. Grace 11/23/2011 at 11:43 am #

    I use my muff every winter! I bought it from someone in the Midwest on eBay and it keeps my hands so so warm. Mine is plush, I’m not a big fur fan. It is kind of an awkward item to have when you’re not using it but you can stuff it into a purse or leave it on one arm. I’m thinking I might trying adding straps to mine! I’ve never even thought of that. I would also love to make one that looks a little more modern, maybe use an old sweater or something. Muffs are seriously the key to keeping my hands warm on long walks.

  6. Caitlin 11/23/2011 at 1:03 pm #

    I think it would be great for muffs to be converted into purses. Give them big pockets, enough for a wallet, some makeup, and a phone and it’s bound to turn into a trend.

  7. Kitty 11/23/2011 at 2:25 pm #

    I love muffs! I have a few that I’ve made from some faux fur. I added some chain to them to make neckstraps, and put a little pocket on the back for my cellphone, keys, money, and lipgloss. They’re great for colder days. My hands always freeze, so I like to double-up, and wear my muff with gloves.

  8. Rowena@ Bespoke Suits 11/25/2011 at 1:04 am #

    Muffs are really cool and they tend to lessen the coldness. Making new innovations out of this simple product can be a trend too. Really like to place some simple stuff in my muffs too, but there’s no pocket in it. :D

  9. Brittany 11/27/2011 at 1:59 pm #

    When I was a little kid I had a pink fake fur coat with a matching muff. The muff had a string for around your neck. I think as long as they have that string they’re a really good idea. I remember it did a better job at keeping my hands warm than gloves.

  10. Jean 11/28/2011 at 10:30 am #

    I have a large one that has a small loop you can use to dangle over your wrist or forearm when you’re not actually wearing it for hand warmth. The inside has a nice zippered pouch that holds all the essentials, so no additional purse is needed. I also have a smaller one that doesn’t hold more than a lipstick, some folding money, and ID (but sometimes that’s all you need). As a previous poster stated, you just push the muff up your forearm when you need to use both hands. In a way, it is less cumbersome than toting around a purse all night.

  11. Kerrie 11/28/2011 at 6:11 pm #

    When I was little, one of my dolls had a little poncho coat and muff set and I always wanted one for myself, but now that I’m grown I’ve never thought to look for one online! I have a blanket that rolls up and has a velcro fastener and small handle, which I have used as a makeshift muff when my gloves aren’t enough in the northeastern cold! Now I’m off to tweet a great christmas gift in some people’s ears ;)

  12. Kerrie 11/28/2011 at 6:18 pm #

    I also just remembered that football quarterbacks wear muffs that look like fanny packs to keep their hands warm when they’re off the field…which is very practical and I think this style could easily be modified and transitioned from the sports field into the fashion field!

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