In recent days the animal-rights group sent a letter to Bush after reports that a Colorado hat maker sent a beaver-felt cowboy hat as a gift for his inauguration.
"You may not realize that beavers are gentle, family-oriented animals who mate for life, raise their children in loving families and remain lifelong friends with their offspring," PETA head Ingrid Newkirk wrote the president. "Beavers are even known to enjoy flute music."
Animal-rights activists plan to leaflet outside the balls tonight. Four years ago, they cheered a woman who ran naked down the parade route with an anti-fur sign.
Signal of affluence
Fur sales are up this season, aided by a big business in fuzzy accessories. To some fashion observers, the fur, even when marketed in trendier styles for younger customers, sends the same message that it always has: that its wearer is well-off, cared-for, comfortable.
"If you think back to the 1950s, you could see it in the old I Love Lucy's - when the woman got a mink stole, it was an indication of moving up in the world," says Pam Klein, who oversees a fashion studies and marketing program at the Parsons School of Design in New York (and notes that she is both a Democrat and wears a sheepskin shearling coat to work).
"With the inauguration, it's kind of like the opposite of saving money - it's saying that spending money and having money are OK," she says. "In my mother's generation, it was saving money that gave you some moral authority, but that has kind of been redefined."
In Washington, guests are renting $12,000 furs for about $500 a night, says Ritz-Carlton concierge Michael High, who arranged one such rental this week. He also helped several out-of-town guests have their coats rushed out to them in time for tonight's parties.
To many visitors, the chance to wear fur, like an inauguration, is a rare moment.
"We live in a climate where it's probably below freezing three days a year," says Kay Bonner, a resident of Temple, Texas, snuggling in a brown mink she otherwise wears about three times a year. The first-time inaugural reveler said she packed a wool coat just in case fur protesters were swarming around the capital. She needn't have bothered.
"We do acknowledge this is probably not the most contemporarily correct thing to wear - we are risking disfavor," she says. "But we have them. And we want to wear them."