Dress up day: Pets and their outfits take center stage
Kim Fetter threads the needle and sews up the right leg of every outfit.
Daisy Mae, 3, her Teacup Yorkie Chinese Crested Mix, lost a limb, so Fetter mends the 3.2 pound dog's clothes to fit properly. Fetter adopted Daisy Mae from Fayette Animal Shelter at PetSmart in Greensburg.
“If something doesn't fit, I do what it takes so it will fit her,” says Fetter, a nurse from Darragh, Hempfield. “She has coats and boots and her own beaded jewelry. And she just looks so cute. Everyone loves seeing her dressed up.”
Daisy Mae will be sporting her finest apparel Jan. 14. It's National Dress Up Your Pet Day, founded in 2009 by celebrity pet-lifestyle expert and animal-behaviorist Colleen Paige.
While it is fun to find outfits that match the pet's owner, Paige realizes many people don't think it's appropriate to put clothing on animals.
“I say, to each his own,” she says. “I do think it's more common for little dogs to wear full attire than big dogs, and I recognize that dogs in general could care less altogether about wearing anything at all. But big dogs like my female Labrador Sailor, have no issues with wearing pretty scarves, bandanas, fancy floral collars and comfy Ts during special times”
Paige stresses comfort and safety for pet fashion. “If your dog doesn't like wearing clothing there is no use stressing the poor baby out,” she says.
Pet couture has become more commonplace and acceptable with events like Pet Fashion Week in New York City, she says. Many designers are now offering matching luxury accessories and couture for human and pet.
A strand of pearls dangling from Bella's neck is the perfect accessory for her neon-pink outfit, complete with matching hair-flower bow. Bella, who will be 2 in March, has a container full of clothing. The pearls are not the Yorkie's, however. They belong to owner Karen Marchewka, of Connellsville, Fayette County.
“The pearls Bella is wearing are my wedding pearls from 27 years ago,” Marchewka says. “I am very thankful that Bella is not a ‘chewer' or my pearls may have been history. Bella loves getting dressed up.”
According to an American Pet Products Association national survey, 26 percent of dog owners own clothes for their pet. Overall spending in the pet industry reached an all time-high in 2012, surpassing $53 billion, with a 4.1 percent growth rate projected through 2013.
Stephanie Brenner outfits her stylish feline Ms. Lucy Ethel. Brenner rescued the cat who was malnourished with a collapsed lung. The 4-year-old cat weighs 4 1⁄2 pounds. Because of her size, Brenner finds stuffed animal clothing fits best. Ms. Lucy owns an Easter dress and Halloween and Christmas outfits. She wears a lot of hoodies in the winter.
“I know right away if she doesn't like something because she will take it off,” Brenner says. “So, she lets me know how she feels about an outfit.”
Owners need to be receptive to their pet's actions when it comes to clothing, Dr. Nancy Ruffing, a veterinarian from Shaler with a decade of experience in animal emergency medicine, says.
“There are some people who are very adept at decorating their pet,” Ruffing says. “A pet should never be left alone or unattended when dressed up, for safety reasons. Hat and scarves and clothing under the bellies can get hooked on something. And there are also animals who might chew or swallow pieces of the clothing or accessory, especially if they aren't used to having something on their bodies.”
Pets should not be kept dressed all day, she says.
“Be thoughtful of your pet,” Ruffing says. “Don't apply makeup or anything around their eyes that might impair their vision. An animal may lash out at you, so you have to be aware of that.”
The overall fit is the most important thing, Melissa Galloway, senior marketing manager at PetSmart, says. Be aware of your pet's mannerisms and how it reacts when in apparel. Although they make take some time to warm up to the idea of wearing apparel, overall their mannerisms should mimic how they normally act when not in apparel.
Dr. Kathryn Stieh, a Florida veterinarian and Northeast Director of Operations for National Veterinary Associates, which is based in California, says clothing can be functional and fashionable. She dressed her dog, Murphy, who is used to warm weather, in a snow suit, other jackets and even boots because he spent the New Year's holiday in Iowa, where the temperature was minus 14.
“Dogs should never be left unattended in clothing as they could get themselves caught up in it or they could get caught in other environmental objects,” Stieh says.
Galloway says pet parents dress up all species in apparel and costumes, in all types of ways to express their personalities. As long as the pet is comfortable and it is an appropriately fitting outfit, the decision of what to wear lies in the hands of the pet parent.
Tips for dressing up your pet
• If your dog or cat doesn't want to wear apparel, don't force the issue. Try getting them comfortable with the clothing first. Start early and, depending on the intricacy of the outfit, start dressing them slowly and in pieces to gauge their reaction.
• An outfit should never confine, constrain or aggravate your pet. Anything that makes them uncomfortable can stress them out and make them unhappy.
• After the outfit is on and fitted properly, make sure there isn't anything that could be a trip or burn hazard.
• Check the apparel for little parts within biting or chewing distance. Remember, they'll chew on anything they find remotely interesting, especially if they are nervous.
• Look closely at the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and throat of your dog or cat when they are dressed, and, if needed, make adjustments to the outfit to increase their ability to see, hear and breathe.
• For tips on appropriate sizes, check PetSmart's apparel sizing guide at www.petsmart.com.