Looking at the rise of pet fashion online and offline

Illustration by Sonam Kaloti

The well-dressed pet
By Alexis Zygan, Staff Writer

Pet fashion dates back to 1440 BCE. An archeologist found a canine wearing an exquisite collar in the grave of an Egyptian nobleman named Maiharpiri. I first remember seeing pet fashion displayed by Paris Hilton’s chihuahua, Tinkerbell, looking spiffy in a bowtie. Fashion for pets is morally ambiguous and can be harmful if the pet’s condition is not taken into consideration. However, pet fashion as a whole is a form of creative expression and benefits animal wellbeing.

Pet owners use cotton-blend sweatshirts to keep their short-haired dogs or sphynx cats warm in the winter. Veterinarians suggest pets wear shoes to assuage blisters from walking on hot pavement or chemical burns from ice melt. Pet-safe ice melt is available, but most companies opt for the cheaper non-pet-safe version to minimize overhead costs. Shoes also provide additional mobility support for older dogs.

January 14 is National Dress Up Your Pet Day. BC SPCA wrote a blog post in which they recommend avoiding costuming pets as it inhibits their ability to move and communicate body language. While veterinarian Dr. Danielle Bernal emphasizes that dressing up an animal can be harmless, it all depends on the individual animal. There are circumstances when costuming an animal for an Instagrammable photo or to strut on the catwalk is enjoyable for both pets, owners, and Instagram followers—provided the comfort of the animal is prioritized. 

Social media popularity is something some pet owners strive for. Betwixt between calls to action, edited selfies, pets provide a moment of joy. Boobie Billie is not your standard Instagram influencer; the six-pound Italian Greyhound-Chihuahua mix has a wardrobe fit for a Bushwick hipster and is always wearing the latest of fashion trends.

In New York City every February, there is a Pet Fashion Show sponsored by the International Veterinary Science and Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. The event is the largest of its kind and benefits animal rescue. The 17th annual Pet Fashion Show themes were as follows: Sci-Fi Couture: 2020 A Space Odyssey, and Haute Couture: High Fashion for Animal Rescue. Dogs and even pigs walked the runway in style, wearing tutus, wizard hats, silver space suits, and blue-light sunglasses. Some even arrived in convertibles or nuzzled in a spaceship.

Pet fashion is booming, and the market has expanded rapidly to provide owners with more than just costumes during Halloween. High fashion retailers Gucci, Burberry, and Versace have launched pet collections. Canadian luxury retailer SSENSE sells Moncler Genius puffer jackets for dogs from $670 to $900 each. For those less willing to spend their rent on luxury labels, Mark’s Work Wearhouse sells Carhartt jackets for under $50. Companies such as FreshPawz target one demographic: pet owners with an affinity for streetwear.

Nothing is more #aweworthy than a photo of a dog, bearded dragon, or cat dressed up. My personal favourite is a chihuahua dressed up in a unicorn suit. Remember, if you do choose to dress your pet, check in and observe their body language to ensure they are comfortable. If the animal shows any signs of discomfort remove the outfit immediately and offer a treat as a thank you!