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Dec 13, 2010

Pet Peeves: sewing for dogs

Friends, I'm not one of those people who are into dressing up dogs "cute" and I hope you're not either.

Where I live you see the full spectrum of dog clothes, from Burburry to Walmart.  I honestly don't care what our dogs wear as long as they have an extra layer of warmth during the winter.  When it's really cold (below freezing) we generally don't take the dogs out at all.  They have their treadmill now, and we've rigged a system so that they can do whatever they need to do in the bathtub on a cloth diaper. 

When Willy was a puppy we found someone on eBay who custom knit him a sweater -- very lovely, but he quickly outgrew it.

In early 2010 P.B. (pre blog) I made Willy the one and only dog coat I've ever sewn, using an old coat of Freddy's as a pattern, some old corduroy pants I found in the street and a worn flannel shirt of mine.  It came out cute but it wasn't very warm and Willy rarely wears it.  Plus I think it's now too short.

Freddy and Willy don't have extensive wardrobes, just a few cheap fleece coats, and they don't like wearing them.  They kind of go into zombie-land when they're wearing them.  We've bought RTW coats (like these red and blue ones) but they rarely fit right.  The cheap ones are tacky and the expensive ones...expensive.

So, in these waning days of 2010, I have decided that after finishing my wool toggle coat I'm going to make some coats for the dogs, probably using leftover wool from the coat project and fleece from my stash.  Overcoming my initial resistance, I picked this up on Etsy yesterday for a few bucks.

It's fine; nothing special.  I did considerable research online of course.  I don't promote individual Etsy sellers but all of these patterns can currently be found on Etsy by searching under dog coat patterns.  It's interesting, I don't think I've ever seen a vintage dog coat pattern (knit coats maybe).  I wonder why.

On a related note, I don't like dog costumes and I hope I'm not offending anyone who does.  It seems demeaning to the animal.

OK, they're kind of funny.  We do dress up Willy from time to time -- Freddy won't put up with it -- but it usually lasts about a minute, then he wriggles out of it.

I don't like cutesy tootsie coats...

Or colonial mob caps.

There are a lot of matchy-matchy owner/dog outfits (for women) out there.  I'm on the fence about these.

For a child, maybe...

I won't lie, I find the doggie Santa outfit kind of fun.

Holidays bring out the worst in pet-craft kitsch. 

This Victorian thing I like, but our dogs would never tolerate it.

Friends, if you have dogs, do you dress them up in funny outfits?   Do your dogs go outside a lot in the cold weather and if they do, what do they wear to stay warm?

Are you a believer in dignity when it comes to dog clothes or do you think dressing up dogs in cute outfits provides a necessary creative outlet -- for the dog?

I'm all ears!


  1. Thank you so much for this post! It really made me smile. I wish my cat would tolerate body warmers - she just complains loudly about the cold.

  2. I have two shih tzu's, one of them, the male will wear a sweater. In fact he likes having a sweater on in the cold weather. The other, goes into zombie land with anything on her. She just stands there and won't move. I picked up a vintage dog coat (Saks Fifth Avenue) at a tag sale ...I so wanted her to wear it to my 50th b-day party which had a vintage theme, but alas no go...just a zombie.

    My mother likes to buy them 'clothes' but I don't ever put them on. Our female has a full coat and LOVES the cold weather and snow, the little guy wears a sweater and does fine in the cold too, as long as it is not for too long.

    I think dogs do need dignity. Some dogs might like the limelight-just like people- and enjoy looking silly, but people don't always take their dogs feelings into account.

    Willy and Freddy are the cutest things. I love having two dogs...they are the best friends ever.

  3. Dawn Young CunninghamDecember 13, 2010 at 8:10 AM

    My daughter-in-law loves to dress up her cat. It started with the cat always burrowing into their clothes, hats, scarves. I did make him a dinosaur halloween costume out of green spotted terrycloth. I know and am aiding and abetting. He is calmer once he's in the suit. There is lots research about the application of pressure to calm animals.

  4. Okay, this gave me many, many good laughs. Perfect for a Monday in December. (Snowing here in Philly, by the way, so get that duffel duffeling.) It would seem that Willy and Freddy are just a hip outfit or two away from being able to vogue at Fetch -- NYC's first nightclub for dogs. Of course, I'd definitely wait until the club gets its disco ball installed.

  5. I've got a Westie, and she just wears her own white fur coat. She doesn't seem to mind the cold too much. My dear beloved won't hear of dressing her in anything, "she's a dog and she's got her own fur coat" is what he says! She has got a lovely pink diamante collar though which a friend bought her, but dear beloved says that looks too frou frou. *Sigh* so no pet outfits in this little corner of Wales.

  6. LOL!

    Okay, I'm not the biggest fan of pet clothes, although up here they can be necessary, depending on your breed (I'm not particularly in favour of keeping pets that aren't suited to your cimate either, but that's a whole nother topic).

    I will say, the doggie costumes don't piss me off nearly as much as some of the other doggie accessories I've seen, like the doggie stroller, or the doggie front-pack (yes, like a snugglie for a baby, only you put your micro-dog in it). :)

    Last year around this time I saw a reindeer costume for a car. I want one. :)

  7. My dog was 108 pounds, and the only thing wearable I made her was a rain slicker out of some vinyl table cloth material and lined in silk (what can I say, I loved my pooch). She wore it ONLY when it was pouring out for walkies, and I only made it for her so she wouldnt smell like wet dog.

    She did wear a lot of neck scarves. At first it was to spot her in a mass of pooches when we went to the dog park, but then she began to get known for them and she had all sorts of colors. :)

    I miss my doggie.

  8. Love this post! I'm with you here, Peter. I dislike dressing animals up at all. Although I did make my dog a coat for this winter, but only because he is a hairless breed. If he had fur, I don't think I would put anything on him.

  9. Shelley, I hope you get another dog some day.

  10. Another, "not a fan of pet clothes." In fact, when I was growing up, we never saw anyone dress up their pet and, if we had, we would have thought it was funny. Of course, I grew up in a climate that got cold but never snowed, so I now see that it would sometimes be needed, especially in a snowy climate and especially for animals that aren't gifted with lots of thick fur.

  11. Peter, I think you could create quite a Ann-Miller-in-Easter-Parade sensation if you and the dogs all wear coats of the same wool! Do they make dog-sized toggles, though? :^)


  12. I think dressing up dogs is in abysmally bad taste unless they need it as protection. Maybe a bow if they have long hair but that is about it. Of course, I had a malamute so he never needed such stuff anyways.
    I actually have seen a vintage dog coat pattern, I think it was on Sew Retro (they did make it). It looked pretty much like modern dog coats.

    Naturally I just did a bit of searching and found this ancient one from 1872!

    And I believe this might have been the one I'd seen before. I kind of like the collars...I could see making a 1960s dress for me and a matching collar, if I had a dog.

  13. We have no choice; our 15+ year old beagle mix is always cold and must wear a sweater, but we don't do cutesy-schmootsey, utilitarian only. Despite the risk of falling into your disfavor, I do have to say that Willie and Freddie are adorable in their sweaters.

  14. Wait, is it cutesy-schmootsey or cutsie-toosie? I'm confused.

  15. If I did have a dog, I may possable make KS 3431 for it.


  16. Very funny! I make my dog custom kerchiefs. For poker night, he has one with a poker chips on it. For when he goes to work with my husband, he has an "executive producer" one. He has others for different holidays. For Halloween, I did dress him up as Batman. My daughter was Supergirl and my husband and I were Superwoman and Clark Kent, so we had a whole theme going and he had to be included. Our dog is family!

  17. I don't routinely dress up Jo (the pom) for show (except his Santa suit...I simply couldn't resist the gold lame boots!), but he does have some functional pieces for cold weather. He appreciates his coat when it's snowy outside, but he looks like Kenny from South Park when the hood is up! He also doesn't mind his Rock and Roll T-shirt when I find him chewing on his back...he agrees it beats the cone of shame!

  18. Whew, those Victorian outfits are mighty strange!

  19. Your dogs are small enough to learn how to use a litter box. Why ruin your bathtub?

  20. Willy and Freddy have to be two of the cutest dogs out there! They deserve their own MBP coats and I'm sure they'll look chic and be warm. :)

  21. I tend to think dressing up your pet is a bit on the sad side (& I mean dressing up, rather than keeping warm), so is not something I do or believe in (but you tell that to my daughter!!).
    And judging by the look on those animals' faces on the patterns, they don't think much of it either (most have that sad "OMG what have they put me in now?" look to their faces!!)
    But each to their own I guess. Its just not my cup of tea.

  22. Dressing dogs up is bad and sad - expect at christmas when it's the law for about 5 minutes and that only involves tinsel around the collar.
    Having said that.... my beloved Bobby used to love her *cough* Burberry neckerchief (- such a chav) Our Jack Russell does have a coat for the cold weather which he is happy to wear, but I make an exception in his case because it's a "proper" dog coat recommend by the vet - is that allowed?!
    PS I love the wooly jumper on Willy!

  23. Your post made me laugh out loud Peter! I have a lovely Chesapeake Bay Retreiver, and while I could put a raincoat on her through all of the wet west coast winter, it wouldn't do much good, because when we get down to the beach, she goes for a swim - year round. She would be the laughing stock of all the dogs in my neighborhood if she wore anything but her birthday suit! (Of course a tasteful neckerchief is a different thing all together...)

  24. We used to live in the Yukon Territory and our dogs wore fleece boots when the outdoor temperature reached -25 celsius. The dogs didn't mind them after they managed to take one off and they experienced the cold on their feet. Our black lab wears a bandanna to the dog park so we are able to tell him apart from the 20 other black labs that always seem to be there. Occasionally the dogs earn their keep by putting up with us dressing them up in sweaters, santa suits, reindog antlers, baseball caps, an angel costume, a snow white costume, a witch costume etc etc etc. But I don't take my dogs outside dressed silly, it is for our amusement only. I have noticed however that some dogs really like getting dressed up, our dear departed Chloe would play keep away if we tried to take clothes off her, she would wear reindog antlers all Christmas Day while all our others would have them off in a nanosecond. So I guess I am in favor of dog clothes, kind of.

  25. I'm with you: no sticky, cutesy fluff, frills and lame on my dog. She has an aran turtleneck pullover sweater I knit and a reversible fleece coat with legs as she feels the cold. I've bought booties which last about a block and a half, so her feet still freeze. And, I need to make a ripstop raincoat I can keep folded up in my pocket as I've never seen a dog who hates rain as much as my Ruby. I've made coats for the son-in-law's dog as DD has a Siberian and his setter mix freezes as the Siberian can't get enough cold. My SIL's horse of a dog was a short hair for which I also made coats as he had about as much hair as your little guys, and, big as he was, he felt the cold. Up here it's all about keeping them warm.

    Now, my old lady cat used to let the kids dress her up in doll bonnets and socks and carry her around like a baby, but who argues with a 30-odd lb cat?

  26. I've always been of the opinion that God gave them perfectly good, thick fur and thus they don't need clothes. That being said we don't have a pet. Turns out that I'm allergic and since I've developed allergy induced asthma, dogs aren't on the agenda. I'd like a cat, but not only am I equally allergic, one bitty scratch could land me in the hospital, so that's not an option, either.'Sides, my grandmother had a snake mean golden lab that turned me off dogs. He had a nasty temperament, and Grandma always brings out the worst in animals.

  27. of the funniest afternoons I spent with my BFF was in the fabric store looking at the pet clothes patterns. We laughed & laughed. But honestly, some of those poor doggies look so unhappy in those outfits. They seem to be saying "do I have to wear this?".

  28. My parents have gotten into rescue Greyhounds, a breed with no body fat. They live in Texas, but it gets cold enough that the dog needs a coat occasionally. I made one for Smash (novelty fleece, I admit it, printed with pink hearts). When Smash passed away my mom was so crushed she threw away all her coats because she couldn't imagine another dog wearing them. So I guess I'm going to need to make a coat for new addition to the family Crafty. They are strictly utilitarian, despite the novelty prints!

  29. Is that Cavalier King Charles spaniel wearing a sexy librarian outfit?


  30. I am not a fan of dressing dogs up in "silly/funny" just isn't dignified and I wouldn't subject our beagle/lab mix, Lola, to that. She is my favorite snowshoe companion in the winter so I do dress her in a nice warm fleece coat. During hunting season...she has a bright orange one with reflector tape on it. I use this when she runs with me as well.

    For Slapdash Sewist...nothing wrong with using a cute novelty print as long as it keep the Greyhounds warm!!!

  31. As an adult, I don't dress my pets up, but as a child, dressing up the dog was a favorite activity for me and my sister. We didn't have actual dog clothes, so she wore ours - tutus, t-shirts, jewelry, pajama onesies (she was a 50-pound doberman/lab mix, not a frou-frou lap dog, so she looked pretty comical in the frilly baby outfits we'd put on her). She was so tolerant, even let us paint her nails. Unfortunately, she was also a master escape artist whenever someone opened the front door, so she frequently spent hours running around the neighborhood in these get-ups. I'm sure the neighbors all thought we were crazy, but luckily no one ever called animal control.

  32. We live right outside Atlanta and have a Siberian Husky...on days like today when the high was 27, Morgan is happiest! She doesn't get to see snow often, but when it does, something instinctive kicks in and she bounds around all day with a huge grin on her face!

    I don't really care for the cutesy outfits, but a simple coat or t-shirt now and then is just fine, especially on short-haired dogs in a colder climate than the South!

  33. Sorry, just meant to edit my comment not delete it. I actually get quite a kick out of doggies in costumes - but I don't actually have a dog to demean in that way. Important to keep them warm in the cold weather though.

  34. I enjoy the look of disgust that our basset hound gives us when we try to dress her up. And the few coats she has to deal with Minnesota weather are in appropriate girly pink camo and other fun fabrics. I linger over the dog-costume rack every Halloween, but haven't gotten her a costume since her first Halloween (I dare any other basset hound owner to NOT dress their dog up as a hotdog, at least once.)

    We were married in June and Lucy the hound walked up the aisle with a friend. There were lots of people pressuring us into getting her a little bridesmaid outfit, but I was adamant that she needed to retain her hound dignity for the event. Besides, her fur and long ears are already the cutest outfit, ever, and there's something WRONG with mixing a tri-colored hunting dog with tulle and lace!

    So my verdict:
    Utilitarian, weather related dog clothes... I say Yay! And make em and cute and ridiculous as possible!!
    Costumes...Super fun and why not torture the dog for photo ops in the privacy of your own home?
    Dressing for special occasions and/or costumes outside of the house... not so much for me or my basset hound. I'm so glad we have no wedding photos of basset hounds in tu-tu's!

  35. I made a tiny poncho for my chilie chihuahua, we even made up a song for him to go with it. He tolerates the tiny coat but only at home. It looks more like a horse blanket than a dog coat.

  36. We have one dog that requires "clothes" due to lack of body hair when the weather gets a little nippy, and I received the most marvelous "tip" about fitting from our neighbor who insists on dressing her dogs like a traveling circus. Sigh. But the tip was a good one.

    Because the dogs body-types don't quite all seem to conform to the patterns available, she has learned to use Saran Wrap to customize the pattern. She will pet the dogs with wet hands-effectively drying her hands and aquiring mittens at the same time-and press the Saran Wrap to the dogs body. Then, with a marking pen, she traces the leg opening, ect to get a pretty darn good fit.

  37. My dog goes crazy after baths, which he hates. He runs around full speed and nose dives into the carpet. Somewhere, my mom heard of putting a shirt on a dog after a bath. Low and behold, it worked. My dog gets a t-shirt on after his bath and he calms down a little. After reading this post, I hope he's not depressed about it but I think he kind of likes it. He is ready for it and lets me put it on him. Hmm... I may have to rethink the shirt...

  38. There aren't many vintage patterns for dog clothing/coats/costumes because back then other than poodles dogs didn't wear clothes- the only dressed dog we knew was a miniature white poodle named Precious who belonged to an older lady down the street she used to walk her past our house with matching pastel coats, booties & hair ribbons on her ears- I think this is because now pets are substitute kids and family members back then people got them for their kids not for themselves
    Sarah c

  39. Forgot something-we did used to dress my grandmother's corgi in my little brother's striped t shirts but she did not appreciate it and probably could hardly wait for us to go back home

    Sarah C

  40. Utterly late to the party, however during the winter my 3lb Chi wears pajamas pretty much all the time - he shivers when he doesn't, and he isn't the type to shake from anxiety so much (as other Chis do) & he never shakes during the warmer months. The PJs he wears are mostly from Target (when they still made the extra small sized!)

    I'm also guilty of dressing him for my pleasure, though. He has 2 Ralph Lauren pup polos - but he's worn clothes since he was a pup so he has no objections to them.

  41. I am desperately looking for a sewing pattern for my cats. I have 9 Sphynx and it is winter is Cape Town at the moment. The jackets for dogs does not fit properly.


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