Is Critter Couture Out of Control?

Posted by: Lyra Pappin

Oh the times, they are a’changing. For pet owners, that is. Bob Dylan probably never thought this lyric would refer to a growing culture of four-legged fashionistas, but the fact remains that pet couture is a growing part of an already lucrative industry.

Apparently teaching dogs to sit and stay has lost favour to teaching them the patience required to don a sweater or dress. From Paris Hilton to your neighbour down the street, people are going crazy for their dolled up dogs and cats.

(Paris Hilton + dog photo)

Pet care has become increasingly important to pet owners and there is no shortage of supplies out there to pamper your pets. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association’s (APPMA) 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey found that 63% of U.S. households own a pet, which is equivalent to 71.1 million homes. The APPMA also estimates that the amount of money people spend on their pets grows every year, hitting its highest point this year at an estimated $40.8 billion. Canada’s University of Guelph performed a study that also found the pet care to be a multibillion-dollar industry for Canadians as well.

Pets are an important part of many families and the source of much comfort and companionship to young and old alike so it isn’t surprising that people want the best for their pets when it comes to caring for them. However, some people question whether clothing for pets actually qualifies as caring for them. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) member Dina Halabi believes that animals have no actual need for clothing, thus it is unnecessary. Although it is not considered cruel or noted anywhere on PETA’s official website, they do advocate considering pets as “animal companions” that are given as much care and freedom as possible, which likely doesn’t include training them to become Mini-Mes.

However, for the many people out there who do enjoy outfitting their cats and dogs, the most humane way to introduce animals to clothing is to start when they are young. Similar with collars and leashes, animals will be easier to train when they grow up being slowly accustomed to these new additions to their lives. It’s probably not a good idea to try forcing a 10-year-old dog into a new wool sweater, for instance. Another issue that arises is the propensity for animals to try to chew their way out of the restrictive clothing, but there are some non-toxic sprays available to help combat this problem.

There are plenty of companies selling a wide variety of pet clothing and accessories, including online sales site Their large selection also includes hair bows and hats! ships to the United States from their home base in California and have anything you would be looking for from fancy harnesses and leashes to sportswear and a “Larger Dogs” section. In addition to the standard chain pet stores like PetSmart and PetCo, you can also find pet clothing and accessories in “regular” accessory stores like Claire’s.

Since the furry fashionistas unfortunately can’t voice their opinions, we’ll have to wait and see if this is a passing trend or simply the tip of the iceberg. It seems to be moving in the latter direction, however, with a new frontier of fashion design working toward developing not only the cutest but most innovative pet wear possible. For the second year in a row, New York Fashion Week even hosted a separate Pet Fashion Week event that showcased the luxurious side of true critter haute couture. (image from

Whether it’s your pet’s birthday or for the holiday season, a little indulgence might not be a bad thing, just be careful to mind your pet’s personality and age when choosing the latest sweater or dress for little Fido or Whiskers. The best way to care for your pet is to take care of all its needs, and hey, if that includes a little party dress or sports jacket now and then, there are plenty of options out there!


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Lyra Pappin
Toronto, ON, Canada

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