We have featured a round up of sewing for your dog as well as a huge list of dog bed patterns which were very popular with our readers –so I know that I'm not the only dog-lover in the group. The approach of the cold months in the northern hemisphere got me thinking about clothes for man's best friend and inevitably about dog fashion. I think it will be a fun topic to explore, so here we go.
A Glimpse At The History of Dog Fashion
Dressing up dogs is certainly not a new thing. In the last 12,000 years, man have regarded dogs as loyal companions and historical documents have shown that dog fashion has been around for quite a long time too. Setting the trend were the royal courts of Europe that lavished their favorite dogs with bejeweled collars and beautiful coats. There are many paintings and tapestries from the period between 1450 to 1600 that feature royal dogs sleeping in sumptuous beds like King Louis XI's favorite greyhound dog, Cher Amie, wearing a scarlet velvet collar embedded with 11 rubies and 20 pearls.
In a letter written by then Princess Victoria of Britain in 1833, she also made affectionate mention of her spaniel, Dash, that she dressed in a scarlet jacket and blue trousers. By this time, animal fashion has already developed into a lucrative industry with the middle class having the money to pamper their dogs too. Setting the trend is the city of Paris with over a dozen shops selling dog clothes at that time.
In that same time period and in the book “Nos Chiens”, French author Paul Mégnin wrote wonderful details about a pet boutique called Palais-Royal that sold fashionable canine clothes ranging from dog clothes for afternoon visits, for the evening, for the beach and travel attire. An example of a beach outfit might be a blue cambric with a sailor’s collar, embroidered with anchors in the corners. Travel outfits may have consisted of a checkered cloak with turned down collar, belt and a small pocket for the train ticket.
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And today, we can certainly say that the pampering continues as men and women dress up their best friends in shirts, housecoats, raincoats, travel trousseaus and even underwear!
Does Your Dog Really Need Clothes?
Dogs can be quite tolerant of cold weather, but in regions that experience extremely cold months, it may be a good idea to keep your dog warm with a sweater or a coat. This is especially true when you take them out for a walk or to go on a trip outside for extended periods. Without some sort of additional warmth, your dog may be reluctant even to go out to the garden to relieve himself because of the cold. I am sure an extra layer of insulation would be much appreciated by your four-legged friend. This also applies when you tend to set your home’s internal heating system low and use blankets and sweaters to keep yourselves warm. In both cases, your dog probably needs clothes.
Depending on the breed, size and age, and especially if your dog doesn’t have a thick and hairy coat, no amount of curling up can allow him or her conserve enough heat. And for small and light dogs with naturally short and thin hair coats like Chihuahua, Greyhound, and most Terrier and Pinscher breeds, a sweater is a must if they need to go outside and even when they are just hanging around the house. Dogs with short-cropped hair should also be given sweaters to protect them from cold temperatures. Older dogs that have weaker immune systems and those with diseases that impair hair growth surely need extra sources of warmth too. Believe me, a sweater can make a big difference in your dog’s health and well-being.
In fact, in relatively warmer regions, a shirt or wrap may still be needed in some months of the year, when the temperature can drop suddenly. A light shower during your walk may also call for a water-repellent raincoat which will keep your pet drier, more comfortable and happier.
Large dogs with thick fur on the other hand, like Siberian Huskies, Saint Bernards or Malamutes that are endowed with naturally heavy coats do not need additional insulation. In fact, they will be very uncomfortable when forced to wear dog clothes and it can be very bad for their health if they overheat. These breeds are often kept outside even in the coldest of climates so they will have no problems with the cold. It's not for nothing that they are called “Siberian” Huskies..
It should go without saying but I'll say it anyway: dogs should probably not wear pants or underwear, only sweaters and coats!
Sewing Your Dog's Sweater or Jacket
Let's say you have decided to sew a sweater for your dog or your daughter's pooch for the coming cold months. You should start by considering the best material for your project. Although wool is a great insulating fabric, the sweater will probably need to be washed often and can also cause itching making your dog uncomfortable. So I would suggest a good blend of wool and cotton or acrylic materials for your dog's sweater.
The next thing to consider is to make sure to get the best fit for your dog by carefully measuring its neck, chest and waist. You should also choose a design that the dog cannot easily pull the pieces off and take care that it does not drag on the ground. The aim is to sew a sweater or jacket that is snug but not tight. And because dogs can be quite playful, make sure it doesn’t get caught on anything even during their normal movements. There should be freedom of movement in the areas around the arms and neck without using too much excess fabric. Choose a design that can be put on and taken off easily. Also, stay away from dog clothes that have to be pulled tightly over the head or you and your dog will both end up struggling a lot.
Stay away from zippers, hooks and buttons because they can be chewed off and even swallowed!
Ready to start with you canine fashion project now? Check out some of our recent posts for more inspiration: