Updated: Jun 13, 2021
Wealthy people have been dressing up their dogs for centuries. When my coauthor Jo Schaffel and I wrote our young adult historical novel Somewhere Besides Denver, we decided that fancy-dressed dogs would be our book’s mascots. We began with a dog on the Lusitania, the ship that takes our characters from New York to Paris in 1907.
Around 1900, in cities like London and Paris, wealthy dog owners loved to show off their costumed pooches. Some women even dressed up their dogs to match their own human outfits—including jeweled doggie bracelets! Dogs carried handkerchiefs tucked inside their jacket pockets, or umbrellas attached to their backs in rainy weather. Owners often dressed up their doggies for a photo shoot.
By the early 1900s, making animal clothing was a profitable business. Dog owners could visit shops that sold doggie clothes and accessories. Tailors created special outfits for dogs. Dogs were dressed for walking, socializing, traveling, sleeping—even for a day at the beach. Dogs might wear embroidered coats, silk jackets, or tea gowns! Our teenage characters Violet, Marion, and Helen see fancy-dressed dogs on the streets of Paris and in a London store.
But as time went by, people started thinking more about animal welfare. They criticized costumes that might harm pets by overheating or choking them, or by stopping their natural doggie movements. Safety first should be any owner’s rule when thinking about dog clothing.
The first kind of dog clothing? Collars. The ancient Egyptians turned their dogs’ collars and leashes into artistry, with beautiful leather designs and jewels. But collars were also used for training and restraining dogs. Lots of dog clothing comes from military use. Protective military dog clothing, or metal “armor,” was used in the Middle Ages. Eventually, lighter materials made dog clothes more comfortable. Today, military dogs may wear bulletproof vests, gas masks, sweaters and cooling vests, and even ear protection.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of dog clothing, start by checking out the articles in “Canine Clothing: A Brief History of Dog Clothes” by the dog Montecristo, written by Sonja Lishchynski.