Canine Clothing a Brief History of Dog Clothes – Part I

 

For those of you that believe that pet adornment – or fashion – is a contemporary phenomenon Part I of this three part series will prove to be a bit of an eye opener. While dog clothes, accessories and pet fashion in general has certainly taken off in recent times, with designers of luxury brands getting on the canine couture bandwagon, dressing up doggies is nothing new.

For 12,000 years or longer canines have been companions to humans and it seems that for most of that time bipeds have been “decorating” us dogs.  A closer look at archeological finds, art and the diaries of public figures throughout history has shown that contrarily to what today’s media would like to make you believe, canine fashion is not a recent fad or a passing trend. It has been around for a long time indeed.

The very fashionable collar above was one of two discovered by the French explorer Loret in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian nobleman Maiherpri (1440 B.C.). Depicting hunting scenes embossed into the leather with one of the collars featuring the dog’s name: “Tantanuit.”

The Dog Collar

The most obvious item is naturally the dog collar.  Collars have been in use since before 3100 B.C. and is without a doubt the first item of adornment to have been used.   You may argue that a collar is not a fashion item and merely a tool used for restraint but archaeologists unearthed a dog buried with (pre-dynastic – 323-309 BC China) King Cuo of Zhongshan wearing a collar of gold, silver, and turquoise.  Hardly “just” a collar and definitely a fashion statement and a show of power and wealth.

At the height of ancient Egyptian civilization, collars and leashes were standard for dog training and dogs wearing them were commonly used as motifs on tomb walls, and pottery. The dog collars were beautiful works of art made of leather, with copper, bronze and gold added for embellishment.

Continuing our search for clues on canine fashion in the world of archeology, an interesting find dates to ancient Rome where canine devotion (as pets and hunting dogs) was so intense that Julius Caesar reportedly had to publicly reprimand citizens for paying more attention to their dogs than to their children. (60-44 BC).   A remarkable example of this Roman devotion to canines is the “Pompeii Dog” preserved and frozen in time at the moment it was buried in ash from the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius.  The dog’s collar was examined with infrared, and was found to be inscribed with an account of the dog’s heroic rescue of his owner from a wolf attack (AD 79).

This circa-1520 Hans Maler portrait of Queen Anne of Hungary and her dog is an early example of canine couture. Note the pooch’s striking jewelled collar.

The Royal courts of Europe often set the trends of their time. Interestingly, thanks to often very detailed paintings, tapestries, early literature, letters and diaries we have a collection of well depicted beautiful collars, jewels and coats worn during this period; proving that fashion did not just favour a certain breed – but canine clothing as well.  Why not? After all dogs are the most loyal of all subjects.  No expense was spared for royal hounds and lap dogs alike when it came to providing for their comfort. Dogs slept in sumptuous beds (often the king’s or queen’s), ate delicacies from exquisite bowls and had their every need attended to by servants. Louis XI of France (1423-1483), a notorious miser, clad his favorite greyhound, named “Cher Ami” (Dear Friend) in a collar of scarlet velvet garnished with 20 pearls and 11 rubies.

Around the time of the Renaissance (1450-1600), the growing middle class could finally afford dogs as pets and they were no longer just a royal or noble luxury. Collars of more affordable materials such as leather then became the norm. The appearance of rings for leashes and nametags can also be found at this time as they began to dangle from dog collars.  One assumes that because of the sudden explosion of widespread dog ownership a canine registration and licensing system was born.

In the 17th century, beautiful silver, gold, and brass collars could be fashioned, stamped or engraved, and leather collars were adorned with sparkling bells.  Around this time one also finds the first appearance of dog hair clips.   In contrast to today’s approach, tags typically bore the name of the owner, rather than the dog, making it easier to reunite a lost canine with its handler.

Fully Dressed Dog with Young Woman Circa 1745

In the 18th Century, Louis XV (1710-1774) had a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named “Filou” (Rascal). The dog slept on a cushion of crimson velvet and wore a gold collar encrusted with diamonds. Louis XV said of his dog, “He’s the only thing in the world that likes me for myself.”

Apparition of Clothing Items

In 1833 in Britain, Princess Victoria wrote of her spaniel that she “dressed dear sweet little Dash in a scarlet jacket and blue trousers.” In fact, the taste for animal fashion in the 19th Century developed into a profitable manufacturing industry. The center for dog fashions and accessories could be found in perennially fashionable Paris with over a dozen shops catering to pooches!  Yes pet boutiques are not a new development either.

Paul Mégnin wrote a book on the subject of dressing dogs in the 19th century.  His book “Nos Chiens” (Our Dogs) goes into wonderful detail.

“Some think it criminal and grotesque to impose quasi-human practices in this way on these little cute doggies (mignons toutous),” Mégnin states, but seems resigned to the practice and claims that the place to shop for canine clothing was the Palais-Royal.  He goes on to site that the fashionable dog had:

  • a costume for afternoon visits
  • a costume for the evening,
  • a costume for travel (YES – for TRAVEL!)
  • a costume for the beach

For the beach, Mégnin explains:

“Our chic dogs have a special bathing outfit—in blue cambric with a sailor’s collar hemmed in white with embroidered anchors in each of the corners; and on one of the sides, embroidered in gold, the name of the beach — Cabourg or Trouville.”

For travel? Mégnin recommended  “a checked cloak of English cloth with a turned down collar, belted, with a small pocket for the train ticket.”

Another French author named Jean Robert wrote two dog-care books around the same period and defended the practice of clothing dogs, especially in winter. Clothing delicate dogs was, he thought, a matter of common sense. The maison Ledouble, 29 galerie d’Orléans at the Palais-Royal, advertised in Jean Robert’s dog-care book, offering:

Lady and Dog with Matching Pink Feathers – 1901

  • shirts,
  • housecoats,
  • raincoats for little apartment dogs,
  • collars of superior quality,
  • special collars for Great Danes,
  • bracelets,
  • clips,
  • brushes,
  • combs,
  • Decorative hair clips,
  • clippers for poodles,
  • scented oils,
  • underwear,
  • Travel trousseau,
  • Dog beds.

Alfred Barbou explained in careful detail in his 1883 book “Le Chien: Son histoire, ses exploits, ses aventures” (The Dog: Its history, its achievements, its adventure), that dogs wore “costumes of a certain richness, pretty embroidered coats, silk jackets, warm outfits for the winter, light ones for the summer.” The wardrobe, or complete trousseau  of an elegant canine at the end of the century in Paris might include shirts, handkerchiefs, dressing gowns, traveling cloaks, tea gowns, and rubber boots – yes boots! Dog collars might be made of gold or silver; and were works of art, according to Alfred.

It seems that pet style has never been out of fashion, nor has quality. Meanwhile, the dog clothes and pet fashion industry continue to grow unabated. Interestingly, it is proving to be a recession-proof industry, as owners continue to spend on what many may consider unnecessary luxury items and others consider a symbol of their own faithfulness to their canine charge.

Part II

42 Comments on “Canine Clothing a Brief History of Dog Clothes – Part I

  1. what great reading!!!
    Im so happy to learn that dog fashions actually have ancient begginings!
    that Egyptian dog collar is to die for 😉 hahhaa
    cannt wait to read more, good job!

    • This has been a very interesting bit of research I must admit!! Wait until part 2 and 3 …. there will be more “I want” moments promise! Thank you Ada, a comment from you means a lot!

  2. Very interesting , indeed !!
    A lot of research, I hope to find some of the books mentioned! good work, we expect the next episode impatiently!!!
    Laurence and Pamela

    • If you DO find the books let me know! that would be awesome! I had to use online scanned issues. Thank you for your support it means a lot to have it.

  3. Thank you for this perfect article Monte…as canine fashion Diva myself, I am proud to follow in the steps of such fashion-forward pups before me. I look forward to your next articles!!! Kiss kiss

    • A comment from such a top notch canine model is an honour …. thank you dear Millie LaRue! I just loved the little travel coat with pocket for ticket discovery – I thought of you when I read it!

  4. Great post!! I had no idea doggie accessories started so long ago!! Leave it to the Egyptians to be the innovators!! Great information!

    • The Egyptians really “ran” with it that is for sure. Glad you enjoyed it Marlene! I wanted to write about this because so many people seem to think that this is some “weird” new thing that is part of “modern” day. But it really isn’t as it turns out. Certainly today it is more wide spread and across all the walks of life – and far more affordable, but not ” a reflection of a degenerating society” as we were told a few weeks back. paris Hilton did not invent this trend!

  5. This would make a fabulous documentary, educational film too! It captured my interest from beginning to end! Your composition and research is articulate and reveals the human spirit with the desire to tender our stewardship for a creature who equally seeks our companionship and mercies. What you’ve written is both informative and enjoyable!!! Thank you … I hope this will inspire others to be benevolent to our four legged blessings. They actiually inspire us to keep our hearts beating warm and strong. Hugs to you!!! Hats off to a fantastic article! I can’t wait to read what you write next!!!

    • Oh my!! what an endorsement!! A documentary? now THERE is a great idea!! Thank you for this most heart warming comment! I am glad it had this strong an impact. I will do all I can to ensure Part II and III are of the same standard. Thank you Gena and Sophia! Our relationships (human to canine) are symbiotic … an often overlooked fact.

  6. Enjoyed the information so much. Looking forward to more. I expected the elaborate ancient collars but was pleasantly surprised about dressing dogs in outfits so long ago. I agree with your reply to Marlene, now I don’t feel so goofy putting clothes on Larry and Lucy.

    • Never feel goofy!! Thank you for taking the time to let us know you enjoyed this post. We too were surprised once we started the research … part II and III will hopefully also have one or two little surprises. Thank you all.

  7. Thank you very much for the interesting article! Our very glad to once again convinced that you are amazing! We love you!:)))

  8. Phenomenal Dear Monte… Great job on the writing and the content…

    • Thank you Skipper! Some things are more fun to research than others!

  9. This article is awsome! Can’t wait to read to other 2 part. I am often confronted with poeple trying to explain to me that dog dont need clothing because they have fur and clothing them is unnatural. What people faill to see is that there is little bit left natural in dogs these days. Humain have breed dogs for centuries and change there apparances. Todays dogs, espacialy small breed that leave inside our home are not adapted to cold and need a bit of clothing to keep them warm. One can also argue that clothing for humain is not natural, after all we are born without any clothing.
    Mario

  10. CANINE FASHIONISTA…….somebody actually “got it” way back when….this little Chihuahua girl is smiling!!! Thank you, Monte, for a fabulous article!! I can’t wait for the next edition….let’s tell the world!! XO
    Isabella Rose

    • Isabella Rose you make my heart sing! share it with the world indeed!

  11. You mean dogs were walking like Egyptians? Too cool. It’s always an interesting read when I visit your site, Monte!

    • … and ALWAYS a chuckle or laugh when you comment. Thank you for your loyal participation Brad!

  12. My human loved this article (and so do I). She loves to dress me up and I love it too. Some people just don’t understand though. It’s great to know the history of Canine clothing – we had no idea…

    • Most people do not realize how far back this goes. Collars was no surprise but the rest certainly was. We had a “feeling” since we had seen much art with clothed canine but it was certainly fun getting proof. Of course just because something has been done for a long time does not mean it is right – but it certainly makes you stop and think.

  13. Very interesting! Especially the Roman’s reprimanded by Cesar fact! My two Chihuahua’s always seem to wiggle out of their clothing! It’s fun while it last and practical when the weather gets cool here in Cali. I’ll have to invest in some additional pieces soon for travel. It’s expensive dressing two babies!! I admit that I coordinate their outfits with my own! Or maybe it’s the other way around :) Looking forward to part 2!!

    • Right? I know finding that tid-bit from Caesar was worth many a chuckle in our household! That and finding out about Dash. That poor young Princess had only one friend – that sweet dog. She was totally closed off from the world – we can’t even imagine. The 19th century was particularly interesting with the plethora of data available.

  14. What a fascinating read, really enjoyed it.
    Now armed with interesting facts for the next time some interfering stranger makes a negative comment on my dogs in their ‘adornments’ . Lol

    • Wait for part 2 and 3 Lisa … We will hand you some more ammunition!

  15. What a great read and so informative. Can’t wait for the sequels ! My 2 long haired chihuahua ,Daisy and Taz, have complete wardrobes and they love to dress up. Other people really enjoy seeing them also. The little ladies at the assisted living facility where my father-in-law lives really enjoy seeing my little girl in her sweaters and dresses. Keep up the good work Monte and we will keep checking in you and your travels !

    • Thank you Fran! We will do our best to keep things interesting, informative and FUN!!

  16. Neat article! I particularly loved the dog collar from ancient Egypt. Admittedly I’m not a big fan of pet clothing however I do see the need for booties and sweaters for wintertime in Canada!

    • Thanks for dropping in Isobel!! I agree our winters are terrible … and boots a must with all this salt!

  17. Pingback: K9 Clothing Part II – Is it Harmful? | Montecristo Travels

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  19. Hi Monte/Sonja! I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your 3-part piece about K9 clothing, especially Part I, the history. I am a contributing copywriter for Yahoo Voices and am writing an article about unique Halloween costumes for pets. I hope you don’t mind that I link to your site in my article. Again, thanks for such a great piece, and all the research you did on your subject. Wonderful job!

    • Don’t mind a link (credit) at all!! Thank you for finding us and including us. Maybe you can send us the link to the article when its published!? Thank you Phyllis. :)

  20. A closer look at archeological finds, art and the diaries of public figures throughout history has shown that contrarily to what today’s media would like to make you believe, canine fashion is not a recent fad or a passing trend.

  21. Pingback: Canine Clothing a History of Dog Clothes and Travel Needs

  22. Pingback: Canine Clothing a History of Dog Clothes

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  24. very Nice bout about dog clothes, I have also one pet, so I always worried for my pet fashion, I want always my pet happiness, so that must of the time I purchased the dog accessories through online, recently I purchased one cute dog clothes for my pet.keep blogging

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