When Did Dressing Up Dogs Become A Thing?

As Halloween fast approaches, we couldn’t help but wonder...when did dressing up dogs become a thing? As wild as it might sound, dressing up our pets didn’t begin with the dawn of Instagram. In fact, humans have been dressing their dogs for thousands of years. Let’s talk a walk through some of that history. 

While evidence suggests dogs have been our domesticated companions for at least 12,000 years, even back in the beginning of our human-canine friendship, the original sort of “costume” wasn’t a costume or clothing at all—it was a very fancy, very important, and very artful...collar. 

Collars were dogs’ first fashion statements. 

Nowadays, dog tags may be engraved with your puppy’s name, but a long time ago, collars were more than just a nameplate; they also contained stories. 

Take for instance the guard dog archeologists found in the remains years after Mount Vesuvius erupted. They were able to use an infrared light to make out a story inscribed on his bronze-studded collar that detailed how he had saved his owner’s life from a vicious wolf. 

In ancient Egypt, collars represented not only status, but also a form of artfulness. Dogs were given collars made out of special and hard-to-find materials, such as velvet, silk, and leather. Some of the leather collars were even stamped with hunting scenarios or depictions from the dog’s actual life. 

In the royal courts of Europe, French royalty like Louis XI outfitted his Cher Ami, or “Beloved Friend,” with a solid gold dog collar bedazzled with 20 pearls, 11 rubies, and scarlet velvet. Was this considered a collar or was it more like an expensive necklace? 

As dogs became trained for specific jobs in militias, militaries, and law enforcement, protection became its own form of fashion. Dogs were given certain “clothes” and suits of armor to protect them from the harshest of elements and the dangers of battle. They even had certain ceremonial armor for victories and celebrations.  

Real miniature clothes were also a thing. 

Over time, dressing dogs in clothing gained attention, but there wasn’t any specific “dog fashion.” Instead, royal dogs wore what their royal owners wore, only miniature versions. In Britain, Princess Victoria wrote of her “dear sweet little Dash” spaniel wearing “a scarlet jacket and blue trousers.” They dressed like us (or we mirrored dogs to our own likeness), only things like embroidered coats and silk tea jackets were made in their size.

In the 19th century, dog fashion became more widespread. Dogs had “costumes” for afternoon visits, evening events, days of travel, and the beach. They also had costumes for when they were starring in movies or while they modeled for photographs. As you can see here, they even had outfits for when they watered the flowers or mended their clothes. 

Dog clothing actually serves a purpose beyond fashion. 

That brings us back to now. In this day and age when you’re out and about, you may see a dog wearing clothing out of necessity or as an extension of their personality. As the temperatures start to dip, puppies, senior dogs, small dogs, and shorthaired dogs may appreciate a fashion statement sweater, jacket, or hoodie to fend off the chill. But clothing serves a purpose in terms of anxiety assistance and offers health benefits for dogs, too. You can read more about that here in our blog, “The (Surprising) Health Benefits of Dressing Your Dog.” 

At the end of the day, you know your dog best. If you do choose to dress your dog up for Halloween and need some fun inspiration, check out this year’s New York City Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade for some ideas. You’ll see appearances by Sherlock “Bones,” Alexander “Hamildog,” Yoda from Star Wars, and even My Octopus Friend, to name a few. 

Have a fun, safe, and wonderful Halloween everyone! 


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