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Playing Dress-Up

The latest trendy T-shirts fill pets’ closets
By Sandy Robins

Courtesty of Ruff Ruff and Meow
T-shirts are the staple of every doggie wardrobe. The fashionable dog can never own too many, and creative designers keep the ideas coming fast and furiously.

“When it comes to T-shirts, I don’t keep anything ordinary in my store,” says Bonnie Bitondo, owner of Maxwell and Molly’s Closet in Newton, N.J. “The demand is for the extraordinary. I have a very fashion-conscious clientele, and they are always buying something new for their dogs. They have the same attitude toward pet fashion that they do for themselves.” 

Brighten with Bold Colors 
”Both pale and hot pink are always popular, along with light blue and red, which is a great seller year-round,” Bitondo says. “It’s a big holiday color for both Valentine’s Day and the Christmas holidays, but it’s dressy for all occasions in between, too.

“The cutesy sayings such as “My mommy’s hot” are passé,” she says. “People are looking for glamour and stuff that expresses their own dogs’ individual personalities. There’s a huge call for customization.”
 
Susan Jansen, designer for the Dog in the Closet line of glamour T-shirts, based in Henrietta, Texas, confirms this growing trend.

“We have about 400 different designs in our line and are happy to draw from these to create a specialty design for a particular store. There is definitely a growing demand for owners to express their dogs’ special personalities, and consequently there’s been a huge increase in requests from high-end boutiques to create a little individual something for a particular customer.” 

Focusing on Fashion and Comfort 
After a fashion phase of dressing dogs in fancy outfits, the T-shirt is making a comeback as a simple fashion statement for more dressy occasions, too. Putting a dog of any shape or size in a T-shirt is easy and fuss-free. 

“Tuxedo T-shirts are very popular for dogs in all sizes,” says Donna Sanders of Paws, Claws and Tails in Bonita Springs, Fla. “They are great sellers year round because they can be worn to any smart occasion. Also because we are such a tourist destination, people love anything with a Floridian theme, and we have a line specially made for us to meet this demand.”

Courtesty of Dog in the Closet

While black with lots of bling in the form of sparkles and rhinestone is a very popular combination, Jansen also says that people are looking for color. “There’s definitely an increase in demand from boutique owners for bright colors, such as lime green, red and royal blue,” she says.  “Colors look great on dogs of all sizes. Owners of larger dogs love a bright splash, too. Until recently, a mere extra-large had to cater for all dogs ranging in size from 75 pounds to 150 pounds. However, because of the demand for larger sizes, we’ve increased our size range to cater for the big guys up to XXXXL. Owners love the idea of big dogs in bling, too.”  

Getting Artistic
Besides designs in rhinestones, fashion-conscious dog owners are also considering interesting motifs created by silkscreens.

"I call it tattoo-type art,” says Sandy Maroney of I See Spot in Los Angeles. “It’s edgy and different and very popular with the whole urban dog look right now.”

Maroney says she takes her inspiration from both the clothes and tattoos worn by celebrities that fill the pages of magazines such as OK!, In Touch and People. ”They are the trendsetters for both people and their pets,” she says. 

Logging on to the My Space Phenomenon  Maroney says that Internet phenomena, such as MySpace and Facebook, have proved to be inspirational to a line of T-shirts too.

“Because lots of pets have their own pages and friends on these sites, they are advertising this allegiance with a trendy T-shirt that states “I’m on Facebook” or “I’m on MySpace,” she says. “Popular TV programs and game show-inspired shirts are also perfect for smarter dress-up occasion. T-shirts that say “Dancing with the Stars,” “America’s Next Top Dog Model,” “Lost” or “No Deal, Howie!”  are great conversation openers for owners.”

Maroney says that formal wedding T-shirts also have a lot of appeal, as do shirts that say “Always a Bridesmaid” because they also get owners talking.

  • If you bring your dog to work with you, make sure it is wearing the latest styles every day. Dog owners love to copy cat.
    .
  • Display the latest designs in a window. String them up on a clothes line with pegs. It is a great way to show them off and the idea never gets old if you keep changing the designs.
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  • Hold a competition inviting customers to design their own T-shirts.
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  • Get the winning design manufactured exclusively for your store.
“While there are some standards that are perennial favorite, it’s really important to keep the marketplace fresh by constantly introducing new ideas,” she says. “We like to produce four seasonal lines a year. This is one way of ensuring that you are staying on top of current trends as they happen.”

When it comes to smart wear, matching T-shirts for pets and their parents are always a hit.

“Men are wearing the matching look, too,” says Caroline Leedom of Ruff Ruff and Meow in Irvine, Calif. “I believe that it’s not necessary to always follow people trends. This is one arena where pet designers have carte blanche to be creative and push their own ideas. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of the right trim that gives a shirt its designer edge. Of course appliqués never go out of style, either.”

When it comes to high-end T-shirts, its wearability is directly linked to its washability. Pet owners that treat their dogs are their fur kids are happy to indulge, but they always want to know that it’s money well spent, Jansen says.
 
“Especially when it comes to pets, no matter how glamorous the T-shirt is, it’s got to be able to withstand some rough play and survive a bout of doggone good fun,” she says. <HOME>


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