A costume contest for pets in 2006 got me thinking about what costumes I could make for my dogs. Yes, it had to be for more than one. I had three dogs that were my constant companions - Chip, Tory and Arwen.
I also wanted to make the costumes myself rather than buying something ready-made.
So come along with me to learn about my thought process every year and what supplies I bought to make the costumes.
The 3 Musketeers started it all
One for all and all for one!
Designing the costumes was interesting because they had to be instantly recognizable, but my dogs also had to walk in costumes. After a quick Google image search, I decided on hats with feather plumes and the signature musketeer tunic. I also bought plastic swords for all of them, but could only convince one dog that they weren't chew toys.
Off to the store for blue felt fabric, gold braid trim and fabric paint, black cowboy hats, fluffy white feathers, and three plastic swords. The tunic/cape was cut and stitched at the top corners of the tunics then decorated with the gold braid and painted crosses. Next were the hats that had to be reshaped and adorned with white feathers. They also needed some thin elastic as chin straps to keep the hats on their heads.
Luckily Labs are usually willing to play silly games like dress up! They did spectacularly and even won the costume contest at the local Labrador club. I was hooked!
Trick or treating ghosts
The next year was a test of their obedience skills because I decided to dress them up as ghosts and have them carry plastic jack-o-lantern buckets.
Off to the store for three flat sheets and three jack-o-lanterns! That was the easy part. Next came draping a sheet over each dog and trying to determine the best place to cut holes in brand new sheets. It took some trial and error - with each dog - to find the perfect place and sizes for the holes.
Because they were hunting dogs they were all taught to fetch on command, but it took a bit to convince them that fetch also applied to the thin bucket handles that are nothing like a bird or a bumper. Then they had to learn that I wanted them to sit, with a sheet draped over them AND hold the bucket. And they had to do it at the same time and for long enough to get pictures.
They did it and got plenty of treats!
Four-legged duck hunters
The next year had to be something simple because I didn't have time to make elaborate costumes for Halloween. So I dug out some hunting clothes - ball caps, camo shirts, duck calls, whistles, etc. But something just didn't look right. Off I went to the nearest thrift store where I found three pairs of kid's pants in tan and green.
Getting all three dogs to wear the hats, shirts, whistles and duck calls was easy. Putting pants on them took a bit more work.
When they were (somewhat) dressed and sitting with the bird vest containing their two ducks hanging on the fence post, I took the picture. Just as the shotgun fell over. No, it wasn't loaded, but it got their attention and as they moved hats fell off, pant cuffs were stepped on and general mayhem ensued. Good thing that one photo turn out so well!
Follow the yellow brick road
As Halloween 2009 drew nearer, I was trying to come up with a theme so each dog would have a unique costume but be recognizable as a trio. Pairs are easy, threesomes take more work!
Meet the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion.
Good thing Tory the Tin Man had learned the Stand for Exam obedience exercise because otherwise that aluminum foil covered box would fall off. The metal funnel stayed put with a thin piece of elastic under his chin.
Arwen's scarecrow costume took some sewing and several fittings to come close to fitting her. And by now she was used to having to wear a hat of some sort.
What took the longest to make was Chip's lion mane. I sewed a whole skein of tan yarn, piece by piece, to a stretchy piece of fabric.
I'm not sure if they were starting to enjoy Halloween dress up or if they were just resigned to my shenanigans.
Old west characters
In early October 2010 I found myself wandering the Halloween aisle in the local store, trying to come up with another trio of costumes. Checking a bit of this and a bit of that and I came upon a red bustier (corset) that was sized for a child. There were also cowboy hats and six guns nearby. Hmmm.
In addition to the bustier, I wound up buying:
- a black wig,
- two cowboy hats,
- two sets of six-guns with belts and holsters,
- a sheriff's badge,
- a red bandana and
- some fabric pieces in black and tan.
Tory and Chip were perfect in their roles - the black-wearing outlaw and the sleepy sheriff. Arwen was not pleased though. I don't think she liked having to wear a girly outfit with a wig AND sit up. She would have made a good outlaw, but for this year she was the dance hall gal.
You're a wizard Harry
For Halloween 2011, I decided to show them that dressing up isn't all that bad. So I joined them.
Another trio - Harry, Hermione and Ron - plus one - Professor McGonagall. And yet another trip to the store where I bought:
- three white shirts,
- three men's ties,
- red and yellow fabric paint,
- a black witch's hat,
- two pairs of reading glasses,
- white chalk and
- black fabric.
Starting with the ties, I turned them into Gryffindor ties with SEVERAL coats of the red and yellow paint. Notice how one turned out a bit wrinkly? That was Ron's tie. His shirt didn't tuck in well either.
Next was sweet talking Tory into wearing glasses and Arwen into wearing the wig again. The glasses didn't show up well on a black dog, so I took the lenses out and painted them white. Much better!
I also sewed the black fabric into robes (kinda) for all four of us. Got us all dressed, added a lightning bolt on Tory's forehead with white chalk and told them to say 'cheese'! And, yes, they smiled! They also got to go to the Halloween party and schmooze everyone for tasty treats.
Tip: Start your shopping at local thrift stores. I bought all the shirts and ties for less than $10. The stores will usually also have lots of ready-made costumes for sale.
I’d just as soon kiss a wookiee
Since we were overdue for another Star Wars movie, Halloween 2012 became an homage to the series, but which three characters should it be? Darth Vader, of course. And when you have bad, you need good. Luke, Leia or Yoda? Costume-wise, Luke was boring and I didn't want to try hanging cinnamon rolls on my dog's head, so Yoda was it. And, of course, you need the iconic R2D2.
Next was figuring out which parts of the characters were needed for people to recognize the costumes: Yoda's ears and light saber, Darth's light saber, cape, chest plate and helmet (well, most of it because the mask wouldn't fit) and R2D2's shape and coloring.
Back again to the store to get a round, plastic bowl, white fabric, blue, white, green, red, silver and black paint, black, green and light tan fabric pieces plus some fusible interfacing. I also had to dig around in the Christmas wrapping paper to find two cardboard cores.
Do you have any idea how long it takes to paint a bowl and fabric to look like R2D2? And that was just the start. Darth's helmet and Yoda's ears both took several fittings, plenty of sewing and LOTS of interfacing to make them stiff enough to look right. Then more sewing to make Yoda's robe plus painting two light sabres. Luckily last year's Gryffindor robe worked great for Darth too.
It was worth it though because this was one of the most popular sets of costumes. They were dubbed R2-Dog2, Dog Vader and Yo Dawg.
All of us has an El Guapo to face
If you can't tell, I choose characters that are usually a bit over the top to make interesting costumes. So it should be no surprise that Chevy Chase, Martin Short and Steve Martin made an appearance for Halloween 2013 as the Three Amigos!
With a bit of silver paint, the Gryffindor robes became sparkly jackets. The white shirts were reused too. So I only needed to buy three more hats and some red fabric for the ties and cumberbunds.
And then paint. And paint some more. I think Arwen finally liked her costume though.
Down the rabbit hole
Liking her costume was short-lived. For Halloween 2014 I put Arwen in a pink Cheshire cat costume and had her lay down on a bench. If looks could kill...
I bought the Cheshire cat costume at a yard sale, used a couple of my jackets and remade a red tie from the Three Amigos costumes. I only had to buy some white, black and green construction paper for the hat and ears plus a small piece of green fabric for the tie. I used a thin piece of elastic to hold the hat on and a plastic headband for the ears.
This was a tough set to get right, especially a black Labrador as the white rabbit! Ears, tie, jacket and a clock kinda worked.
The Mad Hatter was a little easier with the tall green hat even though you can't really see the playing card stuck in the brim.
There was a fourth player too, but it wasn't me this year. In the story, there is a Dormouse who pops out of a teapot. I tried James the rat as a stand-in, but he never got his cue right...
Kids costumes for dogs
By Halloween 2015 we were winding down. Chip was nearly 17 and slept a lot. Tory had been diagnosed with cancer. And I was heart sick. I felt I needed to do one more Halloween photo, but it would have to be simple.
Off to the store again where I found some ready-made costumes - a devil, a witch and a ninja turtle.
I lost Tory just a few days later and Chip that December.
Easy to make deer costume
In 2016 Arwen was still willing, so back to the store I went. This time I needed some felt in brown and tan, a girls plastic headband and some wire.
I cut a big piece of cardboard into a shield shape and added some 'wood grain' with a Sharpie. Next I cut the felt into some oval shapes and rolled and glued them to make ears. Then I attached the ears and a couple bits from a tree to the headband with wire.
With a little persuasion, Arwen sat with this contraption on her head while I took pictures.
Isn't she cute?
Simple costume for St Paddy's day
After ten years of Halloween costumes, it was a time of change. More dogs went to the Bridge, but eventually young dogs "volunteered" to carry on the tradition.
In the spring of 2018 I had a litter of puppies who were ready for their 7-week evaluations. A good friend came over, we evaluated puppies, took lots of pictures and decided to give costuming another try. I already had a bag of small, sparkly green party favor hats. After poking small holes on each side of the hats, I threaded thin black elastic to help hold them on the puppies' heads. Luckily they'd run off some energy, but weren't quite ready for a nap. Perfect!
We put two puppies on a table as my friend stood to the side to hold them still. Checking the pictures afterward, we saw the background was too busy. Bless her heart! She let me throw a white blanket over her head while she stood behind the puppies, keeping one hand on each puppy's hip.
It took a little Photoshopping to blur the background and add a St. Patrick's Day wish, but the final photo was worth the effort!
Which witch is which?
For the hats, I rolled some black construction paper into cones with glue to hold it. Then I cut a couple donut shapes for the brims and glued those to the base of the cones. After adding a couple pieces of black elastic to keep the hats in place, they were done. But they were kinda boring. Hmmm. Hot glue gun to the rescue! I added several stripes of glue to the cones and brim to give the hats a little sparkle.
The broomsticks were fairly easy, although a bit messy. I bought two 1/2 inch dowels and a bag of raffia ribbon. Grabbing some raffia, I wound it into two bundles about 10 inches long and wrapped rubber bands near one end. After sticking the dowels into that end, I cut apart the other end and skrunched until it looked right. To hide the rubber bands, I wrapped some raffia over them and tacked it in place with hot glue. Voila!
I hoped to take the photos in front of some small trees that had already lost their leaves, but it was too cold and windy. Back inside, I taped a gray sheet on the wall as a background and started taking pictures. But after checking, I decided the background just wasn't right so we'd try again. Nope. They'd already had their treats and were done for the day!
Photoshop to the rescue. After removing the background, the pictures looked better, but not great. Luckily it was a snap to change the background to transparent, then decide what I wanted instead. Off to check Pixabay which has lots of free images to download. I found a colorful sunset that looked great, added a bit of text and my signature. Done!
What do you think of my pretty witches?
"Girls, sit. Good!"
"No, no. Head up or your helmet will fall off."
"Sketch, stop stepping on your tutu."
"Splash. Yeah, you, Splash. You need to look this way."
Fun space cadets costumes
I had an idea I wanted to try for Halloween 2020, but it's a good thing I started early.
Off to the store where I bought two stretchy pullover shirts, some yellow and orange tissue paper, a bag of big pipe cleaners, a bag of blow up balloons, lots of duct tape and two really cute tutus in sparkly red and purple!
First task was testing the concept. I blew up a round balloon and covered it with criss-crossing duct tape, leaving a large hole on one side. It took a lot of tape. When I thought it had enough tape to hold it's shape, I popped the balloon. Nope, it needed more tape.
But before adding more tape, I decided to test fit it. Splash thought I was certifiable, but consented to having the contraption put on her head. I made a few modifications and continued adding tape. I also added the pipe cleaner antennas. Then duplicated the process for Sketch's helmet.
Next were the power packs. I had a few plastic soda bottles and painted them silver. While I was at it, I also painted both stretchy shirts. When the bottles were dry, I taped them together. I added Velcro to the bottles and backs of the shirts. Then I added some tissue paper to the ends of the bottles to simulate flames.
Now the test. Would they wear all this stuff AND sit still? Obedience training sure helps, but it was hilarious watching them step on the tutus.
By the way, their great grandmama Arwen would be proud!
Christmas party costumes
For Christmas 2020, Sketch, Splash and Wynk got their party on!
I bought a Santa hat, some green, tan and red felt, two plastic headbands, some tiny decorations, more glue sticks, and black elastic. I also mangled a couple of old wire hangers.
Starting with the easy outfit, I added a piece of black elastic to the Santa hat to hold it on. After test fitting, I also added a stitch to hold the pompom in the right place.
Next up was Sketch's Christmas tree. I cut two pieces of the green felt into a Christmas tree shape. Using the old hanger, I cut and shaped it into an upside down V shape. With the hanger ends sticking out of the bottom about an inch, I hot glued the hanger to the felt. I bent the ends and left them long for support at the back of the tree. Then I glued the front to the back and to the hanger and added the small decorations. It did take a bit of tweaking to keep the tree from falling over.
Splash's antlers were made similarly to the tree. I made the red nose from a circle of red felt stuffed with cotton balls. It weighed nothing, but Splash thought she should hold it in her mouth instead of balancing it on her nose. Tiny black elastic to the rescue.
I love that in this photo Splash is trying hard to balance that thing on her nose!
Super simple costumes for July 4th
Costumes for July 4, 2021 were a snap! I bought three red, white and blue bandanas, three decorated headbands and a small fireworks sticker for the wall.
Wynk, Sketch and Splash really got in the spirit this time!
Inexpensive skeleton for Halloween
Halloween 2021 was supposed to be two canine skeletons. Alas, there was only time enough for one.
I tried white chalk, but it didn't cover well enough on a black dog. Instead I used nearly a bottle of white acrylic paint. It took quite awhile to paint and Splash needed several breaks. She was carefully supervised so she didn't spread the paint around the house.
Even a first year veterinary student would probably laugh at the bone placement, but I think she turned out cute. Especially when Splash thought she saw a "ghost" popping out from behind the couch.
Splash got to model her costume for another day, then needed a bath to look like herself again.
Tip: Try colored chalk or paint if your dog isn't black.
Cap't Jack Sparrow
Halloween 2022 brought a new player to the lineup. This is 5-month old Boo, a chocolate Lab. I think he was born for the limelight!
To prepare, I went to the store looking for items to capture the essence of Cap'n Jack Sparrow. I bought a skein of brown yarn, some small strings of craft beads, a couple pieces of cloth on sale and a toy sword.
The first task was cutting and gluing the fabric into a vest shape. It needed a color boost and a bit of craft paint worked just fine.
Next was cutting yarn into 24 inch pieces, folding them in half and gluing together into clumps. I also braided a couple pieces of yarn.
In the movies, Cap'n Jack often wears a dirty red bandana around his head. However the difference in anatomy between human and canine presented a bit of a problem. To solve it, I first tied the bandana like it was on a head. Next I glued all the yarn clumps, plus the braid and a string of beads to the inside of the bandana. I also added a string of beads to the top of the bandana.
It wound up looking like a fez, but at least the whole shebang didn't need elastic to stay put. I should mention it got mouthed a bit, but I think that added to the authenticity.
Next we had some rehearsals. Wear the hat and wig while sitting? Check. Wear the blue vest and a white shirt while sitting? Check. Wear all of it plus the sword while sitting? Check. Added a smudge of mascara under his eyes and on his lip. AND WE ARE READY!
Boo did a great job as the dashing, yet goofy, Cap'n Jack.
This post was originally published on October 31, 2019. Edited and updated with new content on October 31, 2022.