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Canine couture costumes fetch hundreds

October 28th, 2004, 10:49 AM
HARTSDALE, New York (AP) -- Sure, any old dog can go out trick-or-treating in a mass-produced costume. For less than $30, he can be a pumpkin, a devil, an astronaut, a cheerleader or -- oh, the insult! -- a cat.

But what about that very special pooch, the dog whose fur should never touch vinyl and who wouldn't be caught dead in the same costume as the mutt down the block?

Enter: E&E Hallstrom Haute Couture.

The high-end clothing company for dogs has added a line of elaborate costumes to its handmade fashions. For $200 to $240, the Hartsdale, New York-based company, outside New York City, can turn Rover into Rigoletto, Max into Merlin the Magician and Cleo into Cleopatra.

"Dogs like to feel glamorous," says Eva Hallstrom, 41, who started the business with her sister Eleonor Hallstrom, 45, after being laid off from a publishing company last year. "You give them a nice haircut, a bath, you put on a beautiful outfit, and they are just so happy."

The costumes are made from silk, velvet, leather and brocade. They feature collars, buckles, detailed embroidery, fringes, semiprecious stones and pearls. They are fastened around the dog with snaps or handsome buttons.

"Velcro sticks to fur," Eva Hallstrom said. "The dogs don't like it, and then it gets all hairy and stops working."

Among the costumes are male and female versions of Chinese royalty and Renaissance nobility, and a Henry VIII outfit complete with a fancy black hat.

The hat did not sit well with Suki, a miniature poodle who was among a half-dozen generally well-behaved dogs modeling the costumes for a reporter. She got the hat off with a couple of violent shakes of her head, then joined her costumed colleagues in a romp around some Halloween decorations.

At one point, Merlin, played by a Havanese named Oyuki, jumped into a pot of chrysanthemums and nearly disappeared. Cleopatra was a miniature pinscher named Haley, performing nobly if gimpily on a broken leg.

So far, the Hallstroms have sold five of their costumes and expect to do better with a longer lead time next year.

Of course, plenty of dogs all over the country will be wearing handmade costumes on Halloween, pieced together by their owners. But Cammy Cutler, a buyer for the exclusive Karens for People & Pets on Manhattan's Upper East Side, said she is unaware of any handmade dog costumes for sale that are as elaborate as Hallstrom's.

She said she has bought some of the Hallstroms' coats but not their costumes.

"We sell well-made Halloween costumes, not the $5 kind, but they're not $200, either," she said.

Targeting that middle market is Doggy Design in Miami Beach, Florida, which sells various canine outfits, including a bathing suit, a denim dress and a "South Beach Girls' Night Out Collection." Its highest price is $60.

"We're aiming at a different niche," said Jeffrey Mayer, husband of owner Maryella Mayer. "Those high-end manufacturers are more high fashion, haute couture, with the more expensive finishings, where we like to mix fun with practicality."

Shawn Underwood, a spokesman for Petco Animal Supplies Inc., which has 700 stores nationwide, could not say exactly how many pet costumes are sold each Halloween but said sales go up every year.

For $10-$15, he said, Petco offers "a hula skirt for your pug" and "a vampire for your Jack Russell."


Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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