Costumed pets ready for ‘Howl’oween’ fun

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Halloween’s coming, and with a little DIY ingenuity, you can turn your dog or cat into a bee, bear or badger. Whether you are planning for a parade, party, photo session, contest or trick-or-treating, a homemade costume for your pet can make it more fun for both of you.

You can start from scratch or go half-scratch, adding bling, attitude or accessories to human hand-me-downs or garage-sale or thrift-store finds. The McCall Pattern Co. even sells several patterns for pets.

Lisa Woodruff of Huntington Beach, Calif., builds whole floats around costume concepts so her pugs, Olive and Mochi, can take part in the Haute Dog Howl’oween Parade and Costume Contest in Long Beach, Calif. They’ve attended the event, held annually on the last Sunday in October, for seven years.

The pugs have been geisha girls, fish, sushi, surfers, flowers, “pupcakes” and amateur movers.

“The costumes have to be comfortable and dog friendly,” Mrs. Woodruff said. “They can’t be completely indestructible, but they are dogs, so [the costumes] have to be durable.”

She shops on Craigslist and carves a lot of Styrofoam. The year Olive and Mochi were pupcakes, she started with inverted, pleated lampshades and painted them. There was a slight hitch, though: The two dogs couldn’t fit in their pupcake wagon together sitting down, so her husband had to carry one down the parade route.

“We had technical difficulties. But that’s what homemade is all about,” she said.

The McCall Pattern Co. has several pet-pattern choices, and they’re not just for Halloween. The busy season for pet pattern sales lasts from October to December, said Carolyne Cafaro, director of merchandising at McCall’s headquarters in New York City.

One of the most popular patterns is Santa Claus, she said, which many buyers use for their Christmas cards. Other hot sellers include a holiday apron, a doggie bathrobe and a tuxedo collar that can be used for Halloween, Christmas, weddings or any formal occasion, she said. Some buyers make costumes for their own animals; others make them as gifts for friends’ pets.

During the winter months, pet patterns will move up into the top 50 of the 600 patterns McCall sells, Miss Cafaro said.

McCall packages its pet designs with a costume plus accessories. For example, the Santa pattern comes with a collar, leg warmers, bow tie, a couple of coats, a blanket or sleeping bag and pajamas.

“Pets are so popular,” Miss Cafaro said. “We try to come up with something new every year.”

The company also watches social media sites for comments. After a lot of requests, McCall designed a coat for very large dogs, she said.

Cat patterns have never been as popular as dog patterns, she said, although patterns for some items - such as coats, hats, collars, leg warmers and bandannas - will work for cats and small dogs.

McCall, which sells patterns under McCall‘s, Vogue and Butterick brands, has six canine mannequins in varying sizes in its design lab, Miss Cafaro said. Every pattern prototype is tested on a real dog before it gets final approval.

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