By Elaine Viets
You’re looking at the United Bamboo Cat Calendar. For $35, you can have twelve cats dressed in United Bamboo ready-to-wear. My personal favorite is Mr. April, looking mighty PO’d in a mini with sarong sleeves. How’d you like to be shown in drag for a whole month?
My friend Karen Grace is a feline fashionista. She takes issue with a blog that interviewed the two designers who made those clothes. One said, "Cats actually have good body proportions for clothing."
Karen strongly disagreed. She’s been making clothes for her cats for a dozen years.
"As a seasoned veteran, I can say that cats have terrible proportions for clothing," she said. "I am impressed with some of the designers’ work. They managed to get the sleeves right in some outfits, which is a challenge I have not overcome (and don't care enough to work at it)."
In 1998, Karen bought her first Halloween costume for her black-and-white cat, Cookie, "as a joke. I had no intention of doing it every year. But a few weeks before the next Halloween, the neighborhood kids started asking, ‘What's Cookie going to be this year?’ and a tradition was born."
If we can’t be at Karen’s house on Halloween, we get to see the photos in her annual Christmas cards.
Karen didn’t take the easy way out and buy dog clothes for her cats. The two species can’t exchange togs: "They’re built differently."
She makes cat clothes for Cookie, now 14, and Biff, a sturdy six. It’s not easy.
"Cats don't have shoulders. It is really difficult to make sleeves work on cats, as their front legs bend back at the ‘elbow’ joint. Necklines are a challenge, as well.
"The WORST part of the process is the fitting. Cats are not inclined to stand patiently while you adjust the garment."
Cats are shape shifters. A sitting cat has a different body than a standing cat.
"Sometimes I make a trial pattern out of scrap cloth and go from there," Karen said. "I use a prior year's costume that fit well and base my new creation on those proportions. Any measurements I take have to be while the cats are sitting on my lap, being petted, while I keep them from seeing the measuring tape, which they think is a dandy toy.
"Another thing about dressing cats: They will not tolerate anything on their heads for long. The pictures with a hat or wig took lots of patience on my part.
"I can use Velcro or snaps for Cookie's costumes, but they won't hold Biff. I have to use zippers for his, and sometimes he's gotten out of his zipped costumes."
"The cats are pretty much hams on Halloween, staying near the front door to be admired and petted by visitors. When first dressed, they kind of crouch low to the ground, but once they get used to the togs they're okay."
Karen is planning to dress the cats again for Halloween 2011.
Once more. With feline.