Dogs on the catwalk: Designer costumes put the ‘howl” in Halloween for pets

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Gatsby Perkins dresses Steampunk. Photo/Toon Perkins

Editor’s note: After a too-long hiatus we welcome columnist Margo Ann Sullivan back, who shares the world of pets with us through the eyes  – and voice –  of The Gabby Dog.

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“Listen to this,” Gabby said. “Gatsby Perkins, the little French Bulldog known to the Jazz Festival audience as Mr. Newport, will appear in a Halloween photoshoot with fashion designer Carla Panaggio Souza on Friday.”

“Where did you see that?” said Asia, the immortal tabby. Gabby pointed the mouse over her mum’s Facebook page,

“It would be so nice to see Gatsby and Judge again,” Gabby said.

Asia sighed. The last six months of pandemic had zapped the starch out of the little Peke-a-poo’s fur.

“I’m going to write a column about his costumes,” Gabby said. “He’s exquisite.”

“OK, but think about your theme: Halloween 2020? Don’t you think that’s too much surrealism, given everyone’s delicate condition?” Asia posed the question as he crouched in the window sill and studied his sister.

“Not at all,” Gabby said. “Here’s how I see the column. I like fashion. I love costumes, And I absolutely adore Gatsby Perkins and little brother Judge. So, it’s not a column about more scary things. Think of it as a column about all my favorites.

Asia twirled his whiskers. He remembered Gatsby Perkins’ vampire costume from last year or so.

“Tim Burton-inspired. Can’t be surpassed.” Asia said. He better start collecting the essentials—masks for Gabby and the whole crew, plus measuring tape for social distancing. Cats’ whiskers worked perfectly to gauge six feet apart, but his sister was not suitably endowed. Her antenna prevented crashes into the furniture, but she needed a ruler and the cat’s guidance for distance measurements.

“I don’t know why the good Lord wasted whiskers on pooches,” he grumbled.

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Gatsby Perkins, left, and brother Atticus dress as vampires in costumes designed by Carla Panaggio Souza for a photoshoot in Newport, R.I. Photo/Toon Perkins

“Settle down, big guy,” Gabby told Asia. This assignment landed right in your wheelhouse. We’re hitting that cute little graveyard down the street for the photoshoot.”

Asia knew the place, a favorite since the first time Gatsby Perkins and fashion designer Carla Panaggio Souza put the place on the map.

“Spooky,” he said. “OK, I’m in the mood.”

“Wait,” Gabby said. “Should I wear a costume?”

“No need,” Asia said. “We’re getting into the spirit; we’re not getting into the act.” Good thing, too, because although Gabby always looked cute, she would need some special duds if she wanted to be seen with Gatsby. His designer costumes start at $200. That’s stimulus check territory, Asia figured.

“But so worth it,” Gabby said.

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Judge, left, and Gatsby. Photo/Toon Perkins

Turns out both Carla and Gatsby’s best friend, Toon Perkins, have dabbled in pet costumes since childhood.

“Since the age of five,” Perkins said, “I was dressing up my dog and used my doll stroller to walk him around. So, it is something that comes naturally.

Carla started at age six by making clothes for her stuffed animals. When her older sisters sewed and made dresses from Silhouette patterns. she collected the scraps and repurposed the fabric. In college at the University of Rhode Island she gravitated toward the Fashion, Merchandising, Textile and Design program. In between, she joined a girl band and made stage wear. Her business, Panaggio Designs, in Middletown, R.I., does all kinds of fashion, but currently, she’s mostly filling orders for competition bikinis and sportswear.

Not to mention the French Bulldog Collection, the canine high-fashion line inspired by Gatsby Perkins.

Carla met Gatsby at her husband’s personal training classes. Gatsby’s people are clients, and they brought the dog along. Carla fell in love. She calls Gatsby the muse for her dog fashions.

As for the Halloween connection, Perkins said, that started a few years ago when a neighborhood pet store organized a pet parade, a tailor-made event for Atticus, Gatsby’s brother.

“We dressed him up as a skunk by sprayed painting his entire body in black and white,” Perkins said. “And we have been dressing our dogs since then.” Atticus is waiting at the rainbow bridge, but Gatsby and a new brother, Judge, continue the tradition.

She keeps it fun for the pets because the dogs like going places.

Below, Halloween fashion show. Photos by Toon Perkins

“Our boys Gatsby and Judge love to go to different places so I think having them in different scenes and locations that go with the outfits is cool. This year Carla did a Mad Max theme, and we brought them to the dunes at the beach.” (The costumes are under wraps at press time, but the big reveal is coming after the holiday.)

“Gatsby was born to be a show dog so he knows how to pose,” Perkins said. According to Carla, he will hold a pose, too. One day, after snapping some pictures, she and Perkins started chatting. They looked over and saw Gatsby still in character.

“And his personality reminds me the ‘Great Gatsby’,” Perkins said. “I think people like to dress up their pets. Above all they are our kids, after all, and Halloween is a kid holiday.” She does have a favorite costume.

“My favorite is the Dracula costume and the new one we are doing for this Halloween. But my favorite of all costumes, is the first one Carla created for Gatsby and it was the Steampunk costume.”

Steampunk is Victorian plus gadgetry, Carla explained. She started the project by draping white fabric on Gatsby, she said, describing the result as basically a slope pattern.

Sure, some dogs might not sit still for a session.

Not a problem for Mr. Newport.

“Gatsby’s so professional,” she laughed.

More from The Gabby Dog archives here.

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Margo Ann Sullivan is a pet columnist who has written for ZooToo, and numerous publications in New York and in New England. She’s had pets all her life, starting with a rescue collie named Lollypop. The Gabby Dog column chases the news that helps pets and people. It also chronicles the adventures of Gabby, the peke-a-poo, and Asia, the tabby cat, and their many pals, hitting the high spots between Providence, RI, and Manchester, NH.


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