Costume Tips from Stacie Tamaki, Mom of Dogster’s Best-Dressed Dog

For around five years now, Stacie Tamaki has wowed the Dogster community with the amazingly creative costumes she concocts for her adorable Lhasa Apso mix,...


For around five years now, Stacie Tamaki has wowed the Dogster community with the amazingly creative costumes she concocts for her adorable Lhasa Apso mix, Kitai. Here at HQ we wait impatiently to find out what Kitai is going to be next, and today is Halloween so we are absolutely dying with curiousity.

Stacie wouldn’t give us any clues about Kitai’s 2011 costume, but she offered to open her bag of tricks and share some of her best costume tips with us today. — Janine K.


Every year since 2004, I’ve created a custom, couture Halloween costume for Kitai to help show the world that you can find a cute, sweet, photogenic, and incredibly patient dog at your local shelter just like I did. Kitai is all of those things and so much more.

People always have questions about the design and production aspects of making custom dog costumes. I thought I’d share some insights with you in case you want to make your pup a handmade costume next year!

Ideas: Honestly? I usually spend all year trying to think of what Kitai’s costume should be.

Every now and then an idea comes to me but I’m not quite sure how to make it, like the Chia Pet costume (pictured above). I carried that idea around for two years before I figured out how to pull it off. Others like the Dog Whisperer costume just come to me and the pieces all fall into place.

Originality: I take the ideas and search for them in Google Images. If anyone else has done it before, I go back to the drawing board and start over.

Materials: I use felt whenever possible because it’s inexpensive and the cut edges don’t need to be finished or hemmed, which makes it the perfect fabric for dog costumes.

I’ve also gone to the Goodwill, fabric stores, toy stores, and pet shops looking for just the right costume components. Sometimes I start early in the season, keeping an eye out for the perfect materials, but usually I start gathering things together two weeks before Halloween.

How long do they take to make? Early on I would start making Kitai’s costume on Halloween morning and finish them in time for him to go out trick-or-treating that night. Over the years, as his costumes have become more complex, I’ll often start a few days before, usually spending two to three days to make his costume each year.

Design: All of Kitai’s costumes start with a horse blanket base made of felt. There are two straps that go under his body, a wider band just behind his front legs, and a narrower band in the middle of his stomach area. The first (wide) band holds the blanket in place. The narrow band helps to keep the back and sides of the costume from slipping too far to his left or right. Both are sewn to the horse blanket, but fasten with Velcro to tighten the fit. Very important: Make sure the hooks sides of the Velcro face away from your dog’s skin; the loops side should face inward to avoid irritating the delicate underbelly skin.

How to make pant legs:
An inner liner of muslin
An outer layer of terracotta-colored fabric
Two straps and a cross strap connecting the first two. The first straps are attached at the top of each leg, suspender style, to hold them up once you slip all four legs onto your dog (see photo above).

Comfort: Since day one Kitai’s comfort has been very important to me. While Kitai is a great sport about wearing his costumes and sitting for fittings, he let me know right away he does not want to wear anything on his paws or on his head. I respect that, and never try to make him wear anything he isn’t comfortable with. I also make sure that he is able to sit, lie down, sniff, and lift his leg while wearing his costumes.

How do you get Kitai to pose for fittings and pictures? Lots of PCI Chicken Nibble dog treats. He usually only gets two per day, but when we’re making his costumes he’ll get as many as 15 per day.

Cost: Most of Kitai’s costumes cost around $50 when all is said and done. Some have been a little more and some a little less.

Does Kitai like wearing his costumes? Yes, he does! Mostly because of the aforementioned dog treats he receives during fittings, and because he knows when he wears one he’s going somewhere fun where lots of people will want to pet him and feed him treats. So he’s always happy and excited to wear his costumes.

What do you do with the costumes after? I store them in my attic and garage.

P.S. To learn more about choosing a shelter dog like Kitai, please visit our website,

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