Medieval pet fashion transcends time

L'Eunice Faust

Paris Hilton dresses her Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, in an over the top pink tutu and Michael Jackson matched with his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles. With these modern anomalies, one may wonder, “What goes on in the minds of celebrities when it comes to their fixation with dressing their pets?” Dr. John Friedman, however, who is currently a emeritus professor of English and medieval studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, would argue that the phenomena is not as much of an oddity as one may suppose.

During a lecture last Monday, Friedman said that he realized, while buying his own dog a rawhide chew-toy, that the wide variety of pet garments could be connected to his career and passion: medieval studies.

Much like Paris Hilton and pet lovers of America, pets, to the medieval upper class, were not only animals who were “kept indoors, not eaten, and had names,” but represented something greater. What owners choose to dress their pets in, now and back then, “extend and assert the owner’s identity onto” their pets.

Friedman said the upper echelons of medieval society not only wished to display their wealth, but also display man’s power over nature, a pervasive theme of the time period. The status of the owner was displayed primarily through the metals, fabrics, and colors of a pet’s fashion. Professor Friedman concluded his talk by reminding the audience that, they too, unconsciously use their pets to display their traits. Whether it be a pet owner’s favorite college football team or wealth, he said pet owners make their pets reflections of themselves through the fashions they choose for them.