NEW YORK, Apr 6: From a Chihuahua in a white Marilyn Monroe dress to a bulldog in a purple net tutu, the dogs of New York today are as well dressed as their owners.
At a dog fashion show this week at one of New York's hottest clubs, waiters circled the room with glass bowls of dog food as well-groomed young people sipped cocktails and their dogs sniffed out new friends at the bar.
Preparations for the show, which raised money for an animal rescue center, were as chaotic as any fashion event, with some new problems.
''There's a lot more barking and a lot more interesting smells,'' said actress Stella Keitel, daughter of actor Harvey Keitel. Stella Keitel was among those walking with the canine models on the catwalk. ''I'm definitely watching where I step.'' Pet fashions are big business, with major retailers such as Target producing lines of clothing and accessories and boutique stores opening in swanky districts of New York.
According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 63 per cent of U S households own a pet and total spending on pets -- including food, vet care, services and products such as fashion -- was around 35.9 billion dollars in 2005.
The Animal Fair magazine show drew a parade of socialites, reality TV stars, models and B-list actors with their pets -- mostly lap dogs with a few retrievers and collies.
Model Beth Ostrosky brought Bianca, an English bulldog belonging to her boyfriend, radio shock jock Howard Stern.
''Animals are people, especially dogs, they're part of the family,'' Ostrosky said, admiring Bianca's purple net outfit which was coordinated with her own Nicole Miller silk dress.
''Quite frankly it was supposed to be a skirt but it kept sliding off her so we decided to make it a collar,'' she added.
Another dog -- a tiny Chihuahua -- was sporting a white 1950s dress inspired by an outfit immortalised because Marilyn Monroe was wearing it when a subway up draft sent the flared skirt flying up around her shoulders.
Some of the audience brought their dogs too.
Stephanie Warren came with her miniature schnauzer Minerva and the two were wearing matching gray and pink wool ponchos.
Warren said she takes Minerva everywhere and that they frequently wear matching outfits.
''I hope I'm not being ridiculed,'' she said. ''We even have some of the same jewelry I've had made.
''I've taken her to a wedding before,'' she added. ''I had got divorced and I didn't have a date so I took her.'' Stylist Kristine Karam had a cocktail in one hand as her dog Minuda peered out of a bag under her other arm.
''She wouldn't wear a hat but she has a beautiful blue cashmere turtleneck and she has a beautiful strand of pearls,'' Karam said of Minuda, who was unadorned on this occasion.
Susie Essman, an actress who appears in the comedy ''Curb Your Enthusiasm,'' wore a black and floral dress while her dog, a Shih Tzu named Sumo, wore a matching coat.
''He doesn't normally wear the same stuff as me,'' Essman said.
''It's fun for an event but to walk down the street, I think I would feel a little ridiculous.''