A tailored Angora wool outfit, replete with pockets and decorations, will set you back about $270 at Fifi & Romeo on Beverly Boulevard.


If that's too much, there's always the "princess" T-shirt at Three Dog Bakery in Sherman Oaks, which goes for $29.99.


Still too much? Well, fashion doesn't come cheap even for dogs.


Around Los Angeles a new breed of pet store is opening up that focuses less on Chow Mix and doggie biscuits than on jackets, hats and other canine couture.


"When we first started this, pet apparel was a joke," said Owen Swaby, vice president of Fifi & Romeo. "It was mostly costumes. It was mostly for fun or to laugh at."


Not anymore.


A dozen or so stores are catering to dogwear, including Chateau Marmutt, Maxwell Dog, Puppies & Babies, Le Pet Boutique and Wagging Tail with more on the way.


While dog clothing stores are largely a bi-coastal phenomenon, store owners say they are just part of a larger trend that has more pet owners buying ever more elaborate accessories for their animals.


"The ownership of dogs is pretty consistent with where it has been for a while, but attitudes toward dogs have changed," said Lynn Crosby, owner of Maxwell Dog in Studio City. "It is much more a part of a family. Our dogs sleep in our beds and have full run of our house."


Joke no more
Nationwide, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc. estimates that nearly $36 billion will be spent on pets this year, up from $17 billion in 1994, with about 63 percent of U.S. households owning a pet.


That rate of spending far exceeds the rate of inflation, and is indicative of a general growth in the industry, which has seen giant Petco Animal Supplies Inc. stores, with their large assortment of merchandise supplanting many mom and pop outlets. But there appears to be a niche in the high-end clothing arena.


It's not as if dressing a dog was only recently imagined. The image of a fur-draped older woman walking a poodle dressed in a knit outfit long has been a sign of wealth.


These days, though, knit poodle sweaters won't cut it. Fifi & Romeo features cashmere sweaters starting at $145, and the store's starter kit, which includes a collar, carrier, leash and T-shirts, goes for $1,200.


At other stores, T-shirts, jackets, sports jerseys and dresses sell for $25 to $75. The items are seasonal, with more T-shirts offered for the summer and more jackets for the winter. "The customer is so fashion forward here," said Crosby. "They want something that is in style."


The clothes are still predominately for small dogs that are less than 30 pounds, such as Chihuahuas. While owners sometimes buy clothes for practical reasons customers want to calm their small animal's shivers boutique owners say that dressing a dog is more about fashion.


That's a trend that the media has encouraged with its over-the-top coverage of Paris Hilton, whose Chihuahua Tinkerbell gets attention for wearing tiny expensive outfits.


"It is been a kind of weird trend in the past couple of years," said Steve Siebold, manager of Three Dog Bakery in Sherman Oaks. "A lot of people do want to buy purse dogs so they can accessorize them."


Eileen Ikuta, an actress who lives in Studio City, loves to dress up her dog, a Chihuahua named Tater Tot. The dog has a dresser to himself filled with 64 outfits.


"He has pretty much everything you can imagine," said Ikuta, who took Tater Tot in a sailor outfit with her to an audition Tuesday morning. "He loves it. He is a total attention getter. He will walk up to people. He will stop, and he will pose."


Ikuta regularly spends $50 to $60 for shirts for Tater Tot at various shops around Los Angeles. Tater Tot's most expensive piece of clothing is a $500 fake fur coat from Donald J Pliner of Florida Inc., which has lines for humans and dogs.


Ikuta got Tater Tot from a shelter two years ago. "I have no desire to have a child. I am very busy in my career," she said. "I wanted a dog, and I treat him exactly like a little child."


In the two years Maxwell Dog has been open, sales have doubled and Crosby plans on opening another store. Fifi & Romeo plans to add another store locally, and has struck a franchising agreement to open 40 stores in Japan, where consumers are notoriously fashion conscious.


There is some concern among some boutique owners about over-saturation. Michelle Rivera, who opened Chateau Marmutt in 1999, said she's already thinking ahead about a future shakeout. That's why she provides other services, such as day care.


"I don't think there is room so that you go every four miles, and you get a high-end boutique," said Rivera. "Everybody is going to have the same product. They almost do now."

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