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Meet Chicago's Most Fashionable Dogs

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Meet Emmett, Kikilu, and MeiMei. These long haired Chihuahuas love a good sweater and are no strangers to attention. The trio have appeared on The Today Show, New York Post, and The Wendy Williams Show, and Emmett has been photographed by Bill Cunningham for The New York Times—twice!

Their guardian and stylist is Carlene Mahanna, a recent Chicago resident after over twenty years in New York City. Mahanna spent years working in fashion, everything from merchandising for high end department stores to to assisting with trunk shows and fashion shows in the early 90s for Geoffrey Beene, where Alber Elbaz started his career. She was always a lady of style, but she wasn't always a dog person. "I got Emmett in 2005 after a traumatic experience. I suffered PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and he changed my life."

Years later, she adopted MeiMei after seeing several emails seeking a home. Then one day, MeiMei was reunited with Kikilu, and she knew she was going to be the owner of three dogs. She jokes that she has "OCD, obsessive Chihuahua disorder."

Dressing the dogs started with a practical need. Being a small dog, Emmett would get cold, so Mahanna would buy him sweaters. But with a background in fashion, not any sweater would do. As she researched clothes for her pup, she found herself falling into the world of pup styling. She was approached to write for pet luxury and lifestyle blog Pup Style and eventually became the site's Editorial Director. Now she's writing for the International Association of Pet Fashion Professionals.

When asked about dog styling tips, she emphasizes that comfort is the biggest priority. Garments with velcro under the belly are an easy alternative for dogs who don't like arm holes. In the US, she likes to shop Petco and Fabdog, and for more couture items, she looks internationally to countries like Japan, Hong Kong and Korea for lines like Wooflink.

While her dogs are often photographed highly accessorized, she notes that hats and glasses are just fun and for a few minutes, and that they don't make sense for everyday. Mahanna also stresses, "They're all very used to wearing clothes, and they bring a lot of joy to people. There's a difference between a person who dresses up their dog for publicity and someone who adores fashion and the way the dogs look in the clothes and that their dogs make them happy."

Emmett is a certified service dog, and MeiMei and Kikilu are service dogs. Mahanna dresses the dogs to bring cheer into the world. She and the dogs have visited children and the elderly in the hospital. "On a daily basis when I'm with the dogs, the smiles that I see on people's faces unmatched. They were brought into my life to bring joy to people, and to me that's everything."
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